How to Not Take Things Personally | The BridgeMaker

How to Not Take Things Personally

By on Sep 11, 2012

Don’t take anything personally because by taking things personally you set yourself up to suffer for nothing. – Don Miguel Ruiz

Why is it so hard to not take things personally? Lately, I’ve come up against this challenge while driving to and from work. I must admit, I am a pretty sensitive person, perhaps even an “HSP” (highly sensitive person), but is common courtesy too much to ask?

You know, like can you at least put your blinker on if you’re going to cut me off or how about rather than tailgating, you just move over to the next lane.

Freeways can be considered a microcosm of life: so many different personalities, ages, ethnicities all heading the same direction, merging, exiting and occasionally breaking down.

Sometimes people are rude and pushy and sometimes people are graceful and patient. It can be a wonderful opportunity to practice being present and to strengthen the muscle of not taking things personally.

It’s Not About You

It can be so easy to become self-centered at times. We get caught up in our thinking and assume people know where we’re coming from. If we’re running late for work or a friend or family member makes us mad, all patience flies out the window.

Well, guess what? Everyone else is dealing with their own “stuff” as well.

So, when I get cut off on the road, I resist the urge to give them the one-fingered wave, take a breath and say to myself “It’s not about me.”

They may be late for work or just having a bad day, and if I take it personally it’s only going to effect me in a negative way. Taking things personally can cause situations to escalate very rapidly, turning a mole hill into a mountain.

Consciously choose peace over “being right” and you can’t go wrong

Every day we’re bombarded with negative conversations, opinions, news, etc. It can easily weigh us down if we let it. Let’s be prepared the next time the opportunity to take something personal arises.

10 Ways to Not Take Things Personally

  1. Have A Mantra Or Prayer
    I find that having a mantra or a prayer helps me to align or realign where I want my thoughts, feelings and actions to come from. One of my favorite affirmations comes from Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life: “Harmony, Peace, Joy and Love surround me and dwell within me. I am safe and secure.” That says it all, doesn’t it?
  2. Keep A Journal
    At the end of the day write down anything that’s bothering you and let them go. A great way to do this is using the “Judge Your Neighbor” worksheet by Byron Katie, here:
  3. Stop Looking For Praise
    Don Miguel Ruiz suggests not even taking compliments personally. If you believe the good then you’ll also believe the bad.
  4. Love Yourself
    Be patient and loving with yourself. We can be our own worst critic, saying things to ourselves we’d never say to others. When we’re nicer to ourselves it will extend out to others and we’ll be more apt to not take things personally.
  5. Hit Your Restart Button
    On a daily basis, try to schedule in whatever recharges your batteries. For some it may be meditation, a power nap, playing an instrument and for others it could be running or hitting a punching bag. Whatever it is, do it even if it’s only for 15 minutes. You’ll feel better.
  6. Conserve Energy
    In The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra, the Law of Least Effort states “When your internal reference point is your spirit, when you are immune to criticism and unfearful of any challenge, you can harness the power of love, and use energy creatively for the experience of affluence and evolution.”
  7. Extend Grace & Mercy
    We’ve all been the recipient of grace and mercy at one point or another. Why not pay it forward? You can also think of it as a deposit in the bank of good karma.
  8. Change How You Listen
    The Landmark Forum talks about a concept called “Already Always Listening”. It refers to the filters each one of us have, due to our upbringing or past experiences, which affect how we listen to people and give meaning to what they say. Next time you have a conversation, instead of assuming that you know what the other person is saying or thinking of what you’re going to say next, be present and simply listen.
  9. Stop
    When you’re in a conversation and you feel yourself becoming defensive, see it as a cue to stop and regroup. Look at it as an opportunity to learn and grow.
  10. Take Care Of Yourself
    Last, but not least, be sure to get enough sleep, stay hydrated and eat mostly healthy, fresh food. Your body is your vehicle so take care of it. Not feeling well can easily have a negative effect on your outlook on life.

It all boils down to a choice. A choice we sometimes forget we have, but one that can either strengthen us or weaken us. Next time an opportunity arises to take something personally, which will you choose, fear or love?

Ally Palmer writes about creating a life full of inspiration, creativity and taking on personal challenges to expand your comfort zone. For more information, visit Ally at

  • Fabulous article Ally! I really tend to take things too personally so when people are a jerk, I’ll admit my initial reaction is usually defensiveness and anger. Then I replace it with “What has happened in their life to make them so miserable?” By switching the cause to them, I end up often feeling bad for them instead of feeling bad myself.

    • Hi Merna, thanks so much! That’s a good way to look at it and there usually is a reason for the behavior.

  • I have a different way of thinking about “taking things personally.” I don’t think it’s always a self-centered reaction. To me, it’s more a sign of fusion. That is, feeling responsible for others reactions. Feeling like their mood/behavior change has something to do with how they feel about us. The more we can see others as separate than us, the more we can truly be present. The more we react (take things personally), the harder it is to really hear the other. At this is how I see it…

    • Marci, thanks for your comment. I agree that the more we react, the harder it is to be present with others. I think we’re more connected than separate and when we can recognize that, it can help us to be more compassionate and forgiving with others. Also, I think taking things personally is self-centered as well as feeling responsible for other people’s moods. Being self-centered is thinking everything’s about you and when you do that, you take everything personally.

  • Really well written article. I love that you put a re-charge step in here– so important! Thanks for all you do.

    • Hi Kate, thank you. So important even when we get busy- especially when we get busy!

  • Great to see the wisdom of don Miguel Ruiz applied so well. The quote of his that I rely on so much is “Remember that what people do is always about them, not about you.” It helps me to detach from both criticism and compliments and just consider their point of view. Your tips on loving and listening are great, too!

    • Wes, thank you! That’s a great quote to keep in mind.

  • All great points and I particularly like #10. Can you imagine how many fewer stressed people there would be in the world if we’d all get a decent night’s sleep? I know how I act and react can get out of control if I go too many nights without enough z’s.

    • Hi Lori, thank you and yes – something so simple yet so neglected.