Again. As with most true wisdom, the directive is very simply laid out, but not so simple to truly understand or live. So often people come in precisely because of how difficult and hurtful their lives are feeling, and precisely because they are taking so much in their relational lives personally. It may be a bit insensitive to just tell them: “Don’t take it personally; you need to get over it.” The underlying truth that I understand however, is that when you take the offense that is offered, intentionally or not, personally, you are giving in to the vulnerability of the other person. This is where we all tend to get confused. As an example, a young woman came to me recently speaking of a very small conflict with her boyfriend. She asked him a question, he answered her, she misunderstood, and didn’t follow through with the relatively simple information he had offered her; she asked again, and then he responded to her sharply. The follow up was awkward silence, followed by a more serious with holding of conversation, and confusion on both of their parts. Why should this have been so upsetting? Why is this hurtful?
Anyone who has ever been in any kind of relationship, and it does not need to be a committed couple relationship, recognizes this scene. Very simple, and seemingly benign misunderstandings, and the fall out becomes so much more than what would seem to be warranted. The reason for the hurt and confusion is inevitably so much more about themselves than it is about the other person. She needed to be more certain of herself, that her initial question and confusion was not a big deal, not a statement about her worth or intelligence. He needed to be less rigid about her getting it exactly right the first time, probably also an indication of some of his own self-doubts.
I’ll offer also that the second part of trying not to take anything personally is listening. Listening broadly and expansively. Listening to words that are being said, of course; but also listening to body language and temperament, of the speaker, and of yourself. When listening is deep and thoughtful, you can hear the story so much more completely. And, from there you can understand that the hurt that is being felt is not just yours, but the other persons also. This is the key to not taking it personally. Getting defended becomes so much less necessary. It is no longer a pointing the fingers blame game. Now you have two human beings who have their own separate histories and their own situational triggers. That is really what relationship offers us, this beautiful opportunity to go into our triggers with someone who will offer us a degree of safety. Fear creates the need to shut down, respond sharply, or blame someone else. A safe loving relationship offers the opportunity to see the vulnerability in our self and in our partner, and through that sharing offer each other the healing of compassion and understanding. Donna