100 Ways To Live A Better Life – 84. Don’t Take It Personal

Never. Your world is shaped by your reaction to things, not by the things themselves. Don’t get upset, don’t think that somebody knows enough about you to have it right. Acknowledge the situation and move on.

Many times we are raising our hands to the sky, with bitterness and anger. Why this is happening to us? What did I do to deserve this? Why us, in the first place? Well, because this is how it is, that’s why.

Don’t take it personally. Anger and bitterness are just reactions to external factors. And external factors can always be modified outside your circle of influence. But your emotions, you have total control over them.

Sometimes things are just happening. Accept and move on. 

What Happens When You Take Things Personally

Suppose somebody tells you something. A simple act of communication. He addresses some words to you, in the audible form of sounds.

Now, after you hear those sounds, you start to put meaning on them. Your brain starts to create associations, based on previous learning. You begin to reconstruct, in your mind, what the other one wanted to tell you. And you do that based on your own life story, on your own experience, on your own understanding of things.

After you identified a certain amount of meaning, after you deressed up those sounds with a little bit of sense, you start judging. You ponder things.

In its simplest form, judging is just taking a position, finding a place for yourself in space, like “I’m relating to this”, or “I’m not relating to this”. In its more complex form, judging implies some action, like “I’m going to dislike these words and the person who spoke them and even the social group that that person belong to”.

Judging fuels reaction. The first two steps: hearing the sounds and making associations, they aren’t creating any reaction, they’re just integration phases. They’re helping us to understand the world and our place in it.

What generates action is judging. Our need to impose our own point of view onto others.

Now, back to our communication process: suppose you respond something to that person. You restart the same sequence of actions: first, you generate some sounds, then the other person starts to create associations and then, after he identifies some meaning (based, again, on what he previously learned) he may or may not start judging.

And this is happening all the time. Every day, every hour, every second of our lives are filled with this. Because we love to simplify stuff, we always assume that the other one understand exactly what we said. He is getting 100% of our message. Well, not quite.

It takes a lot of training and a lot of patience and a lot of learning to really understand each other. Everything we think we understand is in fact based on our own life experience. We always judge the other based on our experience, not on theirs. Because we don’t know their lives, we only know our life.

Every once in a while, with certain persons, under certain circumstances, we do get to a higher level of understanding. For instance, with our life partners. Or with our kids. Or with our colleagues at work, if we worked together for years. But that happens only because we had some shared experiences. Some shared past.

With the rest, we’re limited to our assumptions. We just think we know what they’re telling us, we assume we understand them and then act accordingly. No wonder our actions are almost always out of sync with other people expectations.

So, the moment you understand that it’s never about yourself, you simply don’t take it personal anymore. Because it’s such a waste of time.

Everything people talk about is based on their own story.

And your story is – in the vast majority of cases – completely different than theirs.

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