How often do you hear someone say, “By the Way, It’s Nothing Personal, BUT…”? How often do you brace yourself, throw up your walls, when some sort of a negative comment is made about how you look, the action that you took, what you are planning on doing, etc.?
In other words, you take it personally. Right? Why?
Why? Because that is the way most of us are programmed, starting when we were small children.
As children, many of us learned the nursery rhyme: Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Unfortunately, we’ve forgotten it. We take things personal, taking offense at what isn’t personal to us.
Someone else’s words may be about me, but it’s only their perspective about me unless I make it personal to me. The same goes for you; for each of us.
It’s how we receive messages that lead us to create problems for ourselves. When someone says something about us or an event happens that affects us (a driver unexpectedly cuts us off, someone criticizes our work, etc.), we can take it personal and respond with pain and anger. Or, we can learn to respond with a “huh,” a shrug of our shoulders and let it go. In other words, we can see it for what is, someone else’s comments, actions, or opinions.
We have a choice. We can be a sponge and soak up another’s words about us or we can be like Teflon and let the words slide off. If I didn’t think it, say it, or do it, it’s not personal to me.
When we decline to make another’s words personal, we don’t relinquish our power. When we don’t take offense, we’re creating a very efficient and empowering mental model. We generally are not offended, our feelings don’t get hurt, and we maintain our temperament, and our relationships are not damaged.
We’re each doing the best we can. Yes, theoretically we can do better but theoretically is only theoretical. When we acknowledge nothing is personal, we learn, grow and develop new skills and transform our Inner Critic to our Inner Champion. We open ourselves to expansive success and happiness in all areas of our life!
My experiences: the pain, disappointment, fear, uncertainty and disruption taught me clearly and repeatedly demonstrated to me — freedom is my choice and my responsibility. Only I am accountable for what I do or don’t do – the choices I make.
There is only one question you need to ask yourself when someone give you a “By the way, it’s nothing personal, but…” That question is, “What is their problem?” Just know that there is something inside them that causes them to make remarks like that and it has nothing to do with you. Be Teflon and let it slide!
As Viktor Frankl explained, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” While learning to choose our response is not easy, we can master it through practicing.
In its November 2017 issue of the Southwest Airlines in-flight magazine, the cover story was about schoolyard bully Jeff Zlotnik who later found his peace of mind by becoming a Buddhist monk. Author Eric Steuer tells an excellent story of a classmate who had bullied him and others mercilessly from kindergarten through high school.
The point of the story I vividly recall is Eric asking Jeff why he bullied others. Why did Jeff want to make him, and others feel so insignificant? Jeff responded it wasn’t about making others feel anything – it was how he dealt with how he felt and how bullying gave him respite. It’s a first-hand experience of the saying to be kind for everyone is fighting a hard battle of their own. This speaks directly to how conflict may appear to be about us but in reality, it is the dynamics of the other person may be giving themselves respite from their own volatile battles.
Bottom line: If you focus all your energy on past events that have hurt you deeply, you will never be able to get past these events unless you forgive and release them. You will be stuck and remain stuck until you understand that since you can control only what you think, say or do, you have the power to move forward. Being stuck stops all forward progress that you want in your life, be it your career, your family life – whatever!
Additionally, the person saying don’t take it personal is generally trying to be helpful. They’ve likely observed something they think we can get better at if we’re aware of what they’re trying to share. They understand it’s something we may get defensive about, take personal so they warn us up front, so we won’t get defensive, overlook the value they’re bringing to our attention and the value is swept away.
Forgive and forget is the golden rule. Not forgiving drains our energy as it redirects our focus to continue exerting energy keeping the unforgiven event and person involved in our heart and on our mind as not to be forgiven or forgotten. This keeps us conflicted thus prevents us from being present. So, remember to forgive and release. Doing this will free up your energy to live life and love more fully – something we all want and deserve!