It is literally impossible for us to get along with everyone we know or meet. There are people who will like you, those who will be indifferent and those who will, for some reason or another, dislike you. That is the circle of life.
As a result, there can be occasions when someone contradicts you strongly, or expresses sheer disagreement with your beliefs and of course, those unavoidable times when things get a bit too personal for your liking.
The human tendency in such a scenario is to form an emotional stance and take things personally. We all hate to do it, but that is the default mode we shift in when we feel threatened. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we didn’t let such things affect us? If we could be immune to personal attacks against us?
Here’s how to stop taking everything personally so you can live your life without chronic stress.
Don’t Make the Fatal Jump Into Conclusions
When someone makes a harsh judgment about you or sends a strong bout of criticism your way, the default reaction is to take it all personally. As in, you take their word as gospel, taking them to mean that this is how they see you. When this happens with a person you like or are very close to, it inevitably leads to a situation when things become a bit too personal for your liking.
That happens because you jumped to a conclusion that their opinion of you is not as high as you thought. Whereas, in most such situations it is likely to be a matter of them projecting their own personal perceptions on to you.
For instance, in a heated discussion, someone might label you a sexist, whereas you aren’t one at all. This very simply could be a case of them projecting their own idea of what a sexist must be, on to you. In such a case, taking it personally would be utterly futile. Which leads us to the next point.
What do Their Shoes Feel Like?
Instead of taking a reaction personally, try this instead. Try to think why they are directing an attack or a particular criticism at you. What is going through that person’s mind? Is it just their way to intentionally blame or shame you? Or is this how they interact with everyone else too? Could this be the sort of behavior they resort to get their way? Are they going through some personal turmoil that is making them lash out?
The idea here is to gain a perception of the other person’s state of mind. Perhaps they are just critical by nature and have not developed the filters that allow them to curb what comes out of their mouth. Or maybe they just resort to bullying others to have their way.
In such a case, were you to take their comments personally, it would only end up making you miserable and not serve any purpose. So before you react or feel down and out because of such an interaction, take a moment to step back and get into their shoes.
It’s Not Always About You
This is a very simple, yet powerful idea. Whatever anyone else says or does isn’t always about you. If your boss praises a colleague of yours and not you, even though you have spent extra time working on a project, that might not necessarily mean that they are trying to demean you. It simply might be that they are trying to encourage your co-worker who might have been struggling lately.
Similarly, if a friend lashes out at you, then they simply might be in a bad place at that point in time and their outburst simply might be a release of pent up emotions at the wrong time. This is why it is important to step back and assess whether it is really about you. In most cases, it is not.
Take a Breather
When in a conflict, the default emotional reaction a lot of people resort to is to give it back as good as we get or to soak it up. Especially when the person confronting us is a superior or someone you cannot afford to displease.
There is a third way to react that almost always is the better choice—just step back and take a deep breath. A few deep breaths will calm you down allowing the initial emotional reaction to pass over you. It lets you create a space between you and the other person and helps you avoid a knee jerk reaction.
This approach is infinitely better than lashing out at the other person. In fact, when you react in a calm and sensible manner, it is very likely that the other person will realize their mistake, if not sheepishly and apologize or change their stance as well.
You Don’t Have to Care What Others Think About You
As I said above, you can’t make everyone like you. To add to that, people keep changing their personal opinions of others on a regular basis and while we have been conditioned since birth to care about the opinions of others, it doesn’t necessarily have to be so. Especially if the person expressing the opinion is not important to you at all.
As I have explained above, a person’s unreasonable reaction could be because of a hoard of reasons not related to you and it is important to realize that and not react or react in a responsible, logical manner.
Let’s face it, you can’t control someone’s opinion of you, but what you can control is your reaction to him or her. No prizes for guessing which one is the better choice.
To Sum it Up…
Plenty of times, when we are stuck in a conflict, it seems worse than it actually is because we are stuck in our own head, where things often appear much worse than they seem. So stop giving your power away and letting such unwanted disturbances affect your mindset. Follow the tips given in this article and you will undoubtedly find yourself in a better position to stop taking things personally.
Take a look at our other stress management techniques.