4 Ways Stop Taking Things So Personally (and Reduce Anxiety)

Learning how to communicate the right way is part of self-care.

Communication is an intrinsic part of the human experience, but if you wind up feeling stressed out, unhappy, and anxious over conversations, you may be taking things a little too personally all the time.

In fact, communication skills are an important and often neglected part of self-care. Guarding your happiness and regulating your emotions can be difficult if you don’t stop projecting insecurities to those around you and assuming the worst.

How to stop taking things personally

So how can you relearn communication skills that will decrease stress and anxiety and improve your overall happiness?

One of the four “agreements” by Toltec Wisdom teacher Don Miguel Ruiz is, “Don’t take anything personally.”

What that means is … realize nothing other people do is because of you. This powerful agreement acts as a reminder that self-limiting beliefs rob you of joy and create needless suffering.

This “agreement” is so simple yet so profound: Safeguard your mind from unnecessary emotional rollercoaster rides.

You can apply this agreement to every facet of your life including your work life, love life, dealing with your kids, your parents, your neighbor, your boss, the person at the grocery store … the list goes on.

Ruiz provides a formula to deal with potentially hurtful behavior from others, boiling it down to knowing you have a choice on how to interpret events and feedback from people. Each person sees the world in a unique way, so how others treat us says more about them than it does about you.

Realize that each person has a subjective reality and that their views are only their views. Not facts about who you are and aren’t based on your truth. In other words, you don’t have to believe them.

Limiting beliefs control your reality. Many limiting beliefs stem from a casual comment someone made that you internalized or took as truth.

According to Freud, in projection, thoughts, motivations, desires, and feelings that cannot be accepted as one’s own are dealt with by being placed in the outside world and attributed to someone else.

People project their personal hurts, wounds, and stories onto the person they are talking to. Don Miguel’s guide is to remind you that in part, everyone is walking around projecting and as such, remember not to take things personally, as whatever the person is saying, may be more about them than you.

OK, so now you understand the best practice of not taking things personally. But … you’re human. how do you reduce stress and conflict in your life with this method?

Here are 4 ways you can keep yourself from taking things personally and be happier:

1. Begin to notice when you’re taking things personally

The physical sensation might feel like a punch in the stomach. It might feel as if someone is pouring a “shame milkshake” on you. You might have a wave of fear or feel confused.

Hearing your inner critics voice their opinions is another sure sign you’re taking something personally. For certain, your stress level will begin rising.

Whatever you feel, begin to have an awareness of the physical sensations that are happening in your body. No need to fix it at this point. Awareness is the first step.

2. Ask questions when you’re feeling attacked

One hack to not taking things personally is to ask questions.

You may not always have control over many things in your life, including what people say to you, but you do have 100 percent control over how you react to each situation.

The goal of not taking things personally is to avoid unnecessary stress and conflict. Try asking a few questions to deflect unnecessary conflict.

It may also avoid the downward spiral of negative thoughts popping up in your mind.

3. Be receptive instead of reactive

The most common and most familiar way to respond when someone says something that triggers you is to react. When you react, you let your ego and mind get in the way.

Pain and suffering can be a result as you have not created space between what was said and the “me” it was directed to.

Noticing your physical response and then asking questions puts you in a receptive vs reactive i.e. an emotional response.

4. Take a compassionate stance

When you have compassion for yourself and the people around you, you don’t react and jump to assumptions.

Imagine that they’re having a bad day, or may have meant something totally different than what you understood. You can make up whatever story you want just to shift your mind out of taking it personally.

A sure-fire hack to not to jump to a negative conclusion and thus getting triggered is to live by the rule, “Don’t take anything personally.” Not taking things personally puts you in a more centered and grounded place where you can be the CEO of your mind.

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