You’ve probably heard it said DON’T TAKE WHAT OTHERS SAY PERSONALLY. Or maybe IT’S REALLY MORE ABOUT THEM THAN YOU – typically said about something someone has said or done as a means to help you to not take it personally.

Have you thought that perhaps it sounds great in theory, but found yourself not really clear exactly what it means in practice, or how to apply it in order to improve your experience of a situation?

I offer a few reminders around this – see if they help:

~ Not everyone thinks the same way as you.

~ You don’t think like everyone – or anyone – else.

~ Each of us interprets the world – situations, people, tone of voice, what is said, actions taken – through our own unique ‘lens’ which is shaped and clarified (and in some cases made more fuzzy) through our varied and ever-increasing number of experiences of situations. This ‘lens’ is different for each one of us – even if we are from the same family, work at the same workplace, etc.

~ Since our thinking and our interpretation of the world is varied, how we communicate, what we feel is important to convey, what words and tone we use, and even the actions we take – will be different as well, and it will also be more about us (due to our ‘lens’) than the person to whom we’re communicating.

~ Sure, our ‘lens’ of the world might have been shaped by experiences that have us considering others a little more than someone else, perhaps expressing things a little more delicately, with more care or thought about another person’s feelings or level of understanding – but ultimately what we say is about us, since it comes from our experiences.

~ We are only privy to our own mind and heart – not anyone else’s.

~ As much as we can try to consider what others might be feeling or thinking, or what their ‘lens’ is like, what we do is actually all about us and our best guesses as to what we feel is ‘right’ based on our own ‘lens.’

~ It follows, then, that what others do is all about them due to receiving input through their own ‘lens.’

It’s possible that:

~ the message we interpret as terse or rude, was simply crafted by someone who finds value in – or has been applauded for – quick, short, to-the-point messages and finds value in them as being efficient and not unnecessarily flowery.

~ the conversation in which we feel we were being patronized or condescended-to by being given an excess of information we already knew – resulted from the experience of a person who had encountered problems in the past by presuming someone had knowledge but it turned out they didn’t actually understand; so, now this person is doubling-down on the explanation to make sure all details are clear.

~ the direction we receive that doesn’t give enough information or seems confusing isn’t intended to result in us feeling stupid or like we ‘should already know’ – but rather the communicator thought we were both on the same page and didn’t realize that there were some pieces missing in what they shared.

~ the super short text in response to our long text wasn’t meant to be dismissive, and was not indicative of them being upset at us – they are simply in the middle of something else and wanted to send a quick note to acknowledge our message.

~ the lack of reply (at all) to a written message or callback to a voicemail does not mean you are not important to this person – but perhaps they are in the middle of something else, very distracted with issues in their life, perhaps had to contemplate for awhile or investigate before getting back to you, or accidentally deleted the message, or simply just forgot.

As a result of this unique viewpoint each of us has, THE REACTIONS OF A LISTENER (or reader) will vary.

Nowhere has this been more clear (at least, to me) than when I’ve noticed different people’s reactions to the same statement.

EXAMPLE: a woman says (or emails) something to three people. Shortly after, all three people, separately and privately, relay what they received to a fifth person.

Having heard (or read) exactly the same statement at the same time, here are their three interpretations:

~ Shocked and upset, the first person says: I can’t believe the nerve of her to say that! How rude and disrespectful – and downright wrong!

~ Unfazed by the info, the second person says: Well, it made a lot of sense, I agree with what she said, I see where she’s coming from. Maybe I’ll look into the issue a bit more, myself.

~ Hurt and self-conscious, the third person says: I’m sure she must have been talking about me in the example she gave to illustrate her point. I’m so embarrassed.

All these responses are valid for each listener, because they reflect what they picked up on and how they interpreted the statement at that moment.

The statement that was conveyed, itself, was just a statement. It’s very unlikely the statement was intended to elicit all three very different reactions. In fact, all three of the listeners might have missed, completely, what the communicator thought was very clearly conveyed (from their perspective) while they were so busy (as we all do) zeroing in on what seemed to be the relevant piece for them!

All in all, IT’S THE THOUGHTS AND INTERPRETATIONS THAT WE APPLY TO WHAT WE HEAR AND READ that add the stress or unease, fear or relief, a sense of understanding or simple clarification – to a message that is being conveyed.

I invite you to remember this ‘lens’ that each of us has – when listening as well as conveying information. Notice if simply being aware of this can bring you more often to a place of greater neutrality about what is being said or done. Perhaps it will help you – in some small way – to take things less personally. ❤

Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric, pexels(dot)com