A few days ago I was headed to an appointment that I was almost late for. Distracted and in a hurry on the freeway, I accidentally cut someone off changing lanes. The other driver made his disapproval known…a few times with yelling and hand gestures (that intense anger is a story for another blog). I wish I had driver-to-driver instant messaging! I’d send him a telepathic message: “I’m so sorry! I didn’t see you there! I am distracted and running late …it’s nothing personal and I apologize for scaring you!”
A concept I find myself talking about often in my practice is taking things personally. If we can learn to stop in a situation and assess negative messages for what they are instead of taking them personally, we can save ourselves a lot of unnecessary painful emotions!
Here are my five tips to help you know it’s not personal:
1.) Context: When we are taking something personally, it’s because we are viewing ourselves as being personally targeted. In reality, most of the time we are not the target. Something has occurred with your spouse, friend, coworker or a driver on the road and it’s a combination of factors that make people react the way they do. These could be as complex as childhood experiences or as simple as a misinterpretation of your actions.
2.) Try to Understand the Other Person: We don’t always have the luxury of knowing everything about someone’s life, but a little compassion goes a long way. We are all capable of doing ugly things when we’re hurting or scared. There are many things that may have caused that driver to react fiercely to me cutting him off. I always go back to this quote by Plato: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
3.) You’re Probably Not Alone: Odds are someone who is imbalanced and behaving in ways that are negative is doing it to other people too! If you can, observe their behavior around others. It’s likely the action is being repeated towards others, not just you.
4.) Accept Your Own Sensitive Side: It’s okay if you’re sensitive. Many people are. You could fall into the spectrum of being Highly Sensitive. That’s okay too! Just know that things will hit you harder than someone else and you might have to work a little harder at accepting that you are not the reason why someone is acting so poorly towards you. They could be having a bad dad, difficult times, the list goes on and on. You just happen to be in the path of their personal tornado.
5.) Address the Past: When we can look at ourselves, identify past wounds, and focus on resolving our pain , we are less vulnerable to be so easily hurt by others.
Next time you find yourself in a situation when you are tempted to take someone’s actions to heart, remember these five simple tips. Most of the time it’s not personal!