“Don’t Take Anything Personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”- Don Miguel Ruiz
You may have seen the following scenario many times before:
Something happens and before long someone takes it personally and makes it unpleasant and uncomfortable.
It happens in lines and it happens at restaurants. It happens when someone gets cut off in traffic or when someone makes an innocuous remark.
It is almost as if there are people waiting to take things personally and take offense at what has happened.
Certainly, there are events and people that are offensive and sometimes we cannot help but take things personally.
However, sometimes it also feels like you are walking on eggshells with certain people while navigating around their feelings and sensitivities so that you do not offend them.
And yes we have all been there too personally. Something that does not seem to be a big deal bothered you more that you thought that it should have.
While this is normal human behavior and response, taking things personally may prevent you from living your life to the fullest possible extent.
I am not really talking about the occasional annoyances but the repeated taking things personally that gets in the way of our progress and our happiness.
You may want to get beyond it but at the moment do not feel like you have any other options but to take everything personally.
What can bring you a sense of relief, a feeling of disengagement from the strong feelings and emotions of feeling like you have been made a victim?
Here are a few ideas that might be of assistance:
1. What Is The Real Reason For Taking Things Personally?
“But it is not what I am saying that is hurting you; it is that you have wounds that I touch by what I have said. You are hurting yourself. There is no way I can take this personally.”― Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements
The realization that the real reason for taking something personally may have nothing to do with the current situation is a great relief.
Sometimes, you may just be ready to blow off some steam and feel annoyed at the first thing that happens to be in your way.
This is a very common occurrence in relationships between people and also between couples where an argument happens because they are both bothered about something else and things just erupt at that moment.
Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith calls this the “friction of fictions” where each person has a fictional persona that they bring to the argument that has nothing to do with the issue at hand.
When you realize what you are taking so personally has nothing to do with the other person but some other fictional ideas that your mind is actively defending and engaging, you can breathe a sigh of relief.
Sometimes, you may not be exactly able to pinpoint what is bothering you but the reason appears like the other person who is in your front and you attribute blame on to them for the moment.
Often people take things personally because they see things in others that remind them of some deficiency in their own life and they “mirror” this behavior and feeling.
In other words, they see in you what they want to become or something that they miss in themselves.
For example, if you are getting offended by overconfident, brash and borderline arrogant people, it may be because you never allow yourself to be arrogant.
I am not saying that arrogance is a virtue but you may have special charge around the persona of arrogant people because you have been hurt by them in the past.
Consider the scenario in a movie where a seemingly arrogant hero or heroine with a softer side to them is considered to be strong and worthy of praise. You may not be bothered by this persona but you may be bothered by arrogance when you feel like it is being directed at you or some event that involves you.
This realization might just free you from the clutches of getting offended at the same thing again.
The realization that it may not be because of you that someone else is getting bothered or getting offended even though it appears that way is a great relief.
If we can remove ourselves from the center of focus and think of other possibilities, we can breathe a sigh of relief.
2. Allow Others To Take Things Personally and Let Them Release It Without Getting Caught Up In Their Stories
“The last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”– Viktor E Frankl
Often, when you see someone taking everything personally, you feel like jumping in and reminding them of how mistaken they are and how they need to be more empathetic towards others.
However, this can result in a mistake because what is really happening here is that you are getting sucked into their stories of despair, hopelessness and victimhood.
There is also a real possibility that they will turn against you even if you are trying to see it from their point of view.
A better option is to let people take things personally and back off by allowing them to own their own behavior and emotions. When you present an unperturbed and solid sense of self, often this acts as a role model for them to follow and cool off.
If you jump in with your heated reasons and arguments into their story, you will not allow them to cool off and instead become heated and emotionally involved yourself.
So step back and refuse to take the bait of jumping in at every possible situation where others are getting offended. Allow then the benefit of their own behaviors and see how quickly and radically things will change for your perspective of them.
A wise sentence that I read once was that in a relationship only one person at a time gets to throw a tantrum. When both people throw a tantrum at the same time, the results are never usually productive.
3. What Is The Situation Or The Person Trying To Teach You?
“You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.”– Brian Tracy
When you feel like taking things too personally or are unable to let go of anything on a particular day, stay with those feelings for a minute and ask what they are trying to teach you?
Often, you may feel guilt or shame over feeling resistance for taking things too personally and refuse to acknowledge those difficult feelings. This causes more resistance and avoidance and makes you feel a lot worse.
Instead, sit with the uncomfortable feelings for a minute and then ask what they are bringing up for you after acknowledging them.
If you are repeatedly getting offended about something, you may have unresolved issues about things that you may need to release to feel better and have a happier life.
While there is absolutely nothing wrong in getting offended once in a while, taking repeated and habitual offense to many things is a huge emotional and mental burden to bear and stresses you in the long haul.
When you make a difficult moment an opportunity for learning, you have a better shot at managing the difficult feelings, emotions and thoughts that come to the surface in the future.
4. How Serious Are You
“If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.” ― Robert Frost
A good question to ask yourself is if you are taking everything too seriously and need more humor and good cheer in your life.
A quick and effective way to do this is to schedule more light hearted moments in your life:
Meet people that make you laugh and allow you to lighten up.
Watch comedy shows that make you laugh heartily.
Prepare for the day and the week from ahead so that you can avoid unnecessary stress and tension.
Smile at people and soon you will also feel like smiling at other things.
Humor is a wonderful cure-all to difficult feelings and keeps things in perspective when we get offended over little things.
Of course, this does not mean that we do not feel the difficult feelings and chase them away with the funnies. It means that we feel the feeling and then decide to lighten up by looking at a different perspective.
Getting offended and taking things personally is usually not the real problem.
Not being able to shake off the feeling or resolve it or make sense of why you are getting offended and how to manage it the next time is the real issue.
5. Understand The Self Better
“The only real conflict you will ever have in your life won’t be with others, but with yourself.”― Shannon L. Alder
If you are on a journey of not taking everything personally, you need to understand what makes you tick.
Do you know when you take things personally?
Is it in the company of certain people who make your defenses go up?
Do you take things personally when you are tired and have little reserves of will power left?
Do you take on the dominant emotions of others without even realizing it and get pulled into the emotional states that you do not want to be in and resent it?
This can happen through emotional fusion when you are unable to distinguish between the emotions of others that have transferred on your emotional state.
What are your dominant insecurities that end up making you feel trapped and taking the event personally?
Do you think that others are out to get you and take even the slightest unfavorable word or action as a personal attack?
What are your dominant beliefs that make you feel offended even though the event may not be something that warrants such a reaction.
When you understand what makes you tick and what makes you offended, you are in a much better position to reason when you feel offended and feel angry and upset.
This self-understanding is vital towards the journey of self-healing and for developing skills to self-soothe when you are under the onslaught of taking things excessively personally.
Develop a practice of self-healing and self-soothing skills and modalities like deep breathing and practicing letting go that you train yourself to use when you do feel overly offended.
Make sure to keep negative self-talk to a minimum when you feel defensive and take things personally. Remind yourself that it is not you but their opinion of you.
Etch the following idea in your thoughts, feelings and actions:
What others say, do or feel should NOT make you feel guilty, ashamed or make you feel like you are inferior.
Even if you are personally attacked verbally at a meeting or elsewhere, distinguish between the event and who you are really at the core.
6. Reframe The Situation
“We should be too big to take offense and too noble to give it.” – Abraham Lincoln
This is a very effective technique to change the way you look at the problem or person or situation that makes you continually offended.
Understand that people will be people and they will make statements that are offbeat at times.
They may be going through some things personally that make them non-sympathetic to your or other causes and they may say something offensive.
Remove yourself from the situation, and see the event from the perspective of a neutral third party. Will you still take things so personally?
Give others the benefit of doubt when they do not understand your point of view and make you offended.
Get into the shoes of the other person and see if you can see the event from their perspective and why they were being offensive.
7. Reduce Time With People and Situations That Put You On the Defensive Constantly And Increase Time With People Who Inspire You
Sometimes, you may get addicted to situations and people who continually make you feel defensive and offended but you keep going back to them to change them or hoping that the situation will change.
Sometimes, you have no choice but to interact with people at work or in your personal life that make you bonkers with their judgmental views and lack of perception.
How much interaction and time you spend with people who keep making you feel offended is somewhat in your control.
You may have to interact with them but if you keep the time to a minimum until you develop mechanisms of interaction with them, you may benefit.
If you can make your dominant relationships with people you spend most time with mutually inspiring, trusting and have a deep sense of understanding, you feel much happier.
When you surround yourself with people who inspire you, you are much better prepared to deal with the inevitable small number of people who offend you or say things that make you defensive.
Remember that you are not responsible for the words and actions of others, even if they are similar to you.
Your own actions and words define you and when someone broadcasts their behavior, it is a reflection of their beliefs and ideas.
8. What Others Say Is None Of Your Business: Do Not Give Your Peace Of Mind And Personal Power Away And Develop a Thick Skin
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”- Eleanor Roosevelt
Another way to effectively deal with offensive people is to not give your personal power away to them.
Often, people say hurtful things to get a response from you and when you react accordingly, they have succeeded in their passive-aggressive or aggressive efforts.
A lot of people love to play mind games that have been described in classic transactional analysis books like I’m Ok, You’re Ok by Thomas Anthony Harris and Games People Play by Eric Berne.
When you take their words and actions personally, you are giving away your power to them. This does not mean that you stay silent to everything that others say to you.
Instead of getting angry and defensive and taking things personally, if you respond with a genuine concern that their comment was not appropriate or was ill-placed or timed, you have a much better success in thwarting that behavior.
When people see that their games are not working to make you worked up, they usually stop playing them because it is no fun for them to see someone react with such level headedness to them.
There is a famous story about the Buddha that when he was attacked verbally by a detractor, all he replied was “thank you. I cannot take these words because they do not belong to me.”
The Buddha demonstrated great wisdom in not accepting words that belonged to someone else and not to him.
In one move, The Buddha showed tremendous self-compassion by refusing to take someone else’s opinion personally.
In reality, that is what it is. Everything is a belief and opinion of someone else that they attempt to impress over you and the world.
And finally, if you work towards developing a slightly thicker skin, you do yourself the advantage of not getting offended by too many people and situations.
How can we develop a thicker skin?
Prime yourself to situations in your mind that you find offensive or take personally. Run the scenario in your mind and see yourself shrugging it off and feeling good.
Practice, practice and practice. Instead of avoiding things, allow yourself to get a multitude of experiences.
Practice getting mock offended and taking things very personally at things that you are not getting offended at. See the futility of that exercise.
Realize that having a thick skin or a thin skin is habitual and can be obtained through awareness and practice.
9. Open The Lines Of Communication By Clarifying Expectations and Setting Boundaries
“Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama.”― Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements
Often, you met get offended or someone else may take things personally because the expectations were not described properly to begin with.
I cannot over-emphasize this enough.
If the expectations that are set in an interaction are not established and understood by everyone, there is a great chance of getting dejected or offended when they are not met.
When the proper boundaries are not set and we wonder what we have done to be treated that way, we should reexamine if the communication has broken down.
Do you have problems defining expectations and setting the right boundaries?
When people push boundaries and expect too much, you may feel offended and take things personally.
This is a good time for you to open the lines of communication and decide without any ambiguity what was expected of you and where the boundaries were set.
When there is a good communication between parties involved, there is less chance of someone feeling misunderstood and feeling offended.
Make effective verbal and non-verbal communication high on the priority list.
10. Try Listening With Your heart And With True Empathy
“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” ― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly
Your best defense against people who are mean and to not take everything so personally is to develop a great sense of compassion and understanding.
The compassion and understanding that people will be offensive sometimes…
The kindness to allow yourself to take things personally sometimes and work through your own problems without feeling guilt or shame…
The empathy to listen to others that are suffering and lashing out with personal attacks and not to get offended by their actions but to offer them a kind word and a gentle action…
Listening to others with all your heart without getting defensive and mounting an offensive yourself because your personal sensibilities have been hurt…
Of course, many of us may not be ready for this step in our own journeys but if you at least allow compassing and loving kindness to permeate your consciousness, you may just surprise yourself by letting go instead of getting offended.
Instead of reacting angrily and getting offended, we might just seek to understand more and respond with gentleness and kindness.
Often, people who offend others are the ones who need the most kindness from others to resolve things in their own life.
Now over to you, my WONDERFUL readers! Let me know in the comments below if you have any great strategies to not take everything personally and deal with situations and people who offend you.