Usually, people who take things personally refuse to admit it. They often project how they feel onto others, justify their emotional states, and make a mountain out of a molehill. They react to what they think is happening, not to what is happening. Meaning your perspective of the situation will be different from theirs. You may find yourself accused of saying or doing things that have never crossed your mind, guilt-tripped, and blamed for the way they feel. You may find yourself on the receiving end of condescending, sarcastic, and provocative remarks, passive-aggressive behavior, even violence.
Feeling confused, you may not know how to respond and what to do.
You can ignore strangers who take things personally, walk away and never see them again. But what about people close to you? People you work with, live with, and possibly depend on?
First, make sure you communicate clearly. Avoid “you” statements. Switch to “we” and neutral language, especially when discussing difficult subjects. Instead of saying “you have a problem,” try “what can we do together to improve/resolve, etc.” In the spirit of clarity, it’s better to explain yourself a little more than to economize. You can also preemptively address the person’s possible reactions. “I know this may sound critical, and I am sorry. I value you and what you to contribute…” Start your explanations with “from my perspective” or “the way I understand it…” to avoid sounding accusatory.
If it sounds like you have to think ahead of how to express your thoughts, requests, and desires to someone taking things personally, you are correct. Yes, it is a lot of work! But it is less work than having a full-blown argument or escalate a situation to the point of no return. Consider the challenge a growth opportunity. Take an effective communication class or read up on it and grow your communication skills. It will help you in other situations too.
Second, know yourself, your worth, and pay attention to your emotional reactions. You may be fine around regular people but find yourself defensive and confused by an experienced, manipulative, overly sensitive person. Remember, they’ve had a lifetime to practice taking things personally. If you know who you are and your sensitivities, you can avoid confusion because you will know where your stuff ends and where their defensiveness begins. You will know if you truly caused the commotion or it was their over-reaction. If you made a mistake, apologize for it. If you didn’t, say you are sorry for how they feel, remind them of your intentions, and even repeat your request or rephrase your statement more clearly. Keep yourself calm and levelheaded. Don’t add fuel to their fire.
Do not apologize for anything you did not do. However, do seek to understand them and try to communicate your perspective. Sometimes it helps. Sometimes it doesn’t. Let it go. Agree to disagree or discuss later.
Third, ask yourself if you want to be right or if you want to be happy. Sometimes, you may have to be right. Another time, you may choose happiness. Decide based on the circumstances, what’s at stake, and the players involved. You choose your friends. You don’t have to keep the company of overly sensitive drama queens. Keep your distance. Minimize interactions. When you do interact, take their reactions with a grain of salt. This is your practice not to take things personally.
But wait! There is more. Read the rest of this article on my blog at vpetrova.com
Valentina Petrova has helped people with life, health, relationships, financial, professional, and more since 2015. Email her at valentinapetrovaconsulting.com.