I work with family — husband, offspring, in-laws and their partners. A while back, I was going through some difficulties. My mother’s terminal cancer, my own health problems, and the start of a new business venture are three that spring to mind.
It was a stressful period and looking back, I can see that I was in a bad mood a lot of the time. Sometimes I was snappy with my co-workers. My husband and sons didn’t take it personally.
My sister-in-law, on the other hand, did. I know this, not because she confronted me, but because she’d grumbled about me to another relative who took it upon himself to admonish me.
Although I hadn’t meant any harm, and the other relative had only heard one side of the story, I took his reproach to heart, albeit grudgingly. It forced me to see that I had been so caught up in my troubles, I hadn’t noticed that my sister-in-law had taken my disposition personally.
As you can probably gather, I tend to have an overly sensitive nature too: I can tell self-righteous tales about how I’m the thoughtful one and people are snarky and critical of me; I can be bothered by mean-spirited remarks; I can be irritated by jokes made at my expense.
How do you behave when someone, deliberately or not, belittles, humiliates or rejects you?
Do you become resentful? Do you issue a counterattack? Do you curl into the foetal position?
Or do you shrug it off as “their problem”?
If it’s the latter, then you’ll be in on this secret: Life is far more pleasant if you don’t take things personally.
But if you find yourself becoming prickly, then before declaring war or licking your wounds, try to break the habit with the following four strategies.
#1. First, move on. Refocus your attention as soon as you possibly can. Negative thoughts and feelings feed negative thoughts and feelings. You picture the offending scene when you’re doing the dishes, you go over the distressing dialogue in the shower, you focus on the misdeed, the blame, the outrage—
STOP! Concentrate on another task or project: sing, draw, write, work! Do whatever stops you dwelling. Focusing on something productive will shift your attention from what they said or did. It will replace agitation with tranquility.
Remember, move on or you’ll amplify the negative feelings.
#2. Control your emotions. If you tend to take things to heart, you might believe that someone is targeting you when they might just be having a bad day. I know it’s hard, but try to give them the benefit of the doubt. Think before reacting and don’t be too quick to draw conclusions.
Remember, the world doesn’t revolve around you.
#3. Be brave and speak up. If their bad attitude or behavior is getting to you, let them know. They might not realize how uncomfortable you feel. If they don’t appreciate your honesty, stand up for yourself and don’t accept demeaning treatment.
Remember, be assertive and tackle the situation with integrity.
#4. Talk to the hand. Even if for some reason they do target you, you don’t have to bear the brunt of their latest eruption. If speaking up doesn’t help, don’t be too embarrassed or afraid to end it by simply walking away.
Remember, you can’t control the behavior of others, but you can control yours.
Carmen Gowans is a freelance writer. Her blog, Among Gum Trees, is named for the trees surrounding her beautiful home where she loves to play with words ─ the words sort themselves into stories at regular intervals.
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