We all want to feel important, valued and respected. Sometimes the situations we find ourselves in and the interactions we have may challenge those feelings and we end up taking things personally. Taking things personally can cause hurt, offence, upset, stress, confusion, anger….shall I go on? We often blame other people for making us feel this way when in fact, the feelings originate because we are taking things personally.
For example, you’ve worked really hard on a project, put in extra time, given your all and yet your boss gives you no recognition, and points out a minor error you’ve made. How might you feel if you took their behaviour personally?
A rude customer confronts you, becoming personally abusive, throwing insults, calling you names and making a scene. Again, if you took this behaviour personally, what would be the impact?
Firstly, we need to understand why we take things personally. One reason is that we only see things from our perspective; how hard we worked on a project, how we are trying to help the customer and didn’t do anything to deserve their abuse. We don’t look for a different perspective. The boss’s behaviour could stem from a lack of understanding of how much work the project entailed, that they’re distracted by their own priorities. The customer could be at the end of their patience due to multiple unsuccessful interactions with other people, they may have mental health issues, who knows, but one strategy to counter taking things personally is to remember it’s not about you!
By seeing things from another perspective, or trying to see the intention of the other person, we make space for understanding rather than irritation.
The other potential reason for taking things personally is that it taps into an insecurity we harbour; we’re selfish or not good at handling conflict or not very bright etc. This means we see situations through a lens of self-doubt or self-hatred and when that part of ourselves is activated we spiral into negative emotion.
In these instances, we need to be kind to ourselves and take actions to build our skills and confidence. Acknowledge why we might feel bad. With the boss who doesn’t recognise our efforts, it may be that we weren’t recognised as a child or never felt good enough. With the abusive customer we may not feel confident about our skills to handle the situation. How do we change that? Focus on your strengths and improve areas you feel are lacking; get some training or coaching. Build your confidence by acknowledging what you do do well and give yourself credit for your efforts.
The more we can use the strategies of changing our perspective and being kind to ourselves, the less likelihood there is of us taking things personally. It means we can devote our time and energy to pursuits that will benefit us rather than pull us down.
For more information on Managing conflict in the workplace contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 1300 850 959