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Misunderstood: “I’m Offended” (Lola’s Story)

Lola’s former manager, Renee, adopted two children from China. Lola engaged in many conversations with Renee surrounding both adoptions. Renee shared with Lola how she was planning to incorporate traditions, such as celebrating Chinese New Year, into their family to add cultural richness from her daughters’ country of birth.

Lola enjoyed hearing how Renee thoughtfully connected her daughters to their birth country through various traditions.

Years later, Lola met a woman at church who had adopted a son from an Asian country. She wasn’t sure from which country she had adopted her child. Thinking back to the experience with her manager’s adoption journey, Lola was interested to learn more about her new church acquaintance and her son.

Lola asked the woman, “Where is your son from?” The woman replied in a terse tone:


Heavy emphasis was placed on the word “American” which suggested the woman was offended by Lola’s question.

When we are offended by a comment or question, even if the question was meant without ill-intent, there is often a backstory behind our reaction. Because Lola and I can’t accurately assume why this mother became offended, I can only share a similar story where I know the backstory.

A friend of mine adopted two children and spent years being asked about her children’s “real” mother, rather than people referring to the “biological” mother. The term “real mother” was a trigger term. Rather than respond harshly, my friend chose to instead educate by responding with a sincere smile: “I'm their real mother and here’s what I know about their biological parentage.”

In the future, people she informs are now aware that calling a biological mother the “real mother” is hurtful to some parents who have chosen adoption.

Interestingly, when I reviewed Lola’s YouMap® profile, which reveals her strengths, values, motivating skills and personality, I discovered a few things about her:

  • Lola considers people more important than things.

  • The value she places on humankind guides her decision-making.

  • She enjoys connecting deeply with people she meets.

  • She is a person who conducts herself in a proper, ethical, legal, and upright manner to avoid feeling she has done something wrong.

  • She truly regrets making a mistake, violating a rule, breaking a trust, or producing poor results.

  • She sets high standards for herself in various areas of her life.

The above characteristics influence what she says and does as well as what she chooses not to say and do. In other words, Lola is not the kind of person to say things with an intent to harm people.

When we don’t know a person, we are less likely to assume positive intent. Even when we do know a person well we can sometimes assume negative intent. The better we know our partner, children, extended family, and friends, the more understanding we create in our relationships.

When we share the impact someone has on us, employing kindness rather than taking offense, we can build up our relationships so that we all take away something valuable.

We can also learn to better regulate our emotional responses and press into the conflicts that matter, while letting others of lower importance go. Either way, self-awareness, and awareness of others, is a key to relationship success to ensure our conflicts don’t turn into battles.

Blog cover image credit: Christina


Need more support to reduce misunderstanding in your work or personal life?

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