Updated: Mar 16
It is one thing to tell yourself to not take a comment personally, but it is quite another thing to practice this. We all react to others. It is in our nature. We do not live in an isolated bubble. We all have the power to influence each other.
We have the power to influence each other to do good or do bad.
We also have the power to prevent others from exerting undue influence over us. And we do that by not taking things personally.
For example, if a friend raises their voice towards me, I will probably experience sadness, anger or fear. If a friend lies to me, I may feel angry and disappointed. When a friend offers a hug during a time of need, I may feel warm and relieved.
But I still have the power to choose which of these experiences I will focus on. I can choose to focus on the sadness or anger. But I can also choose to realize that my friend is probably going through something that has absolutely nothing to do with me and choose to let it roll off my back.
However, if you are in a friendship with someone whose words or actions are harmful to you, it’s healthy to set limits, create boundaries, and honor yourself. You may experience big feelings, and these are all real and valid. Feeling hurt does not always imply taking something personally. Sometimes a person simply is toxic, and it may be wise to distance from that person.
Practice self-acceptance. Get to know yourself and like yourself.
There may be things you want to change about yourself. But there are probably things you truly like about yourself. If those around you do not like those things, we do not have to become personally invested in changing ourselves or changing their opinions. We simply acknowledge who we are and put effort into friendships that genuinely bring peace and well being.
Recognize your emotions.
If you have an emotional reaction to something a person says or does (or your perception of them), it is helpful to internally name that feeling and notice how it feels in your body.
Do you feel hurt? How does that feel? Is there pressure behind your eyes as though you want to cry? Are you angry? Do you find yourself making a fist and tensing up? Do you feel love? Do you have warm feeling toward others?
Take a minute to reflect.
When you feel influenced by someone’s words or behaviors, take a minute to breathe and think. You may need to leave the room, or as a question such as “Can you tell me more about that?” or ask for a minute to think. Give yourself time to listen to what is said, and to think about your feelings before acting.
Assess your expectations.
Practicing this agreement involves acknowledging your own perspective. Did you expect your boss to tell you that you did a spectacular job? Did you assume that your partner would understand you were running late and therefore did not clean up after yourself? Were you thinking that your friend would call you for lunch?
Sometimes when we have expectations or make assumptions that do not hold true, we can be disappointed when things do not work out as we had thought they would. Remember, others in your life are thinking about themselves, their wants, expectations, and assumptions. Perhaps theirs are different from yours. Do not jump to conclusions and take things personally. Discuss the situation.
The best way to avoid misunderstandings and hurts that feel personal is to communicate. Share your thoughts and feelings. Label your emotions and share with others so that they may understand. Listen to what they have to share with you and reflect back to them that you understand.
Remember: It is not always all about you. Sometimes it is about the other person.
The next article will give you a worksheet to use as you practice this agreement.