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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.