Noticing boundary-violating language

Noticing boundary-violating language

There are certain broad social rules about being nice to people. You’re supposed to mind your own business. You’re not supposed to say offensive things without a compelling reason. 

Sometimes, people try to break the rules while evading the consequences of breaking the rules. And there are standard phrases they often use to do this (NB: people who do this don’t always use these phrases, and people who use these phrases aren’t always doing anything bad. But they’re still common enough red flags to be worth noticing).

For instance:

  • No offense but
  • I’m sorry but
  • I hope you won’t mind if I ask you…
  • I couldn’t help but overhear…
  • I couldn’t help noticing…

More often than not, when someone says one of those things, they are about to say something boundary-violating and expect to be treated as though they have said a secret password that made it ok.

People who do this frequently get really good at convincing the targets of it that their boundaries are unreasonable and that they are rude for not cooperating. It’s harder for them to do this if you notice them doing it.