As you learn NOT to take anything personally, you will bring harmony into your relationships. For example, someone may say or do something that feels like an attack on your self-worth, wellbeing or your beliefs. If you retaliate by defending or protecting yourself, you disrupt the connection with the other person and disturb your inner peace. When you remain emotionally non-attached to an accusation or disrespectful behavior, you become an observer and stay in your power.
Don Miguel Ruiz in his book The Four Agreements states: Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
My husband and I can get into disagreements occasionally. I belonged to a loud Italian extended family. He experienced the opposite. When I raise my voice or say something in a certain tone, he feels accused even when it is not about him. He would like me to be different, and I do work on that. When he responds to a comment I make with anger and frustration, I allow him to have his emotions and listen to his verbal attack. I say or do something to disengage the conflict or put it on hold. When things are calmer, we review what happened, and I explain where I was coming from and listen to him. I also let him know that I will continue to work on how I speak to him. I even apologize when I cross a line and know I can do better.
This simple change in perspective—what others say and do is about them, not me—can have a profound impact on how you feel about yourself and interact with others. This shift takes awareness and practice. Here are three things you can do to become a heart-centered observer and communicator instead of feeling criticized, blamed or accused:
Become Aware: Recognize when you are about to be pulled into someone’s drama. It is usually the result of the other’s wrong assumption, emotional wound, past conditioning or stressful day. If you observe instead of react, you may be able to prevent the interaction from escalating into a power struggle. And, if you have done something to put a person on the defensive, find a way to say what you mean and ask for what you want without making anyone wrong. For example, “I need to find a better way to ask for your help. What would work for you?”
Align with love: Have compassion and understanding for the other person and yourself. When you completely accept yourself, you become less defensive in your interactions with others because there is nothing to prove. Unconditional love turns power struggles into “greater good” interactions and gives you a bullet-proof aura. For example, your mother accuses you of being selfish. You respond, “I do things that I need to do to take care of myself and that can look like I am being selfish.”
Act with purpose: Act in a way that will resolve conflict. For example, you can let the other person know you hear what they are saying, ask questions to discover the real cause of the problem, agree to disagree, apologize, or put it aside for another time. The best response may be to ignore a thoughtless comment. If you do not have effective communication skills, you can learn them on the Internet, in books, in workshops and from professional helpers.
When you stay out of the negative emotions and assumptions associated with “perceived attacks,” you will become aware of what is really happening and respond in a way that may lead to a constructive outcome. You cannot control another person’s response but you can try to create an atmosphere of harmony and objectivity in which both of you have the opportunity to become aware of your personal patterns, feel good about yourselves and/or work through issues. Not taking anything personally is a necessary ingredient in developing healthy relationships.
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