*Insert your most recent memory about someone (anyone) telling you to “not take it personally”.
Feel that defensiveness and possible borderline rage creep in? Of course you do. Congratulations, you’re human.
I’m experiencing a major-big-deal in my life right now. It’s a bit of a crossroads, if you will. While explaining the details here would be highly inappropriate at this time, I can tell you that you likely have had a similar realization in your life.
I can be a bit of a Type A personality that has overcome Type A’edness by forcing myself to embrace non-Type A behaviors. These are not nature traits for me, they are nurtured. My natural instinct to any major dilemma in life is to 1) freak out; 2) pretend like I’m not freaking out; 3) scramble to assess immediate options of escape; 4) realizing I’m an adult and running away from adversity is frowned upon; and then 5) pulling up my waders and mucking through the shit to solve the problem. Note: Pardon my French here, but at this point, we are old pals and you should know I sometimes curse – a lot.
Along this major-big-deal, as I’ve termed this little shit storm, I’ve been reaching out to friends and loved ones to vent and run by game plans. The resounding message at the end of their patience and great insight has been to “try not to take this personally.”
This is a trigger phrase for me. Maybe it’s one of yours, too. I instantly feel my body and mind freeze and take this phrase as a sort of insult.
This is wrong. I know this. These people I love in my life care about me. They aren’t brushing off my problems with the broad brush that “don’t take it personally” feels like. They are trying to give me perspective. It’s just taken me 45 years to figure this out.
I had an ex-coworker give me some very valuable advice, but the one of his thoughts that resonates with me is this: all of us will have two types of people in life, those that care about us and those that are just curious about us. Identifying these two groups of people in my life has been mission critical. Making mistakes on classifying a friend or co-worker as caring or curious can be painful, hurtful, and downright disastrous. But time and time again, I find myself making this mistake and realizing, only too late, that my “friend” wasn’t a friend at all. PS: This is a blog for another day.
But hear me out – realizing who those people are that only are curious, will save you some sleepless nights. These are the people that you should listen to their well-intentioned advice in the same manner you would listen to a complete stranger on the street. They don’t know you, they can’t understand you, and many times they have no desire to do either.
But those people in your life that you know CARE about you are those you should treasure and hold close to your heart. They may slip in those knee jerking lines like “no offense but” or “don’t take it personally”, but you need to see those lines for what they are – lines. They aren’t part of your loved one’s way of bringing you down or brushing off your concerns.
Knowing the difference is liberating and healing.
So, in the same vein – I’m telling you, please stop taking advice so personally. Know your audience and their intentions. Work on your fuse and lengthen it. I know I am continuously working on both of these things and maybe always will.
In the meantime, I’ll be listening to advice from my caring friends and family on this situation I’m faced with and doing my best to take their insights personally.