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How and Why Not to Take Things Personally

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

Everyone has experienced moments when someone criticized them, offered unsolicited advice, made them the brunt of a joke, or was rude and cruel. Later, you might fume over what they said while what you wished you said circled in your mind. But what is a healthy way to handle these situations?

First, allow yourself to feel emotionally off, which is natural and normal, then consider the intent of the remarks. Did they come from a trusted friend who felt obliged to point out your negative behavior? Does this friend often make snarky comments, or is this a one-off? Most people don’t enjoy criticizing others, and it may have taken a lot for them to speak up.

The outcome is usually better if you take a moment to evaluate people’s words and motivation instead of immediately reacting defensively. Perhaps the intent was constructive feedback, or maybe the statement had nothing to do with you, and the person was merely venting. Of course, it’s not fair to be the victim of a vent, but you can choose how you react. You can walk away. You can ask for clarification. You can listen.

Use anger management skills. For example, use “I” statements and wait until everyone has calmed down before discussing the matter. You might say: I understand you are trying to help me, but I feel hurt. So let’s talk about this later when we are calm.

People often say things they don’t mean if a conversation becomes heated. Waiting to talk usually leads to a more rational and productive outcome. Then, after taking time out, perhaps for a walk, a deep breathing exercise, or meditation, you can have a sensible conversation laced with I statements. Together, you can identify solutions that work for all parties.

Remember, no one is perfect; yes, that includes you. No one is right all the time. As you contemplate what someone said or did, you can learn what triggers you, and from there, you can evaluate why. Maybe what was said evokes a miserable memory from your childhood and makes you eager to fight back. But you are an adult now with a bag of tricks, and you can learn not to take things personally. You can improve your emotional intelligence, which is your ability to perceive, interpret, demonstrate, control, evaluate, and use emotions to relate effectively with others.

We all receive criticism, and if you control your emotions, you can often learn from the information shared with you. You can pause, remain calm, evaluate the remark, and see if there's a hidden gem there that you can learn from. Then, instead of lashing out, you can say, “Thank you for the information.” In this way, you accept that the comments are potentially valuable, whether they are or not. You grow when you turn someone’s actions into a lesson or an opportunity to practice tolerance and controlling your emotions.

Being angry and giving a remark too much power can fester and impact your self-esteem. It may keep you awake at night and even cause anxiety. Emotional intelligence means you accept that you are not perfect and are willing to learn and grow with the feedback you receive. This is especially helpful in your career, where you may be surrounded by people who know more about your position than you, and they can teach you something, hopefully tactfully and kindly.

Establishing and communicating boundaries is important when a person is rude, but a polite tone and word choice are essential. People usually become defensive when they feel they are being attacked. Their ego may be wounded, and their fight or flight mode kicks in, so they respond with a survival reflex. When you seek to improve a relationship, honesty and quieting your ego help. If your discussion doesn’t lead to a resolution, you can elicit the advice of a mediator, therapist, or trusted and unbiased friend.

After you try your best to express yourself calmly and kindly, yet you are not being heard, respected, or treated fairly, you can distance yourself from the person permanently or until you

resolve the issue. Surrounding yourself with people who respect you and listen to your concerns is vital. A relationship probably isn’t healthy if they don’t, and, in that case, it is okay to let someone go who doesn’t align with you.

Take your reactions up a notch by working on your spiritual intelligence. Meditation and hypnosis can help you remain calm in difficult situations. You will be less judgmental once you learn to view life with a sense of oneness. If someone’s remarks come from ego, jealousy, or negativity, you can wish them well on their learning journey and continue on your own. When you reach this level of understanding, people’s actions rarely affect you, and you rarely take things personally. Once you can rise above petty conflicts, you will experience far less stress which is beneficial in many ways.

Stress impacts your physical and mental state. For example, it can raise blood pressure, cause heart disease, strokes, digestive issues, depression, sleep disorders, anxiety, and other problems. Therefore, it is crucial for your well-being to avoid drama and reduce stress.

If you need help to stop taking things personally, contact Best Life-ing for hypnosis, meditation, or other wellness modalities that can help you improve your emotional and spiritual intelligence.

Rhonda Armbrust

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