Why do we take things personally? Someone has the “gall” to say or do something and we find ourselves dumbstruck at the injustice! In addition, email has promoted more misunderstanding than it’s creators ever probably intended. With various forms of messaging, you can’t hear the other person’s voice and you can’t see their expressions! We’re sure that the message we’re reading is offensive while the writer remains innocent of our reaction.
When we feel offended, we blame the other person. Is it possible that we are responsible as well? Does the offense stem from our own insecurities and is not actually intended as a target to hurt us? A helpful practice is to recognize the offense as the “great teacher” because we get to spend time pondering why it has an affect on us. We get to check in with our perceptions.
Often we are offended because we believe there is a piece of truth in the comment. We are given an opportunity to deal with this “teacher” by going inwards and recognizing what exactly bothers us about the comment. We are given the opportunity to shift perceptions.
Sometimes the comments are irrelevant to who we are. In my book, I call these offenses, “Green Hair” comments. If someone came up to you and said, “I DO NOT LIKE your green hair!” You would think very perplexed, “OOKAAY then. Whatever. Hmmm.” Because you don’t have green hair. The person who is being offensive is making a comment that has nothing to do with you. Don’t take it personally because it has nothing to do with you.
But how about the times when we are offended by someone we perceive is taking an action against us? For example, while driving, someone cuts you off. I react by cussing and getting mad and I’ll stay in that state for minutes afterward, while the driver doesn’t even know anything has happened. I’m the one suffering. The other driver is fine. These situations made me realize that my perception and my choices based on my perception, were making me miserable. I wasn’t benefiting from my anger.
So I decided to change my perceptions. I decided to tell myself a story about the other person so I could change my perspective. When someone cuts me off, I tell myself a story about the other driver as soon as I catch myself reacting. “Oh they must have a dog dying in the back of the car,” I think. This way I can evoke a feeling of compassion for the other person. And even more important, I can maintain a peaceful heart. That’s the real trick. I’m not willing to suffer because someone cut me off. I choose to change my perspective instead. I don’t have to take another person’s actions, personally.