At the end of a recent workshop, Donna asked each person to share one new habit they are committed to changing. One man said, “I want to stop taking things personally.” Others finished their checkout and the workshop ended.
After the workshop, the man’s statement to not take things personally continued to echo in Donna’s mind. She also started noticing, to her surprise, how many times she took things personally. It was usually an inconsequential event, but nonetheless, she noticed that personalizing things would trigger her reactive thinking and almost always propel her into the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT).
One example is when Donna received an email request to reschedule an appointment. She realized that changing the appointment impacted her other appointments for that day. Almost immediately she heard a faint, but clear, inner voice say: “I get so bothered by rescheduling appointments. Can’t they see this is causing me extra work?”
Wow! Where did that voice come from? Donna was shocked to hear this internal chatter about a simple request that had nothing to do with her personally.
She also started noticing times when she took things personally around the house. For example, if David didn’t help clean up in the kitchen after dinner, she uncovered a “He doesn’t care about me” voice, even though she said, “That’s okay. I got it.”
Thinking she was somewhat self-aware, Donna was surprised by how pervasive the self-centered inner-talk was, and found that she agreed with the man at the workshop. “I am going to quit taking it personally,” she said to herself. And suddenly she realized the letters were familiar. Q-Tip!
Quit Taking It Personally!
“What a perfect way to remind myself to keep my ears wide open for any misconception or misunderstanding about requests or actions from others. It is about them… not me,” Donna said to herself.
Taking things personally is almost everywhere these days. Just listen to the news or listen to our political leaders shouting at one another, taking every comment (or tweet) personally. Here’s a few other examples of where you might take things personally:
- A client didn’t return your phone call from last week and you feel disrespected.
- Your Facebook post didn’t receive many “likes.”
- A package from Amazon that you expected and needed today did not arrive.
- A friend invited you over for a socially-distanced visit on her deck and she only had red wine. You took it personally since you are sure she knows you only like white wine.
When you take things personally—as Donna has discovered by simply paying attention to her internal dialogue—you literally make up details about the event. In effect, you are allowing your interpretation of events, often without facts or their perspective, to become your truth.
One suggestion that Donna learned is to put a little space between you and the event that you are taking personally. When you feel yourself triggered and making it about yourself, step back. Get curious about what else might be happening.
Donna has learned that taking “me” out of the picture made more room to listen to what is going on for the other person or consider unforeseen circumstances. It allows her to be calmer and trust there’s more to a story than meets the eye. She has even come to ask herself silently about the other person: “I wonder what it’s like to be you?”
So, grab those Q-tips and keep a big box handy. They’re a great reminder to lighten up. You will lift a huge burden from your shoulders when you learn to take nothing personally!