Conversations at the Crossroads.

Don’t Take It Personally

It’s so much easier said than done.

Even when we acknowledge that we aren’t the center of the universe for anyone but ourselves…

In spite of how obvious it is that people have things going on in their lives aside from the circumstances that involve us…

No matter how often we remind ourselves that we shouldn’t take what others do and say personally…

That’s exactly what we do.

We take it personally.

The rational mind knows that this need not be so, and that we could choose an alternate interpretation of the situation that doesn’t hurt as much.

But all too often our sensitivities have already been triggered. The emotional mind has jumped all over it.

This is about me… isn’t it?

Last week a client related a work situation that had her upset. She had been covering the task load of a boss who had been out on leave, and she had thoroughly enjoyed the expanded authority and leadership that filling the gap had afforded her. When the boss returned and resumed her role, my client rather quickly began to experience dissatisfaction going to work each day. She started to wonder whether the organization saw her value and daily contributions. She speculated that they might want her to leave. She wanted to devise a plan for changing jobs, in spite of having felt very good about her position until quite recently.

“What reasons would they have,” I asked, “for wanting you to leave, after trusting you to step into your boss’s shoes while she was gone?”

My client gave it some thought and acknowledged that she is frequently commended for her work and management skills at the organization. She agreed that it didn’t quite make sense to think they were edging her out.

“What is the likelihood,” I inquired further, “that everyone had returned to business-as-usual and just didn’t realize how much you had enjoyed being in that role?”

“Well, it is a very busy time for us,” my client said. “So it’s definitely possible.”

It was a pivotal moment.

Sometimes it takes the objective questioning of a complete outsider to bring us back to truth. And in coming back to that truth – that so often it isn’t personal – new possibilities tend to open up that we wouldn’t have seen before.

My client and I proceeded from there to talk about how she might better communicate her interest in leadership roles within the organization, to explore a promotional path from her current position. She could certainly still decide to leave at some point, but it no longer felt like the only option.

Consider a challenge you are facing right now in one of your relationships, whether in the workplace or in your personal life. Try to examine the situation from the perspective of a “complete outsider,” as I did with my client. What are you taking personally that, when examined with greater objectivity, might not be at all personal? What might be another interpretation of the situation that would allow you to think more expansively about what’s really going on in your relationship and for that other person individually?  What new options do you have for communicating differently, making more thoughtful decisions, etc., when you come to the realization that it isn’t all about you?

Remembering this approach is a daily effort for me. I’m not always successful, but it’s always worth the attempt. Let me know how it goes with you. I would love to hear how it helps!

With support and encouragement for your journey,

Founder, The Crossroads Coach

Published November 30, 2014