Stop Taking Things So Personally

Stop Taking Things So Personally

Patas monkey

Moss Jackson PhD
Psychologist and Success Coach

Several years ago, I took a 5-day workshop with David Burns, MD on Cognitive Behavioral Treatment for anxiety and depression. Sometime into the third day of the training, he paused and asked the audience of 400 professionals “Who feels comfortable with their patients’ anger?” No one raised their hand! He suggested that no one feels comfortable with anger unless it is their own!

I liked the discussion that followed, as well as his suggestion regarding how to handle anger. He suggested using the art of “Disengagement”. Here is how it works:

You are engaged in a heated discussion/argument with someone and do not want to slip into a power struggle of proving who is right or wrong. When the other person glares with contempt at you and says something like “You’re just a stupid asshole and have no idea what you are talking about,” you pause, take a deep and slow breath and say something like, “That may well be, and we can further discuss how big an asshole I may be, but I’d first like to complete our discussion.”

Then repeat out loud what you think your antagonist is saying and then offer your opinion on the matter. Acknowledge that you both have different points of view and that you can live with that. And if your antagonist would like to further expand on how he sees you as an asshole, you would appreciate his comments. You are open minded and always looking for opportunities to improve!

Smile, shut up and let him vent. Perhaps you might say, “I had not thought of myself that way, but thank you for your insightful feedback.” Smile again and keep your feelings and reactions to yourself. After all, whatever he says is just his opinion. Let him speak, smile back and acknowledge his judgments. Really, they are not about you: they are about his anger, blaming and judging.

This can also be seen as the art of “Disarming”, a skill that allows you to not take the bait, not take anything personally and eventually get back to the fact that you both have different points of view on the matter.

Why give your power away and get stuck in reactivity? You will not win in the end with retaliation, anger and counter-attacks. Navigators in life choose to retain their personal power and not to react by taking things too personally. They understand that the world is frequented by Victims, Survivors and assorted Assholes. Let it be, disarm, and stop wasting your energy on people who have no interest in listening or learning.

I would guess that 80% of the population fit into the category of Victim, Survivor or Asshole. So, stop stepping into someone else’s shit and practice the art of navigational disarming: provide every opportunity for these people to marinate in their own shit!

Be gracious, have a sense of humor and act like you take them with a grain of salt. You might be delightfully surprised by their looks of stupidity when you practice Disarming!

Want to learn more about Life Navigation? Check out my books on Amazon.