Do You Take Things Personally? Well, Stop It.

trollYetta was enjoying herself at the firm’s annual holiday cocktail party when one of her clients came up as she was nibbling on a sushi roll and, a little tipsy, said: “You know, I really don’t like your purple hair.”

Yetta, whose hair is pink, looked at him quizzically but quickly forgot what he said as she waved to the waiter who was coming around with the shrimp canapé.

Later, she saw one of her favorite – and most important — clients across the room and went over to chat. Before she could say a warm hello, he frowned at her and said, “Sorry, I can’t talk right now,” turned and left the room. Shaken, Yetta could barely pay attention to what anyone said the rest of the evening, she was so preoccupied with replaying the scene, over and over, in her mind: “Why was he so cold? Did I offend him in the last conference call? Did my boss say something?”

“Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally… Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.”
― Miguel RuizThe Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

It’s not about you.

Repeat after Miguel and me: it’s not about you. Whatever someone says or does — no matter how much it seems like it’s about us — is always about them and their view of the world. If they say something nonsensical about our purple hair, we think, “What are you talking about, you crazy loon?” We only get upset when what they say or do reflects something that, at some level, we believe is true.

So, because holiday parties and family gatherings mean plenty of opportunities to take things personally, here’s a quick cheat sheet on how not to:

Step 1

As soon as you notice yourself reacting (maybe your face gets flushed, your chest tightens, your head starts pounding), ask yourself: “Why is this upsetting me — what part of what they said do I believe is true?”

(I feel all three, for example, when someone tells me, “You’re so quiet.” Although this bothers me much less than it used to, I still react, thinking there’s something “wrong” with not being the life of the party.)

Step 2

Then ask: “What are some possible reasons they said what they said — what might their beliefs be?”

(I realized that my being quiet might make other people uncomfortable because they don’t know what I’m thinking, they think I’m bored, annoyed or angry. Uh, well, I wasn’t until you told me how quiet I am!)

Step 3

Finally, remind yourself: “When I say to someone else, it’s about me so when someone says something to me, why wouldn’t it be about them?”

Hmmmm.

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