Why NOTHING is ever personal - Let's build up that armor!

“This is the worst F@$k!ng support I have ever received! Escalate NOW!!! I want to speak to your manager!!!”

 

UGH. Highly reactive customers are the WORST!!! After a year and a half of working in support, I’ve had to develop a sort of emotional armor whenever customers get really out of hand. Luckily, most of my customers are civil and I’ve learned ways to calm them down (i.e. talk more slowly and softly); however, I occasionally get a call where I have to literally walk off the anger and frustration afterward. I may even request a hug from one of my friends/coworkers to absorb the negative shock (LOL, professional I know…).

A few years ago, I stumbled upon the Four Agreements, four short and sweet pieces of advice for living a more peaceful and satisfying life (You can read about them here: (http://www.toltecspirit.com/). Today, I’d like to talk about the second agreement:

“Don’t take anything personally”

because when you think about it NOTHING in life is ever personal.

But wait, Keia… How that @$$h0le who never called me back?  How about my parents who never showed up for me growing up, nor support my career aspirations today?  How about that coworker that tries to badmouth me at work?  I already hear some disbelief.  I am not at all discounting the unfortunate situations and the challenges we have all had to endure or the difficult people we’ve encountered. But the truth is that everyone acts from their own reality – whether functional or dysfunctional.  Everyone acts from their own framework of unique experiences, values, beliefs, motivations, and the information they have at the time. Therefore, someone’s response to you is never about you, it’s all about him/her, a projection of his/her own reality and his/her response to what you represent in his/her own world.

So why is this such a great bit of wisdom to have? Knowing that nothing is ever personal is emotionally freeing! It means that you can be emotionally immune to both the positive and negative opinions and actions of others. It means that you have greater control of your own reactions and can analyze situations more objectively with less of the emotional sting. It means you can forgive, heal, and realize you can have power to influence others but not the power to control them.  It means that you are more open to feedback in whatever form it comes in and can use it to grow and learn.

Feedback from other people can come in both positive and negative forms (such as compliments or insults). This spiritual principle teaches that feedback, especially insults, is a gift. After all, an insult will only truly stick and hurt if you believe an element of it to be true. So the next time someone says something that really does strike a chord, you need to step back, realize that it is not personal, and examine the “why?” Perhaps, there’s something you need to learn to accept or to work on… If the insult is not true, then no need to get emotionally riled up. Let those words bounce off and choose your response based on what you want to happen next.

So do people’s opinions and thoughts of you matter? It is tempting to use this principle to say, “F@ck it, if it’s not at all personal, people don’t define me! I define myself!” Great, if you lived under a rock somewhere in the wilderness, then I’d say that’s sound advice to follow. However, chances are if you’re reading this post you interact with other fellow human beings on a daily basis, have desires to maintain relationships, and have other goals relating to career, relationships, etc. Clearly, if there is a trend in the feedback you are getting, then there is PROBABLY something you are doing that you should change so that people’s perceptions align. Of course, it’s your choice. Whether we like it or not, as individuals, we all have a personal “brand” to the world around us, which affects the opportunities that come to us and the goals we can achieve in our lives. If you do not decide to own that brand, others will create one for you (Anyways, I could write a whole post on that later!)

Perhaps that @$$h0le who never called you back is really busy with work and some personal issues that he unfortunately cannot prioritize a relationship.  Your parents who never showed up nor supported you, learned from their parents that providing necessities equates to love.  They also do not fully believe in your passion as a career because they had work from the bottom, raising kids, and never had the time nor the energy to even consider a passion.  That co-worker who tries to badmouth you operates from a framework of deep insecurity - afraid that your success will outshine his/hers - and therefore tries to badmouth anyone that comes as a threat.  (These are merely examples.  Each situation will be different and options to handle each issue will be unique as well) .  These situations do not invalidate how you feel as result but you do have to realize that all actions derive from positive intentions.  Use that deep knowledge to shield yourself and to inform your response.

When I heard and meditated on the principle that nothing is ever personal, it changed my life. It brought me a sense of inner calm and compassion, a sense that I was much more in charge of my life that I had thought. When dealing with angry customers, it is never about me, it’s about their experience and the pressure they are under to get the issue resolved (perhaps a job on the line!).

 

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with this principle? If so, how would it change the way you approach your relationships? If so, who/what would you forgive? If not, what part of it do you not agree with?

 

Fellow heroes on the journey, you are stronger than you know.  Applying this principle is a lifelong process and difficult to master at times.   But do keep in it mind so that you can grow and learn from others because in the end…. it’s never personal.