Recently I have become aware that I suffer from a somewhat troubling disorder, Foot In the Mouth Syndrome (FIMS). When suffering from this condition, one inadvertently says or does things that are offensive, off-color, inappropriate, and potentially alienating.
I began to realize that I suffered from this disorder in the past few months; I first started to display symptoms when I was told by a friend that I had weirded out a bunch of his friends at a small gathering. He couldn’t explain exactly what it was that had I done, so I didn’t fret. I did begin to worry, however, when I was fired inexplicably from a job I had at a restauranty – but when I look back on it, it was surely because I had put my foot in my mouth on several occasions and pissed off the owner by doing things like smoking too many cigarettes out front and munching on too much bread. I was subsequently engaged to train at a few other establishments, and each time I didn’t make the cut; these rejections began to alarm me, and even though I cannot exactly point to what I had done wrong, I was sure it had something to do FIMS. My disorder reached an alarmingly distressing level recently when I went on a bender starting in the afternoon and alienated a few people to the point where they still won’t talk to me.
These recent events have forced me to take a serious look at myself, and I’ve realized that I’ve suffered from FIMS for many years, and that all along I was unconsciously and inadvertently putting my foot in my mouth and making myself appear objectionable in any number of ways. With this in mind, it seems I know a thing or two about how to offend people.
Consume Large Amounts of Drugs and/or Alcohol
If you are prone to putting your foot in your mouth, a healthy dose of drugs and/or alcohol goes a long way in increasing the chances that you’ll piss people off. Many people, of course, regularly indulge in these things and are fine; the key is to overindulge. For example, start drinking earlier, take some pills too, maybe chug some beers. Sometimes when everyone has been drinking, a lot of things that would be normally offensive are OK. The key is to be more messed up than everyone else and lose your sense of what is acceptable. To be sure that you will offend and receive confrontational e-mails the following day, make sure to have imbibed such that you feel uninhibited, verbose, and in general too good to even consider the possibility that those around you might not appreciate what you’re saying.
Joke About Sensitive Issues
Sensitive issues can be universal, such as anything that requires a degree of delicacy to talk about in a politically correct way (race, gender, etc.), personal, or both. Joking about these things can be very amusing for all involved, but it requires a certain amount of tact and awareness of what the people around you find amusing. Being politically incorrect can seem cool, like damn he don’t give a fuck and he’s pointing to the absurdity of political correctness, anyway, or it can really piss people off. If you joke about sensitive issues in a consistently offensive way, you can put your foot in your mouth so frequently that you might be able to alienate yourself completely from a whole group of friends.
Talk A Lot
Talking a lot simply increases the odds that you will say something offensive. The odds go up even more if you feel inordinately comfortable with the people you are around. The more comfortable you feel being yourself and the more comfortable you are with yourself, the more likely you are to put your foot in your mouth, because only a select amount of people in your life accept you fully for who you are. So be unabashedly you, especially around people you don’t know very well like your co-workers, your friend’s roommates, or your new boss.
Feel Comfortable in Awkward Situations
Awkwardness can sometimes be a sign that there is potential for a party to be offended or irritated by something someone else does. It arises, I think, from an uncertainty about how to comport yourself in a given situation – what rules apply to this situation? How much do I say? What do I say? Concern over these questions can help circumscribe a situation within certain limits and it will ensure that, while the awkwardness may always be present, the fear that something actually damaging or insulting could happen will never be realized. However, this assumes that both parties feel awkward. If one party does not feel awkward, there is far less attention paid to the social rules that regulate the encounter, thus heightening the chances of either liberating the situation and alleviating some of the tension, or what is just as likely, increasing the awkwardness and offending someone.
Situations that arise from the above guide have the potential to be either innocuous – the very expression foot in the mouth implies a certain level of understanding — or highly offensive, perhaps even more so than when an intentionally offensive act is committed. Inadvertently offending someone implies an unconscious intent to offend; it suggests that the offender had it in him or her all along, and it has slipped out only now. It speaks to an innate disregard for the feelings of others and a misguided confidence that what one says will be received kindly. It renders apologizing difficult, because the offender’s lack of understanding of how he or she offended only digs the hole deeper. In short, if you follow these simple guidelines, you are likely to truly offend people without even trying.