What offends us reveals more about us than it says about the offender. Why? Because we take offense when something that matters to us is disrespected, ridiculed, or dismissed. The offender might be unaware that they rubbed us the wrong way.
Our feelings get hurt.
When offended, we typically react indignantly. “How dare you,” we lash out, returning the insult, perhaps even louder and with greater intensity. We even have one or more physical sensations of anger that go along with the indignation–a form of anger.
Whatever we say or do, we feel justified in our actions at that moment.
We call people who are easily offended, thin-skinned, because it doesn’t take much to get under their skin.
Just as each of us is motivated by different things, we also are offended by different things.
Time to take a look within.
In most cases we learn to be offended.
When offended, we have the opportunity to stop and ask, “Why did that provoke me? Am I making more of this than I should?”
There are several categories of offensive culprits, to which we all have been programmed to react.
Beliefs and values are challenged or ridiculed.
We are born a blank slate as it pertains to beliefs and values. We adopt the beliefs and values imprinted on us throughout our upbringing, usually from parents and authority figures we seek to please. We also tend to adopt their responses, because we saw how they acted, and heard what they said when their belief system was called into question.
Therefore, we react similarly, unless we challenge the underlying belief or value. When we shift our beliefs and values away from what was originally imprinted, we risk offending those from whom we learned them.
The inertia to remain status quo is strong. Escaping the pull of those beliefs and values takes a lot of emotional energy and psychological capital.
Most don’t rise above them.
Those who do come to their individual conclusions about their beliefs while still respecting the beliefs and values they left behind, are on a path to self-discovery and maturity.
Our sense of what is proper, mannerly, or appropriate is irked.
This also is learned.
It’s very easy to offend someone by just acting yourself. Banned in Boston, but it plays in Peoria. Highbrow versus lowbrow. Animal House manners won’t cut it at the country club. Snob or vulgar depends on one’s perspective.
This is often the territory of cultural diversity workshops. It’s just as important to learn what others regard as offensive as it is to let it go when others unwittingly offend you. They might not know better, and there probably is no reason why they should know.
This also is the realm of political correctness, which has fallen on hard times lately. The idea is to go the extra mile to be sensitive to the sensibilities of others. Maybe we do try too hard sometime, but I’m glad we are trying.
To blow off other’s feelings by saying, “Toughen up,” doesn’t solve the larger problems. Even if that’s what you really believe, try a little kindness and empathy. Try to understand why a particular act, phrase, slogan, euphemism, logo, or cartoon is so upsetting. You might also get some clues why you, too, get so upset by similar affronts to your sensibilities.
If you know who you are, and if you are comfortable enough in your own skin to let unintended slights pass–again, maturity and self-knowledge–then you feel more INPowered to overlook the offensive acts.
Direct insults or ridicule are aimed at us individually or at family or friends.
When someone is intentionally and maliciously insulting you, it is difficult to hold back. But there is a story behind their anger.
If you can remain quiet and still, you will hear the story.
When you bear the onslaught of their verbal abuse and vituperation, you learn that you can hold back when you would rather match them insult for insult. You grow.
The best way to put out a fire is to deprive it of fuel.
When you stand and take the heat, they will burn out. Then, when you offer your empathetic response and lead them down the cool path of reasoned and non-judgmental conversation about their story, you douse them with the cool and refreshing waters of compassionate understanding.
You can stand firm in your impenetrable fortress of self-respect, because you don’t need their respect to prove yourself.
Your ability to forgive flows from your ability to understand the source of the offender’s motivation and not feel like you have to correct them.
When you know your own triggers and can avoid reacting to them,
others will see you as strong,
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Stephanie Cameron, OK2Grow Executive Director
When Stephanie Cameron moved to Tulsa in 2008 to work at a non-profit, she did not expect to become the highly visible leader of a foundation seeking to improve the science, technology, engineering, and math education in Oklahoma.
Stephanie was hired as the community affairs director at APSCO by its founder, the late Larry Mocha, and came under his tutelage. She found herself integrally involved in the OK2Grow Foundation and is program, Dream It Do It.
In this episode of The Spirit of Leading, I ask Stephanie to share some of the leadership lessons she has learned while at the helm of that project. Stephanie offers her views on what leaders can do to promote a more well educated workforce that would measurably improve small business development throughout Oklahoma.
Just as Larry Mocha mentored her, Stephanie is returning the favor by mentoring a high school senior, Sarah Plaster. Sarah also offers her take on the opportunities of young women in business and the value of being mentored.
Stephanie also speaks to the value of getting actual work experience as a teenager, working through her mother’s temp service business.
Stephanie is a member of Leadership Oklahoma Class XXIX. She received a 2015 STEP Ahead award from Women in Manufacturing. Stephanie is active in the Tulsa Young Professionals (TYPros), Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and the Tulsa Global Alliance.
Learn more about OK2Grow.
Learn more about Oklahoma STEM initiative
Women in Manufacturing STEP Ahead award
Learn more about APSCO manufacturing, where Stephanie works
Tulsa Young Professionals (TYPros)
Leadership Oklahoma Class XXIX
The Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance learn more
Big Brothers Big Sisters Of Oklahoma, Of Tulsa Green Country
Tulsa Technology Center student activities spotlight
Stephanie Cameron greets a class of students attending a summer camp for manufacturing at Tulsa Technology Center.
Risk can be paralyzing. No one wants to fail and face the bad consequences they fear will follow. INPowering leaders understand that their main job is to help others improve their circumstances with little or no apprehension.
Risk is a (mis)perception
First of all, risk is often overblown in our mind. Fear is rooted in our survival instincts–it works on us at the subconscious level. We avoid the things or situations where we might be physically harmed.
Yet, millions overcome those fears and thrive in the face of them. The top two phobias of humans are the fear of spiders and the fear of snakes. However, not everyone shares those fears. Many learn to overcome them. The same is true of all phobias. How do they do it?
4 steps to overcoming fears
INPowering leaders help others through these four steps of overcoming fear.
- Face the fear. Admit your real reasons behind the fear. Sometimes we don’t really know why we fear things. Bringing that fear to conscious awareness gets the ball rolling to deal with it. Usually we are afraid of looking foolish. Once I got past that, I’ve learned a lot of fun and wonderful things that have brought me joy and good times: dancing and riding rollercoasters being two of them.
- Get clear on the facts. Understand the real situation about the fear. Take spiders and snakes, for instance. Sometimes, right on. Other times, a misperception of the reality. Deaths worldwide from toxic spider bites are extremely rare. The same is true for snakes. Eighty percent of all snake species are not venomous. Yet, most of us would say, “The only good snake is a dead snake.”
- Reprogram. Once we get clear about the true facts of our fears, we can relearn the truth and deal with it. Sometimes my fear stems from not knowing how to do something. I can learn how, and I take it one step at a time.
- Practice. I grow my comfort zone bit by bit through knowledge and practice. Before I know it, I’m very comfortable with something that once scared me.
How INPowering leaders build others
A leader is someone who helps others go places they either cannot or will not go by themselves. An INPowering leader is
- Focused on helping others learn their way forward.
- Sympathetic with other’s apprehensions.
- Respect the pace at which others need to learn, and
- Continually encourage progress, no matter how small.
When you help others overcome the anxieties that hold them back,
you help them to become INPowered,
and you demonstrate why you are
You can count on me. That’s a powerful affirmation. It’s promising that you are accountable for getting the job done, for being a go-to person. Then, you deliver on your promise, or you don’t. Whatever the outcome, you own it, and you own up to it.
Sometimes it’s just about you.
Ultimate accountability is holding yourself accountable to accomplish personal results that others don’t care about.
What you eat and drink is up to you.
Whether you exercise is up to you.
What you choose for entertainment or leisure activity is up to you.
The promises you make to yourself and the personal goals you set are up to you.
Sometimes it’s about others, too.
The attention you pay to your job is up to you.
The commitment you make to your relationships is up to you.
The compassion and respect you show others is up to you.
Your choice of words is up to you.
Your attitude is up to you.
Being honest and ethical are up to you.
Offering a helping hand is up to you.
Forgiving is up to you.
No finger pointing, no excuses, no exceptions
When they fall short of their expectations, or make a mistake, the accountable don’t play the blame game. They learn from the experience.
The accountable stretch and grow from misfortune.
The accountable find ways over, under, around, and through obstacles.
The accountable admit their short comings, re-evaluate their approach, and redouble their resolve to follow through on their promise.
The accountable don’t have to say, “You can count on me.” Everyone just knows they will deliver.
The accountable are
Your life is your one true work of art. The purpose of your work is to reflect the spirit of its source–you.
I’ve always been attracted to art in which I can see something of the artist as well as explore something of myself. I like uniqueness. I tend to walk past the same ‘ole, same ‘ole.
The copycat is never as interesting to me as the original cat.
We are all born originals. Even identical twins are still two different individuals. Hang around them long enough and you can tell them apart.
The people who get our attention are those who let their life-art project the world according to them. They are not asking you to accept their world. They are saying, “This is my world. This is my life.”
They get our attention.
We envy them.
We wish we could be so bold . . . so liberated . . . so ourselves.
So, why not?
Stop copycatting someone else. Be an original cat. In that originality, you will find your purpose, the spirit from which your life-art springs.
Whatever it is.
You are worth being you.
Then you will be free to see and experience and appreciate the life-art of everyone else.
And you will be
your true life.