Depression Relationship Therapy
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Don't Take It Personally...

by Karen A. Solomon, LCSW, BCD, CGP, CHt

A concept that is difficult to wrap our minds around, but potentially very helpful is to not take things personally. If someone is rude to us or cuts us off in traffic, we tend to react as if they are doing something to us. We then quite naturally become angry and defensive. We often want to strike back at them in some way as if to say “you can’t treat me that way.” People behave in the ways they do because of who they are and how they view the world around them and everyone in it. Their actions really have little to do with us.

This does not mean we are not affected by the actions of others. Of course we may be offended or hurt, but that is simply an emotion that is being triggered by someone else’s behavior. Not taking things personally is especially difficult in our close relationships. If our spouse, for example, tells us how to do something or corrects us in front of others, we may think they see us as incompetent and we want to make it clear that we know what we are doing. Chances are the spouse is just anxious or worried about what people think because of their own insecurity.

We may also judge our self worth by the way others treat us. I must be a loser if so and so treats me this way or they must not value me if they talk to me like that. Again, if we can re-think that and say to ourselves, he or she really does not know how to talk to people or he must be in a really foul mood today, although we still don’t like it, at least the emphasis is not on something about us.

When we consider this idea of not taking things personally, the ramifications of how we interact with others and how we feel about ourselves are really quite far reaching. Think about how we may experience a supervisors’ way of talking to us or “bossing us.” Again, this person may not be a good leader or he lacks good interpersonal skills. Feeling mistreated in any way is a legitimately unpleasant experience and may provoke us to act out in a variety of self defeating ways.

An alternative to reacting is learning how to speak up when appropriate and express our feelings. You might say “when you talk to me that way, it makes me feel angry or hurt and I experience it as disrespectful.” Stating our feelings in a clear, non attacking manner is a far better option than striking out and “getting even.” Communicating in this way also gives the other person a chance to think about how they come across rather than just arguing with you and getting no where.

It is quite an awakening to notice how often we do take things personally and how freeing it is not to.

Karen A. Solomon
Office : 631 - 543 - 2050

Commack, New York 11725

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