Avoiding the trap of taking things personally

Last week, I had lunch with a friend. While we were chatting she started to talk to me about a situation that has left her drained and unhappy about a working group program she founded. As I listened, I realized that each of the people involved took each other’s communications personally. Then each told their “story” to other people who believed their version. Finally they create a full-blown drama.

We’ve all done this at one point or another. The questions of cause is how to avoid falling into that trap.

The first step as always lies in being aware when we are taking things personally. The second step lies in knowing how to make the shift.

Though I’m far from being fully detached, I’ve come a long way on this path compared to where I once was. There’s nothing like the people’s business to teach you – in a big way – how to not take things personally.

Your Story is Rarely Correct

Start by observing the stories you tell yourself and others. These stories are usually not about sharing facts. They’re all about your translations of those facts.

Do you spin a self-righteous tale about how you’re doing good things in the world and others are closed and uncooperative? Do you have a good victim story about how you’re the sensitive one and people are insensitive and hurtful to poor souls like you? Do you feel rejected by situations that aren’t at all about rejection?

Begin noticing if there are recurring threads woven throughout your personal stories. Begin asking yourself how much truth is really in them. How would the person on the other end tell the story? And ask yourself how you’d behave if they simply weren’t true.

Once you begin to notice the stories you tell yourself and others , breaking the habit of taking things personally can happen through some simple practices and courageous actions.

Be willing to look vulnerable: Communicate

Recently one of my best friends and I planned to meet each other. I called her to confirm the time and she said that she was busy, but could meet me later. Every part of my being shouted, “She’s trying to blow me off!” I hung up feeling hurt.

My drama-queen story-tellers were in the wings putting on their costumes. Before they got on stage, I called her back and I said, “I’m not trying to be pushy here, but we had these plans and I don’t understand what changed.” She interrupted and said, “Oh, I’m so glad you called back! I got the sense that you needed time and space by yourself, and I was trying to let you to have that!”

We both got to laugh at our miscommunication.

If something feels strange or out of balance, check in with the other person. Take the responsibility. Say, “This may sound strange, but…” Or “I’m afraid I may have said something out of line. Is that possible?” Most people – not all – will be grateful that you cared enough to clear the air. And when you notice that you are judging others or complain in your head about them simply STOP. Stop and start to focus on how to solve the issue.

Reap the benefits of not taking Things Personally

Experience a great freedom when you finally stop complaining about others ways and attitudes. A tremendous FREEDOM! You will be able to act appropriately. You will become more and more aware what needs to be communicated and when. You will be able to simply let things pass or address them in a calm manner. Whatever the outcome, you will not be too attached to it, but rather feel good about your responds. Anyone who has experienced this state of being knows how good it feels.

Even when you get thrown off, you’ll relish the knowledge that you can choose whether or not to remain stuck. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.”

With my best wishes for your success,

Christiane Pohl

Life & Leadership Coach

Author:. Christiane specialises in coaching Executives and their teams with managing change, achieving their objectives and developing their soft skills for lasting success.She is an EMCC accredited Leadership Coach & Mentor with a professional background of over 25 years experience as Senior Manager in internat... Go Deeper | Website

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