No offense

img courtesy Ross666 on sxc

Have you ever noticed that people always say “No offense” either just before or after saying something that would give the other person cause to take offense?

When someone says “no offense,” what they’re really saying is something like this:

“I want to say something rude, disrespectful or offensive, but I have neither the tact to restrain myself, nor the courage to own up to saying something offensive.”

When you do this, you are being both a jerk and a coward.

I’m not saying that you should never offend people. Some times, offending people is the right thing to do. Jesus offended people on a regular basis, because people often need a little shock-n-awe to wake up to their own hypocrisy and self-deception.  But own it.  If you’re going to be offensive, then be brave as well.

And you know what? If  you feel you must preface something with a “no offense,” and that something isn’t constructively disruptive? If you’re just being rude or catty or disrespectful? There’s nothing wrong with exercising a little restraint and keeping your pie hole shut. Truly. You won’t explode if that particular thought doesn’t get expressed out loud.

Language is remarkably fluid and adaptable, but it does have rules.  Words have not just meanings; they have consequences. Let’s all agree to not pretend otherwise.

“No offense” is not like calling “shotgun” to get a better seat  than the one you’re due.  You can’t change the rules governing common courtesy by calling an audible.

Trust me, friends. There are no magic words that can erase the impact and consequences of something you’ve already said, or are about to say. I really wish there were, but wishing doesn’t make it so.

What would happen if you said something that needed to be said, and just let the words have their undiluted impact?  Why do you think people feel compelled to soften or discount what they say?


  1. ·

    I agree! And it reminds me of a roommate who, on the morning of a job interview, said, “I’m really stressed, so I’m not going to apologize for anything rude I say.” I would have had a much more positive reaction to “I’m really stressed, so let me apologize in advance in case I say anything rude.”

    In either case, she would have been trying to let herself off the hook–but “I’m entitled to be rude today” is a much more abrasive statement than “I recognize my perception of my own actions may be off.”

    Mr. Sandwich often says, “It’s not what you say. It’s how you say it.” And it’s really not that hard, most of the time, to take a moment and think of a less irritating way to say whatever it is that you want to say. Or maybe it is!


  2. ·

    It’s the same way some people say “I’m sorry but…” The “but” wipes out the apology so skip one or the other. The two things are mutually exclusive.

  3. Kat French

    I think maybe it’s a reflection of our intense desire for control. Rather than controlling ourselves, we’d prefer the illusion that we can control people’s reactions to what we say.

    Or in other words, people are bonkers.


Leave a Reply