There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally. – Don Miguel Ruiz
I’m sure these scenarios are familiar.
You are doing a great job at your company during a particularly challenging time and your boss calls you up uncharacteristically yelling and screaming because the budget is not being met or your department has a huge backlog. Your boss is all over you – criticizing, controlling, and ignoring your efforts and accomplishments.
Or you are working in retail, or in any service position, and a customer comes up to you and is just plain rude – bitching about everything. And no matter how accommodating you are, the customer cannot be pleased.
Or your dear friend, loved one or family member suddenly turns a cold shoulder to you, and does not have one nice word to say. And nothing you do is right.
What is going on?
Our first instinct is to take it personally. What did I do to cause this behavior?
And indeed, if YOU are rude, or mean, or simply don’t care if work gets done correctly, then you are directly responsible for this reaction.
Yet many times, this behavior has NOTHING to do with you, which brings me to one of my favorite quotes by Don Miguel Ruiz:
“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.”
Now don’t get me wrong. Constructive criticism should ALWAYS be welcomed. Yet when someone who is usually pleasant and positive is downright mean to you, avoid taking it personally. Instead, realize that something negative is occurring in this person’s life. Perhaps your boss is being pressured from his or her boss and is frightened and stressed. Or the customer is experiencing some personal trauma in his or her life. Or your loved one is experiencing a really bad day.
Before you jump to conclusions, and take offense and become defensive, stop for a moment and realize that it is “not all about you.” Instead, it is all about the person who is attacking. And instead of taking the attacks personally, separate out the facts from the hysteria/meanness and respond only to the facts – keep your emotions out of it.
It never feels good to be yelled at by someone else. But next time, exchange your anger for compassion and empathy. You will be surprised at the results … and you won’t believe how it takes the edge off.
And of course, if the bullying and meanness continue, it is time to find another boss, job or friend.