As difficult as it may be to consider this fact, it is not always about you. You are not the center of everyone else’s universe, just yours. People may come into your life or are already in your life and may rub you the wrong way or affect you negatively. Most likely, it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with that person and the personal stuff they are dealing with as an individual. One of the hardest things I have ever had to learn, and still struggle with, is to not take things personal. I tend to take things to heart – what others say to me and how they act toward me. Sometimes, of course, it may be something directly related to me, but most of the time it is not. People think, speak, and behave based on their own perspective of the world. That is why sometimes worlds can collide when two people, with two different perspectives, come head to head on an issue or negative interaction where they do not see or understand the other person’s attitude or behavior. So what can we do when this occurs?
Someone recently mentioned a video called, “This Is Water,” which is actually part of a commencement speech by David Foster Wallace, but someone else made it into a video. The main concept of this video and speech was to bring awareness and thought into our actions; to think about and realize that we each have a choice about how we react to irritating situations and / or interactions with other people. Also, to consider that this other person is possibly battling something really difficul that day and to have or find more compassion for others. For example, maybe that person did not get enough sleep because they were fighting with their spouse, maybe their dad is in the hospital, or perhaps they are simply having a bad day. Sometimes, unfortunately, people do not differentiate how they treat others with how they are feeling at the time. As referenced in the video, we tend to just go to default mode which is the opposite of choosing; it is just reacting to the events, often negatively. Though, it is not nice or fair if someone is mean or rude to you just because they are feeling moody or miserable, it does not mean that it will never happen. In fact, it happens all the time! It is really difficult for many people to get out of their own heads (their default mode) long enough to realize that their attitude or behavior is affecting others, and not just themselves.
So when I find this is happening to me, I have the choice of how I want to react to these negative or unwanted interactions. I could react back in anger, hurt or frustration; I could laugh it off and go about my day realizing it is not about me; I could even choose not to respond. Often, the first reaction, is usally not the best thing to do, because again we are REACTING out of our default mode. It is good to first get out of your own head for a moment and try to become aware. Try observing the person or situation objectively. Think about what the other person is trying to communicate. What control do you personally have in the current situation? What are your choices? Are they really mad at me or are they reacting poorly to something else and taking it out on me? Each action has a reaction as we all know, so it is important to be insightful and think about what will bring about the best possible outcome, without making matters worse, but also without neglecting your own feelings and needs. This is such a delicate balancing act, which is why for me it has been so difficult to master. It is hard to not let your personal feelings get in the way of your own behavior.
As I just mentioned, don’t forget to take care of yourself and your emotional health. I was talking to a friend at work today and we noticed that we each come to work positive and energized. Unfortunately, as the day progresses other people’s moods, aggression, and negative energy start to drain us, causing us each to also become moody and upset. Negativity can spread like a plague, it seems. We talked about how much it seems to affect us and that it is not good to hold it in. So, she mentioned that in her notebook, which is usually for work notes and reminders, she now is going to start writing down situations that upset her. She wanted to do this as a method to vent and let it go. This is a very healthy and mature way to handle negative emotions at work (or in general) where you may feel like you have little or no control over the situations and people that are rude or mean to you. Negative emotions, if kept bottled up inside, eventually do come out, but these feelings may come out a lot more powerful and worse than they need to be if not dealt with earlier. Plus, they can come out and be directed at the wrong people even.
Remember, you always have a choice in how you personally think and behave. You may not be able to control or predict other people’s behavior, but it wouldn’t hurt to consider that they may be going through something difficult and you can choose compassion. Alternatively, if you are being abused or mistreated by someone in your life at home or work, it is important to seek help and if necessary get out of that negative environment. Take care of yourself – your thoughts, your emotions, and your body.