offended by a comment

Offended by a Comment? Try 3 Simple but Powerful Responses

A young woman quit her job after her boss made a disparaging remark about her. She didn’t confront him about the comment, but sent an email to her boss and her coworkers that contained a series of photographs of herself holding a dry eraser board. In each photo, the board displayed a different negative comment about her boss.

Many people in my seminars have told me similar stories about their clever ways of quitting a job or ending a relationship after they were offended by comments made by bosses, friends, or coworkers.

Using such a novel approach to resign from a job or to end a relationship may or may not be clever … but it is definitely passive. You are failing to act in your own best interest by not confronting the person. You can learn to be assertive and respond to offensive comments without attacking the person.

Try using one of the following comments when someone makes a distasteful remark. You may be surprised at the response:

  • Why are you saying that?
  • Help me to understand what you mean by … stupid/silly/dumb/whatever disparaging word was used.
  • I’m offended by your comment.

It is possible that the person will feel some remorse. I once asked a colleague, “Why are you saying that?” after he made a negative comment about another colleague. He thought for a second and then responded, “I guess I’m just being a jerk.” And that was the end of that.

If you confront someone directly, that person may stop making negative comments, or may regard you differently. Your relationship with the person may improve.

Of course, there is the chance that nothing you say will make a difference. But, as I discuss in my book The Power of Positive Confrontation, what do you have to lose by trying?

Unfortunately, many people will never know.  They quit their jobs or end relationships before they find out what might have happened.


Barbara Pachter  |
Barbara is an internationally-renowned business etiquette and communications speaker, coach and author. She has delivered more than 2100 seminars throughout the world including the first-ever seminar for businesswomen in Kuwait. Her 10th book, "The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success," (McGraw-Hill)was recently published. She coaches women internationally on Executive Presence via Skype.