Making the leap to not take it personally is a big one. It won’t happen over night. But as you work on it, you’ll get better at it. The thing to remember is that the people you engage with have a story just like you do. They’re the culmination of their experiences and choices just like you are the culmination of all your experiences and choices. What gets you in trouble when you take things personally, is the process I call the Hobbes Paradigm (think of all the fantasy worlds Calvin was able to create because of his creation of Hobbes). This occurs because people have the tendency to fill in the blanks of a story with assumptions. So before you take it personally and respond:
DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS
How many times has your response been completely irrational because of some assumption you made about the situation? Be honest with yourself (we are our harshest critic) and really asses your response. If you took the poison pill: you took it personally, created assumptions about the why, and your outcome was a negative experience.
I’ve distinguished between two types of assumptions:
- Hobbes Paradigm
The simple story filler is just that simple. Based on the evidence you observe, you can reasonably assume certain actions took place. These actions are rooted in reality and don’t continue beyond themselves. The paradigm assumption is rooted in the fantasy that you’ve created because of your perceptions. The creation of these assumptions know no bounds. They’re the ones that create the unnecessary internal conflict to justify another’s behavior. The internal dialogue typically consists of terms that deal with absolutes:
- He must have known….
- She knew what she was doing…
- He knows better than that!
With these quick assumptions, you can begin to create an entire reality that’s not rooted in any truth because you have the need to justify and understand the behavior. Making assumptions is also a two-way street. The effects of an assumption can and will be amplified if the other person you are engaging with makes an assumption about you. You know the assumption they made is false about you, so you take it personally, and make another assumption about them because of an assumption they made about you! It can devolve very quickly, but only if you allow it to do so.
Not taking it personally and not making assumptions is a difficult process and it comes with practice. The next time you get the urge to become upset with somebody give it a try. Remember, it’s not about you, they could be making an assumption about you so don’t return the favor, and ask what’s going on. Find the problem and work toward a solution. Some will be more complicated and harder to solve but it’s a lot easier than holding a grudge!
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