By Yin Health Founder, Tsu Shan Chambers and our Counselling team – Dr Barbara Haddon, Fiona Cuskelly, Jennifer Cook and Nicola Mitchell
The trouble with taking things personally is that something as small as one word can turn into a major dispute at home, at work or even between friends. Many people, men and women, find themselves getting hurt in relationships. They become sensitive to particular types of comments, or burst into tears at passing remarks or clam up and go silent because of something that was said. However, it’s not only what is said that causes hurt. Sometimes it’s what is NOT said. “Why hasn’t my boss thanked me for doing extra work?” “Why didn’t he say he liked my new haircut?”
However, instead of communicating our feelings more clearly and quickly, we often expect other people to know how we feel and act how we expect that them to act without having to ask. We add to the hurt. We can also withdraw and carry around anger inside of us and let it fester until we let it explode. This is not only harmful to us but helps no one.
There are a lot of activities and ideas that can help people not take things personally, maintain self-esteem and allow relationships to grow. Here are some skills that may be useful:
Skill One: Know that choice is available – We can’t control what people do or don’t do. However, we can be in charge of our own responses and actions. We have a choice as to what to react to. E.g. Laugh – don’t take the comment seriously, turn a put down into a compliment or ignore it.
Skill Two: Understand why hurt happens – Each individual has a range of personal triggers for hurt. Sometimes, or often, these are connected to the person’s history. People have a choice to let go of the history.
People’s self-esteem and confidence can also play a part in whether they are wounded by something or not. Our responses are influenced by what goes on inside of us, not just the remark that was made. Someone who felt confident about their skills may have responded quite differently.
Skills Three: Delay responses and gain thinking time – Hurt can arise simply because they respond through habit rather than awareness. Slowing down the speed at which they respond gives them more chance to think of the best responses, to stop knee-jerk reactions and to use different options to minimise hurt. E.g. Simply count to four before responding or take a deep breath in (and out). Sometimes finding out extra information will demonstrate that there was nothing behind the comments.
Skill Four: Monitor the Mind – The mind reacts to the hurt and can dampen it or intensify it. Often people repeat potentially hurtful things to themselves, and others, over and over again. There are many ways to control the mind. These range from meditation, affirmations, cognitive-behaviour therapy, yoga and other psychotherapies.
Skill Five: Communicate clearly – Controlling our voices when we talk and respond and checking out what others mean by their tones can help to control or reduce hurt. Take the word ‘moron’, for example. This can be said in a way that implies the other person is stupid. With a change of voice, however, it could also sound like the person is the sexiest person around. Developing awareness of our own voices is therefore useful.
In conclusion, self-awareness is a crucial part of the journey to not take things personally. Self-responsibility is also vital. The choice is ours.