The Art of Not Taking Things Personally at Work.

By Siew Ching

Because it’s not always about you.

Have you ever felt like your boss’s snide comment about tardiness was directed at you, even though he was speaking to nobody in particular? Or how when a colleague mentioned not everyone was pulling their weight you can’t help but feel she’s talking about you because you’ve been slacking recently?

Stop. Even if something was directed at you, try your best to not let it affect you. Sure, it’s hard – who doesn’t take things personally especially when they feel like they have to defend themselves. But here’s the thing though – sometimes, it’s really not about you! The reason why you may feel that someone’s talking about you is this sense of guilt you have inside – you could have been late to the meeting or really not pulling your weight and so this makes it seem like whatever comment is being made is about you. Which isn’t exactly a bad thing, especially when you can pull yourself together and be better!

But if all you do is take things personally and be majorly upset over these comments, you’re going to have a tough time to shake it off, walk away and do better. Yes, it’s hard not to take feedback personally especially when there is some truth to it but the thing that makes a difference in how you take that feedback and learn from it. You should take things personally to some extent if it helps you be more engaged and committed to your career. But don’t let it shake your self-confidence or build animosity towards the other party.

The key? Be objective and rational. Criticism, whether directed at you or not, is meant to help you get better, not make you feel bad. It is meant to motivate you to do better. So the next time when you feel like someone is talking about your shortcomings, try these instead:

#1 Shake the “Spotlight Effect”
We are often so inside our own head that we shine the spotlight on ourselves. Because of this, a lot of the times when we feel we’re being judged or criticised by others, we’re not. But no thanks to this self-imposed spotlight! Try this the next time you feel like you’re being picked on – step out of your head for a bit and out of the situation. Look at it objectively. If your colleague was asked to share about how he thought the team could do better, it’s most likely just that – about the team and not an individual specifically. Keep this in mind the next time you’re tempted to take something personally.

#2 Work on that confidence
Why do we take things personally so often? Because we don’t feel confident enough about ourselves, constantly thinking about our shortcomings and flaws so much so whenever someone brings something up, we think it’s us they are talking about. Don’t go there. Because of low self-confidence, there’s a part of us that’s afraid that what others are talking about is true. Hence we feel negative about ourselves, constantly pinpointing on our flaws. But if you have great confidence, whenever someone says anything negative – and even if it is about you – you take it as a shortcoming that you can work at being better instead of holding you back! Think of confidence as a buffer. The more confident you are, the thicker that buffer towards negativity.

#3 Be too busy to care
That’s right – don’t dwell on what you think others are saying about you. Instead, keep yourself busy on self-improvement so that you don’t have time to take things personally!

#4 Grow some skin
Like it or not, you’re going to deal with many different personalities at work. And sometimes, these personalities aren’t going to be kind or sensitive about your feelings. Yes, they are talking about you and you want to take it personally, especially when the accusation is unwarranted. But do this instead: Leave your ego at the door and be thick-skinned about it. If it isn’t constructive, chances are there’s a personal vendetta behind a snide comment. If this is the case, you’re better off just taking in that comment, give it some thought to think about how you can better yourself, and move on to your next success!

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash.

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