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11 Habits That Pull You Out Of The Vicious Spiral Of Taking Things Too Personally

11 Habits That Pull You Out Of The Vicious Spiral Of Taking Things Too Personally

When I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time, I cried. It made me realise how tiny and insignificant my existence was compared to the greater scheme of things. Without perspective, we sometimes forget how small we are. We waste our time taking things personal, blowing things out of proportion and making it all about us. Taking things too personally is a slippery slope that can destroy our self-esteem. If you find yourself falling down a vicious spiral of taking things personal, here are 11 tips to pull yourself out.

1. Remember you are the size of a grain of sand.

Your house is in a city, in a state, in a country, on a continent, on Earth, in our solar system, in the Milky Way, in our Universe and so on. Translation, you are but a speck. Keeping our existence into perspective, knowing that our Universe is 13.8 billion years old and we live, on average, for about 70 years reminds us that taking things too personally is a waste of time.

2. Stop, think and respond.

Quite often our communication style is to react; we say or do the first thing that comes to mind. Controlling your response in any given situation allows you to reflect on what’s happening and calmly communicate with the person that might be getting under your skin.

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3. Make “I’m rubber and your glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you” your new mantra.

We’ve all heard this saying before. It means that you don’t really care whether or not a person is speaking ill of you. By letting things roll off of your back, you avoid the stress that comes with taking things too personally. Making it a mantra creates a personal reminder for you and no one else  — we’re here to avoid conflict, not create it.

4. Use Nonviolent Communication.

Nonviolent communication is also known as Compassionate Communication or Collaborative Communication. It was invented by Marshall Rosenberg in the 1960s and focuses on self-empathy, empathy and honest self-expression. It’s a four-step process based on (1) observation, (2) feeling, (3) need, (4) request.

For example: “Dan, when I (1) see dishes in the sink, I (2) feel irritated because I’m needing (3) the kitchen that we share in common to be clean. (4) Could you please do your dishes?”

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You’re not taking the fact that he hasn’t done the dishes, personally; you’re communicating how you feel without being irrational or demeaning. Find out more at The Centre for Nonviolent Communication.

5. Be okay with being vulnerable.

Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable by expressing our feelings can help resolve conflicts. When we talk things out and let ourselves be seen, we’re letting the other person know how we feel without taking it personal — much like we did in number 4.

6.  Realise that if someone isn’t saying nice things about you, it’s a reflection of them — and it’s nothing personal.

People who judge others or put other’s down to make themselves feel better have their own self-esteem issues. If someone is being unkind to you, remember that they’re probably behaving this way because of something that’s happened to them in the past of present; which has nothing to do with you.

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7. Learn how to be a passive listener.

Passive listening is when you’re sitting quietly and not responding to what the other person is saying. This relates back to being able to calmly respond to a situation without reacting and putting your foot in your mouth.

8. Learn to love yourself.

Improving self-esteem will allow you to not take things personal. The way we feel about ourselves is a direct reflection of how other’s feel about us. When we don’t speak highly of ourselves, why should someone else?  If you suffer from low self-esteem that’s affecting your daily life, seek out help from a psychologist, therapist or coach.

9. Ask for clarification.

We distort, delete and generalise information based on our personal values and beliefs. Someone might say something to us, and we might make it mean something completely different. By asking for a specific explanation, you’ll be provided with a clearer understanding of what is trying to be said.

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10. Ask for feedback.

There isn’t failure, only feedback, and we need that feedback to grow. After you ask for clarification, ask for feedback on what different strategies or approaches you could use next time.

11. Remember you’re only human.

Further to number 10, we all make mistakes. All we can do is learn from those mistakes and not take that feedback personally, so we can do better next time. When we stop learning and keep making the same mistakes, it’s time to seek help from friends, family, co-workers or mental health professionals.

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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