Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


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.

Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on conflict, assertive communication and business etiquette. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at 856.751.6141856.751.6141 or


  1. Barbara may I add a fourth response for handling offence that I myself regularly use and find to be completely effective?
    Whenever somebody offends us, we all have an inbuilt yet little-used ability to immediately focus our full attention inwards in order to observe the thoughts & to feel the feelings triggered by that offensive comment.
    Anytime we respond to offence in this way, we are in those moments meditating AKA we are acknowledging and (beginning to) release the exact offence sensitive negative thoughts and feelings responsible for our current discomfort - permanently!
    Anyone who trains themselves to consistently respond to offence in this manner will soon notice that the words of others will begin to cause them offence less and less.
    Admittedly, for most of us, such a response will require a reasonable period of self-training to take root as when we're offended we quite naturally look outside of ourselves. We just have to remind ourselves that offence lives within us and not outside of us. If our attention is on the person who just offended us we're missing a genuinely powerful opportunity to self heal. Great post Barbara, thank you!

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