Nerd Tools

Don’t Take It Personally

You wouldn’t choose to step in dog shit, so why choose to step in someone else’s negative crap.

That’s the basic premise here. Anything negative that comes out of anyone else’s mouth is dog shit. You can either step in it or be smart and carefully not put your hoof right into the middle of it.

Unfortunately we humans really struggle with this simple premise. We wander happily along the pavement assuming that everyone in the world is considerate and would pick up their dog’s muck. But sadly that’s not the case. People are not all considerate. Some leave their negativity, or in the case of this anology, their dog’s muck around for you to step in.

Luckily there’s a simple solution. You don’t take it personally.

You can’t change other people, you can’t stop them being an asshole, but you can change how you respond to them. See my posts on Change and Choice and Control.

Rather than taking in negative comments or jibes you can choose to not take them personally. Again it comes back to your choice, control and power. The insults or general unpleasantness that come your way are stimuli from the outside world. Your reaction to them is your choice.

You can choose to not take it personally.

Why do people spread their negativity?

Most of the time it isn’t actually malicious. Most of the time, people aren’t even aware that they’re doing it. Everyone sees the world through their lenses of personal experience, values and history. When they see behaviour or a reality that doesn’t match their expectations, they’re reacting negatively because their expectation of you or the world isn’t being met. Attempting to argue with them is only going to end in frustration. From their perspective they’re in the right and they’re probably completely unaware of how their behaviour is affecting you negatively.

The solution is always the same.

Not taking it personally in practice

Again, it’s simple in principle. But in practice it’s not so easy when there are all of those emotions boiling under the surface. But it can be done.

‘But how?’ I hear you ask through the webs of the internet.

Firstly it depends on who the person is to you. The ‘how’ depends on that.

If the person is no one to you. Then simply put, who gives a fuck. What they say, do or think is unimportant and has no bearing on you, your value or your actions. It’s the same way as treating a bully. Realise that they don’t matter. See this video for a great example in practice. If they’re not important to you but can still get an emotional reaction from you, figure out why they get to have an effect on your emotional state and your life. Prove to yourself that they shouldn’t have that power and take it away from them.

Know your goal edit

If the person has value to you, then things are more challenging but equally achievable. It would be helpful if you read this short article on managing negativity.

It all comes back to choosing your action based on stimuli.

When someone sends you some negativity, you can take a deep breath in, hold it, and consider the following.

The negativity they’ve sent you is causing an emotional reaction, that’s fine. You can’t do anything about your emotions. But you can 100% control how you behave. You’re a human being, not an animal. You have free will, you have choice, you have control. Just because you’re experiencing an emotion doesn’t mean you have to react emotionally. Check out this article on emotions here.

Then breathe out!

Giving the Benefit of the Doubt

Once you’ve got control, remember that the person is important and valuable to you*.

*You may realise at this point that the person isn’t important to you, in which case revert to the option of not giving a fuck!

You’re grown up enough to give them the benefit of the doubt in regard to two things:

  • They are reacting to the world as they see it through their lenses – That’s allowed – You don’t know what’s currently going on their inside, how they’re feeling, what shit they’re attempting to deal with – So maybe they’re just failing to communicate effectively – It’s forgivable – what they’re doing is a reflection of them on the inside, not you – it’s not personal;

Essentially forgive them for how they’re communicating and accept that they’re allowed their own opinion based on their own internal perspective.

  • There could be some value to their message behind the negativity – Fair enough, how they’re communicating it is shit – but that doesn’t necessarily mean what they’re attempting to communicating is also shit.

This is a subject all on it’s own – Valuing Diversity.

Simple Summary

There you have it. A short guide for not taking things personally.

If someone is unimportant to you, simply don’t care. If they are, take control of yourself and forgive them for how they’re communicating and accept their difference without letting it affecting your personal worth.

 

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