Fact: People take things personally.
This leads to unnecessary stress over things we aren’t in control of, which doesn’t do us much good.
What is good is that you can do something about it.
We all take things personally, undoubtedly, and often it’s a completely automatic reaction. You asked someone a question about work you’ve done, or upcoming plans for the weekend, and they responded in an unexpected way – maybe with a tone of annoyance, or they took forever to respond. “Geez,” you think, “I didn’t realize she felt this way. She must think (insert anything negative here) about me.”
But is that actually what’s going on, do they really have a problem with you?
Sure, they might, that’s possible. But the vast majority of the time, their response had very little to do with you. Crazy, right? Stick with me on this one.
Think about it, how often do you have a million things going on in your own mind and someone asks an offhand question that you distractedly respond to? I bet you aren’t always fully paying attention or considering how the other person was interpreting your response.
We analyze responses, actions, inactions, and even natural events with only ourselves in mind. But you’re not at the center of everyone’s universe, nor is everyone else at the center of yours.
For example, I recently coached someone through a work issue where their coworker, who was supposed to join a meeting remotely, ended up going to the manager’s office in person for it instead. My client said to me, “I don’t know why she’s trying to make me look bad, but I know that’s what she was up to.” That’s an assumption on my clients part. I’ll argue that we don’t know why she was there in person, there could be any number of reasons why she was. Do any of them matter? Nope. Can we control what she does? Not a chance.
What matters is that you are focusing on being and doing your best.
Here’s another way to think about it. How many times is what you do completely and undeniably influenced by the person you’re talking to throughout the entire conversation? Very few times, I expect.
How many times do you actually respond by considering your own experiences and opinions about the topic, while also thinking about how the last call with your boss went, that overdue project, or things which are completely unrelated to the conversation? The answer is, often! All of the time!
So, what if you actively started to notice when you were taking things personally, when you were making something about you. Notice when you say to yourself, “They said X, which must mean they think Y about me” or, “They haven’t replied to me yet, they must not like me/my project”. Follow those thoughts up by asking yourself, “Do I know for a fact that this is about me, or am I making some assumptions?”
I bet what you’ll find is that more often than not, you’re taking some liberties with assigning blame or attention onto yourself. Fact of the matter is, just like no one knows the one million things going on inside of your own head, you don’t know what’s going on in someone else’s. And you don’t actually know all of the factors that went into the way they did or said something the way they did.
Once you shift yourself from this mindset of taking things personally and making it all about you, you’ll feel so much more freedom! Suddenly, the burden of carrying all that worry will be lighter. You’ll be able to acknowledge that no, you don’t know what’s going on and you aren’t in a position to make assumptions about it. And that’s okay. Now you can focus on yourself, your own concerns, your own goals.
Sometimes, instead of taking something personally, you will have room to see that the person you’re talking to might need some help. Or that they’re overwhelmed. Or actually, he’s kind of a dick for not responding to your texts and you don’t need that in your life. You will have the freedom to keep moving, to not get upset or distracted, and to feel more confident in what you do. Because you’ll be able to start focusing on what you can control, what you are responsible for, which is you.
Originally published at www.karlamariecoach.com