Don’t Take it Personally


Don't Take It Personally, Take It Personel-ly

In the last decade or so, science has discovered a tremendous amount about the role emotions play in our lives. Researchers have found that, even more than IQ, your emotional awareness and abilities to handle feelings will determine your success and happiness in all walks of life, including family relationships. — John Gottman Ph.D.

I just finished reading E.Q. Librium: Unleash the Power of Your Emotional Intelligence; A Proven Path to Career Success . This book is a collection of practical, proven strategies you can use to improve your emotional intelligence at work by managing your emotions and responses. This book will help you to: Become emotionally self-aware; manage your emotions; diffuse emotionally charged situations; strengthen your leadership skills, build healthy work relationships; and enhance your performance.

The following is a guest post by the author of E.Q. Librium, Yvette Bethel.

Angie is the manager of the accounting department. She is leading a meeting to address a process that does not seem to be working.  Angie is slowly walking her team through the operating procedures thinking this will strengthen their knowledge of the process.  What Angie doesn’t realize is her team is quite familiar with the process, the real issue is that Angie is hyper-sensitive to concerns raised by members of her team.

Angie perceives their suggestions as indications of shortcomings they perceive in her leadership so when they express a different view she construes this as a personal attack. As a result, the flow of communication is not what it should be. She is telling members of her team what to do but they are not challenging her directives so as not to trigger Angie’s hypersensitivity.

Self-esteem is mirrored by your self-judgment. It reflects how you perceive yourself. On side of the spectrum there are leaders who have a healthy view of themselves and are open to constructive contributions from others.  They are even open to exposing their own errors. In the middle of the spectrum, there are those who are somewhat open to feedback. Then there are those at the other end of the spectrum who process feedback as if it is personal.

We all have talents. If your self-talk contributes to a mental model that causes you to believe you are less brilliant than you truly are, it is easy to shift to panic mode when circumstances don’t evolve according to plan. Leaders with this inner struggle tend to experience anxiety because they assume they are at fault or will be blamed.

Leaders who take things personally have the propensity to sugar-coat the facts maximizing what is going well (or not so well), over reacting to, minimizing or even covering up what is not going according to plan. They view the deficiency in performance as an extension of their perceived personal shortcomings so when challenged, they step into defense mode and can passionately dispute anything they feel they will be blamed for.

When leaders choose to take things personally, this is a recipe for low morale and power plays. These power plays can emerge when coworkers understand the leaders’ weaknesses and they do what they can to further expose the leader’s vulnerabilities.

As a leader, when you take things personally, you are disempowering yourself because you are motivated by wanting to always seem to be competent. This desire to appear to be competent / worthy of the role can translate into the creation of a controlled environment. This is because leaders who take things personally are constantly in self-protection mode, motivated by what coworkers think about them instead of internal values.

Taking things personally can be caused by consistent disapproval expressed by others. For some, these words become a part of inner-talk. Reversing this trend is not as simple as making a decision to be a different person. This is only the first step. It takes commitment to facing and accepting yourself, learning new skills and modifying your actions. Here are a few strategies you can use to transform yourself.

Remember, don’t take things personally

There will always be times when your colleagues will disagree with you, this is the beauty of diversity. They may even escalate issues about you to the executive team or the Board of Directors. But none of this is probably personal. Sometimes coworkers report each other because they are in self-protection mode, other times they strongly agree, care deeply about the organization and just want to be listened to and respected.

Recognize your patterns

Your patterns are the manifestation of your thoughts and emotion.  When you are unaware of your reactions, you can be easily set up for a fall.  Your colleagues know which buttons to push and they know how you will react.  Choose to step back and consider the situation carefully.  Then make an informed response, resisting the strong urge to do what you usually do.

Listen actively

When it is your intention to transform yourself to positively affect your environment, resist the strong urge to defend yourself or conceal necessary information. Adopt an open attitude toward differing views; you can reframe your thinking so you can be receptive without changing who you are.

Avoid assumptions

While on this journey, it is important to avoid assuming you will be blamed, that someone is trying to expose or attack you. Instead, you can discipline yourself to listen and discern those who are only trying to express their ideas for the good of the team from those who are projecting pain.

Step into empowerment mode

When you are perpetually taking things personally relationships are not important, your survival is. Once you can get past your limiting patterns and understand the consequences of your actions, you can establish trust. This means engaging your team in empowered and empowering ways. Think about the value of the relationship and if there are positive consequences associated with the building trust.

Stepping into empowerment mode also means being guided by your internal compass and allowing your values to drive your decisions.  It is time to say no, even when it means you will be unpopular for making a fair decision.  When decisions are transparent and fair the decision-maker is more likely to be respected.

It is important to recognize that sometimes actions taken by coworkers can be perceived as personal, bullying is an example of this. But in order for you to be able to function in a way that contributes to your own positive morale and the improved climate of the team it is important always remain empowered and objective, not taking differences of opinion personally.

About the Book

E.Q. Librium helps you to develop your ability to use your Emotional Quotient (EQ) to achieve self-regulation in emotionally charged situations. When you build your capacity to stabilize your emotions internally, you can better position yourself to achieve your career goals. The more you develop your skills to navigate your emotions, the more effective you will be at managing yourself, particularly when there are diverse personalities at play.

Pick up your copy at Amazon today.

About the Author

Yvette is an HR and change consultant, emotional intelligence practitioner, trainer, and author of the book EQ. Librium: Unleash the Power of Your Emotional Intelligence; A Proven Path to Career SuccessShe is a Fulbright Scholar with over 25 years of experience. During her tenure in the banking industry, she served in senior capacities in corporate strategy, marketing, PR, training, and human resources. Yvette Bethel can be reached at Her book E.Q. Librium: Unleash the Power of Your Emotional Intelligence; A Proven Path to Career Success is also available at Amazon and other retailers.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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