When people attach a qualitative “no offense” to their comments, I find that the phrase can actually attach a degree of offensiveness to the adjoining statement. Hearing these two words immediately has me thinking, “what about their statement was interpretable as offensive?” Having determined that, I actually do take a bit of offense, because now I realize that their statement was intended as a possibly offensive criticism. (I admit, sometimes I can miss these sorts of intended meanings. Though that’s not necessarily for the worse.)
Really, saying “no offense” doesn’t help a person feel less offended. Rather, it merely indicates that the person making the criticism recognizes that the statement could be offensive - and says it anyways.
Take, for example, a group of friends running around on the school soccer field at lunch. One of the group cannot really keep up with the others, and is constantly lagging behind. After the lunch period is over, someone else walks over, intending to inform him of this. He could say:
"You’re a really slow runner."
That would be to blunt, to the point, and could probably offend the recipient of the criticism. So, to “avoid” this, he instead says:
"No offense, but you’re a really slow runner."
In my opinion (and possibly only mine, since people don’t seem to care about this phrase), the addition of the phrase “no offense” in this example doesn’t really help to soften the negative impact of the statement. And in more cases than not, I’ve seen the phrase used like this, in the contexts of either:
"No offense, but ______ (insulting statement)"
Or, ”______ (insulting statement). No offense, though.”
Regardless, I don’t like it used like that. It would probably be better to withhold the possibly offensive phrase than to say it, slapping on the “no offense” as almost an afterthought.
So, next time you’re about to make a statement that you plan on qualifying with the phrase “no offense,” would you be able to do a couple of things before saying it? First, see if you can rephrase the statement so that it does not require the usage of “no offense” to make it inoffensive. Second, take a step back for a moment and determine whether or not the statement is really necessary to be made at all.
Thanks for reading! Who knows, those few seconds of reflection might actually save someone a bit of internal grief.