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Last Updated on December 1, 2020

How to Not Take Things Personally for a Happier Life

How to Not Take Things Personally for a Happier Life

We sometimes get offended by what other people say or think very hard about some things that other people do. You may experience emotional unrest thinking about what you might have done wrong for someone to do or say what they did.

However, most of the time, these things aren’t because of you, and sometimes, they aren’t even about you at all. When you take things personally, you put unnecessary pressure and negativity in your mind. So you may ask, how to not take things personally?

What Does It Mean to Not Take Things Personally?

Well, here is what it means to take things personally. Lisa walked into the elevator at work to get to her office floor. She met a colleague and greeted her as she would on any other day.

However, Lisa didn’t hear her colleague’s reply and instantly assumed that there was a problem. She spent all the time in the elevator, about 5 minutes, coming up with different reasons why she had been ignored.

Bottom line: she believed that it must have had something to do with her personally. Finally, she got to her office, and while she went about her work, her boss walked in barking requests. Her boss, Heather, had stopped with the friendly smile and gentle tone she used during Lisa’s interview.

Now, it was mostly terse emails, a lot of frowns and didn’t validate Lisa’s work as much as she would like. Although Lisa was very good at her job, she wasn’t sure about that anymore with Heather’s attitude towards her. She started to doubt her abilities and took things personally.

If there is one thing we can get from this scenario, it’s that Lisa was not a happy person. She needs to discover how to not take things personally for a happier life.

So, what should she have done differently? Let’s start by finding out why we take things personally.

Why Do We Take Things Personally?

As her job grew more stressful, this also had a ripple effect on Lisa’s personal life. However, she took the behaviors of her colleague and boss personally because she felt responsible.

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She blamed herself for their response. Thinking about, if only she were more sensitive or smarter, then she would be able to fix all their problems.

But this is so wrong. Many of us are wrestling with the problem of feeling like everything is about us when, actually, it probably is not.

When we don’t take everything personally, life will be so much better. But this is actually more common than you think as it is a pattern of the human mind. We tend to assume personal responsibility for occurrences that we have little to no control over.

We see events happening around us and think that it’s because of us. In the process, we internalize these problems, words, and actions, and make our roles in them bigger than they really are. And when the event turns out negative? We somehow believe that we are the cause. It is like blaming but targeted inwardly. So, it’s a form of self-blame.

This spirals out of control with emotional effects such as depression, anxiety, and stress being a part of your daily life.

The thoughts we carry around influence our reality as they are connected to our feelings of control and happiness. Taking things personally only leads to a negative outlook, which doesn’t contribute to a happier life.

How to Not Take Things Personally

Let’s get back to Lisa. She believed that her colleague didn’t respond to her greeting, and it’s all her fault. Apart from the fact that she was wrong about her colleague not replying to her greeting, Lisa jumped into conclusions and made it all about her.

Here are some tips on how to not take things personally.

1. Investigate Your Thoughts

The best place to start is your thoughts. Most times, we unconsciously encourage thoughts where we blame ourselves for almost every situation.

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In the elevator, Lisa’s thoughts were, “if my colleague couldn’t respond to my greeting, then it must be because of something I did; If Heather is unhappy, then I must not be doing well at my job; If the company is struggling, then it must be my fault.”

You need to investigate your thoughts, which are specific to the situation. The next step is to ask yourself if these are true. If you think they are true, how sure are you?

Here is a different way to look at it. “If my colleague couldn’t respond to my greeting, then she may have been too occupied with her thoughts to notice”; “Heather manages about 20 employees, and I have been doing good work, so it could be any of 19 people”; “Heather has a life outside of the company, so she may have other problems affecting her mood.”

Doing this puts the situation in perspective. When Lisa had the first set of thoughts, they felt very personal. However, if she had investigated those thoughts, she would have seen that they were much less personal. When you examine your thoughts, you will realize that you may have invented a huge chunk of it.

2. It’s Okay to Ask Questions

Rather than basing our thoughts on assumptions and taking things personally, you can ask questions if you are really disturbed about it.

Let’s imagine how things would have gone differently between Lisa and her colleague in the elevator:

Lisa: I greeted you and got no response, is something wrong?

Colleague: Oh, I responded. I guess I wasn’t loud enough, sorry about that.

Lisa: That’s alright. How’s your family?

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What’s the result of this conversation? Lisa will understand that it was never about her, and by encouraging dialogue, she has one less thing to worry about.

Let’s see how the conversation with her boss would have gone:

Lisa: I realized that you have been snapping at me a lot lately, is it something I did?

Heather: Oh, of course not. You’re great at your job, I’ve just been stressed lately.

With this, Lisa knows that her work output is still excellent, and Heather’s attitude has nothing to do with her. Taking things personally is a ticket to getting worried over nothing.

3. Don’t Worry So Much About What Others Think of You

One reason why you take things personally is that you care so much about the approval of the person involved. A lot of us have been conditioned from birth into thinking that you must be accepted by everyone.

However, the truth is that not everyone will like you. In fact, not everyone has to, especially since you can’t control the thoughts of others. So, if you want to stop taking things personally, you need to accept that you can’t influence how people respond to you.

Accept yourself, and you will be able to attract those who will accept you for who you are. With those people, you don’t have to constantly worry about what they think of you because you know that they absolutely love you.

4. Get Out of Your Head

Most times, when you feel judged or criticized by someone, you may have blown it out of proportion because you are in your head. We’re always acutely aware of our weaknesses and flaws.

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Therefore, when you think a statement from a co-worker was actually criticism, they may not have been talking about you at all. Instead, you projected your insecurities into that statement and took it personally.

Has there been a time in the past where you took something personally but later realized that what was said wasn’t about you? So, next time you’re tempted to take things personally, think about this.

5. Build on Your Self-Confidence

Improving your self-confidence gives you a decent level of immunity to the actions and comments of others. That confidence acts as a buffer, meaning that you won’t instantly jump on a negative comment about you and let it define your thoughts.

People with a low level of confidence are more likely to bristle at any negative comment thrown at them because they are quick to believe that it is true.

Yes, you have your flaws, but that self-confidence will let you realize that it’s not enough to hold you back or get in your way. You will encourage the positive thought that you can fix it, making it easier for you to shrug off these comments.

6. Look Through a Different Lens

When you shift perspectives, you will be able to look at things beyond your experience. If Lisa had looked at the office through Heather’s eyes, she might have been able to see that managing more than five people was a lot of work.

She may have also noticed that Heather’s attitude wasn’t always targeted at her. Lisa would have also seen the tons of responsibilities that come with managing the office. This would have helped Lisa realize that she wasn’t the cause of Heather’s attitude.

When learning how to not take things personally, you need to realize that not every situation will revolve around you. Instead, be willing to show empathy.

Final Thoughts

Empathize with the other person’s position instead of being locked up in a narrow self-absorbed point of view.

As much as you can, use these tips to understand when you’re about to take things personally and avoid them. When you don’t take things personally, you will be able to have a richer and more productive life.

More Tips on Living a Happier Life

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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Jacqueline T. Hill

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Last Updated on April 14, 2021

How to Deal With Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

How to Deal With Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

We all lose our temper from time to time, and expressing anger is actually a healthy thing to do in our relationships with others. Expressing our differences in opinion allows us to have healthy conflict and many times come to an agreement or understanding that works for everyone. However, there are times when anger can become overwhelming or damaging, and during these times, it’s important to learn how to deal with anger.

Expressing anger inappropriately can be harmful to relationships, both personal and professional. You may express too much anger, too often, or at times that are only going to make things worse, not better. In this article we will look at anger management techniques that will help you better control your emotions.

Let’s take a deeper look at how to deal with anger.

Expressing Anger

Anger is a natural and normal part of almost any relationship. This includes relationships with your significant other, kids, boss, friends, family, etc. Anger provides us with valuable information if we are willing to listen to it. It clues us in to areas where we disagree with others and things that need to be changed or altered.

Unhealthy Ways to Express Anger

Here are some common yet unhealthy ways to express anger that you should avoid:

Being Passive-Aggressive

This is a term many of us are familiar with. Passive-aggressive behavior happens when someone is angry but uses indirect communication to express their anger.

Some of the more common passive-aggressive behaviors include the silent treatment, making comments about someone behind their back, being grumpy, moody, or pouting, or simply not doing tasks or assignments that they should.

This is a passive-aggressive person’s way of showing their anger. It’s not very productive but extremely common.

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Poorly-Timed

Some people get overwhelmed and express anger in a situation where it can’t really do any good.

An example would be getting angry at one person in front of a crowd of people. All that does is make people uncomfortable and shuts them down. It’s not a healthy way to express anger or disagreement with someone.

Ongoing Anger

Being angry all the time is most often a symptom of something else. It’s healthy and normal to express anger when you disagree with someone. However, if someone is angry most of the time and always seems to be expressing their anger to everyone around them, this won’t serve them well.

Over time, people will start to avoid this person and have as little contact as possible. The reason being is no one likes being around someone who is angry all the time; it’s a no-win situation.

Healthy Ways to Express Anger

What about the healthy ways[1] to adapt? When learning how to deal with anger, here are some healthy ways to get you started.

Being Honest

Express your anger or disagreement honestly. Be truthful about what it is that is making you angry. Sometimes this will entail walking away and thinking about it for a bit before you respond.

Don’t say you’re mad at something someone did or said when it’s really something else that upset you.

Being Direct

Similar to being honest, being direct is a healthy way to express anger.

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Don’t talk around something that is making you angry. Don’t say that one thing is making you angry when it’s really something else, and don’t stack items on top of each other so you can unload on someone about 10 different things 6 months from now.

Be direct and upfront about what is making you angry. Ensure you are expressing your anger to the person who upset you or you are angry at, not to someone else. This is very counterproductive.

Being Timely

When something makes you angry, it’s much better to express it in a timely manner. Don’t keep it bottled up inside of you, as that’s only going to do more harm than good.

Think of the marriages that seem to go up in flames out of nowhere when the reality is someone kept quiet for years until they hit their breaking point.

Expressing anger as it occurs is a much healthier way of using anger to help us guide our relationships in the moment.

How to Deal With Anger

If you feel angry, how should you deal with it right at that moment?

1. Slow Down

From time to time, I receive an email at work that makes me so angry that steam is probably pouring out of my ears.

In my less restrained moments, I have been known to fire off a quick response, and that typically has ended about as well as you might imagine.

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When I actually walk away from my computer and go do something else for a while, I am able to calm down and think more rationally. After that happens, I am able to respond in a more appropriate and productive manner. Doing things that helps you learn how to release anger can make an uncomfortable situation more manageable before it gets out of hand.

2. Focus on the “I”

Remember that you are the one that’s upset. Don’t accuse people of making you upset because, in the end, it’s your response to what someone did that really triggered your anger. You don’t want to place blame by saying something like “Why don’t you ever put away your dishes?” Say something more like “Having dirty dishes laying on the counter upsets me—can you work with me to come to a solution?”

When you are accusatory towards someone, all that does is increase the tension. This doesn’t usually do anything except make your anger rise higher.

3. Work out

When learning how to deal with anger, exercise is a great outlet. If something happens that angers you, see if you have the opportunity to burn off some of the anger.

Being able to hit the gym to get a hard workout in is great. If this isn’t an option, see if you can go for a run or a bike ride. If you are at work when you become angry and the weather permits, at least go outside for a brisk walk.

Besides working some of your anger out through exercise, this also helps to give your mind a chance to work through some ways to address what it is that upset you.

If you’re not sure where to start with an exercise routine, check out Lifehack’s free Simple Cardio Home Workout Plan.

4. Seek Help When Needed

There are times when we could all use some help. Life can be stressful and overwhelming. It’s perfectly fine to seek some help from a mental health professional if it will help you get back to a healthy balance.If you find that you are angry all the time, it might be a good idea to go talk to an expert about learning to control intense emotions. They can give you some sound advice and ideas on how to get your anger to a more manageable and healthy level.

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5. Practice Relaxation

We all seem to lead incredibly busy lives, and that’s a good thing if we are loving the life we are living. That being said, it is very beneficial to our physical and mental well-being to take time out for relaxation.

That can mean spending time doing things that help us calm down and relax, like being around people we enjoy, practicing deep breathing or listening to music. It could be making time for things that help bring us balance like a healthy diet and physical activity.

Many people incorporate techniques such as yoga and meditation to calm their minds and release tension when learning how to deal with anger. Whatever your choice is, ensure you take time out to relax when warning signs of anger start to bubble up.

6. Laugh

Incorporating humor and laughter on a regular basis will help keep anger in check and help you get over a bad mood and feelings of anger more quickly. This isn’t part of formal anger management techniques, but you’ll be surprised by how well it works. Remember, life is a journey that’s meant to be enjoyed fully along the way through healthy emotion. Make sure you take time to laugh and have fun.Surround yourself with people that like to laugh and enjoy life. Don’t work at a job that just causes you stress, which can lead to anger. Work at something you enjoy doing.

7. Be Grateful

It’s easy to focus on the bad in life and the things that cause us negative emotions. It’s vitally important to remind ourselves of all the wonderful things in life that bring us positive emotions, things that we easily forget because we get caught up in the whirlwind of day to day life.

Take time out each day to remind yourself of a few things you are grateful for in order to help you learn how to release anger and invite in more positive feelings.

Final Thoughts

Life can be overwhelming at times. We seem to have constant pressure to achieve more and to always be on the go. People we are around and situations we are in can cause stress, anger, and negative emotions. At times, it can seem to be too much, and we get angry and our emotions start to get out of control.

During these times, keep in mind that life is an incredible journey, full of wonder and things that bring you joy. When you find yourself angry more often than is healthy, take time out to remember the good things in life—the things that we seem to forget yet bring us so much positive energy and emotions.

Use some of the tips included here to help with how to deal with anger and better control your emotions.

More Resources on Anger Management

Featured photo credit: Andre Hunter via unsplash.com

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