If you're worried that a request/offer offended someone

Sometimes this happens:

  • You offer someone something (eg: “Would you like some of my ice cream?”)
  • Or ask them for something (eg: “Could I use your computer to check something really quickly?”)
  • Or something that’s a combination of both (eg: asking someone out)

And then they say no, without giving an explanation. And then you feel bad. And you wonder if maybe they’re mad or offended, and you’d really like to find out that they’re not.

Sometimes when people feel this way, they try to fix it by asking for a reason. Often, the subtext is “please tell me a reason I can feel good about, so I don’t have to think I did something wrong.” That puts really uncomfortable pressure on the other person, especially if you did offend them but they don’t think it would be good to tell you so.

Sometimes people ask more simply, something like “did I offend you?” or “are you mad?”

  • This can be ok, but only if you actually want to know
  • and you make this clear to the person you’re asking
  • It’s not ok if the subtext is basically “reassure me that you’re not upset with me, even if you are”
  • If you’re not prepared to take “yes, I am mad at you” as an answer, it’s obnoxious to ask someone if they are mad

If you feel bad because you violated someone else’s boundaries, it’s not their job to make you feel better.