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Don't Take It Personally! Dealing With Rejection, Criticism And Judgments

Feb 29, 2008
Someone looks at you 'funny' or speaks to you with 'that tone.'

And you start thinking: How dare she treat me that way. Who does she think she is? I don't deserve this.

You cringe. You feel yourself flushing. Anger starts creeping up. Wow, it doesn't take any time at all for her look to set you off. One minute you're ready to explode. The next, you just want to crawl into the nearest hole.

"Ohmigawd, I can't stop myself. I'm out of control. Where on earth did this reaction come from? How can this be happening? How can I be behaving so badly?"

And before you know it, you're taking it personally.

Here's how we take things personally:

* Assuming there is intent even when there isn't.

* Taking things the wrong way, as a personal affront or put-down.

* Believing people are taking sides - for you or against you.

* Getting upset when other people don't see things the way you do.

* Feeling hurt or slighted or insulted or wronged or attacked.

* Taking something as a personal failure - feeling blamed or blaming yourself.

Think about it this way: when we are taking something personally we're feeling rejected in some way.

When you are able to get some distance from it, you realize your knee-jerk response is all out of proportion to the other person's behavior. But in the moment, when you are feeling dissed or attacked, all you are able to do is defend yourself.

How how NOT to take things so personally:

Take some distance from it: You can train yourself to dis-entangle from the uncomfortable situation. By recognizing your own rejection triggers, and noticing how you react, you're giving yourself some distance.

* Take time-outs: Creating enough distance can slow down your over-reactive response. Taking a "time out" works great. Breathing slowly while counting to 10 is one kind of "time out. Excusing yourself and going into the kitchen to get a drink of water is another.

* Identify your blind spots: Getting some distance involves recognizing your blind spots. How can you change something if you are unable to see it? It's a lot easier to change behavior when you're aware of it.

* Ask yourself these questions:
"Might I be taking this personally?"
"What part of me is feeling rejected, judged or criticized? "
"What am I telling myself?"
"Is this an old message? "
"Where did it come from? "

* Then, walk alongside yourself: What do you notice about your reactions? This "naming" and "noticing" opens up space for making choices about how you want to deal with rejection.

* And it gives you choices. You don't have to continue down the same path once you realize how you got there. You CAN choose to back up to that fork in the road and change direction. Success comes a step at a time and with practice.

* Finally, try to put yourself in the shoes of the other person. What might they be thinking? How might they be feeling? Once you can get out of the center of your own orbit, you won't feel so much like a target.

Usually whatever was said or done to you says more about the other person and their fears than it does about you!

Trouble is, we tend dwell on it. We replay what the other person said. We attempt to guess what they meant. You really can't read their mind. Guessing is never as efficient as checking something out.

Ask them if you think you heard them say is what they meant. You may find out your perception is different from their intention. And that's a good thing.

Consider how much energy you will save if you don't have to dwell on the interaction to try figure it out. Asking saves a lot of time and energy.

Copyright Elayne Savage, PhD
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