How to Stop Taking Things Personally

Four Parts:Improving Your Self-ConfidenceCommunicating AssertivelyLooking at the SituationUnderstanding Other People’s Motivations

Does someone else's bullying personality make you feel worthless? Do you mistake people's antics for subtle insults? Most of the time, the way a person acts has little to do with you personally. It has more to do with how this person was raised, how they deal with emotional issues, or other variables like their mood, energy level, or health. This is important to keep in mind if you find yourself taking the blame for things that are beyond your control. In order to stop taking things so personally, consider the situational factors as well as the other person’s motivations and background. Improving your self-confidence and communicating assertively are key to being able to handle other people’s comments.

Part 1
Improving Your Self-Confidence

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    Write a list of your strengths. People’s opinions and behaviors are just that. We become more susceptible to someone’s opinions if we are feeling doubtful and placing too much of our own self-worth on the opinions and actions of others. When you are confident in your abilities, another person’s rude behavior or negative opinion will be less likely to affect you. Feeling proud and confident in your own skills is more important than the passing opinions of others.
    • Write a list of your strengths and abilities to remember what your strong points are. [1]
    • Make a list of things or moments that you’re proud of. Reward yourself for these good things. Think about the sorts of skills that you demonstrate during these moments. How can you do more of those things? This will help build your self-confidence.
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    Write a list of goals. Having things to work towards give you a sense of self-worth and purpose. This includes things you’d like to improve on or advance in.
    • Next, take each goal and break it into smaller steps. How can you begin working towards that goal? What little thing could you do now?
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    Remind yourself of how you help others. Contributing and helping others feels very rewarding and gives you a sense of purpose. This contributes greatly to feelings of self-confidence. Remind yourself of your benefits and contributions to others around you.
    • Consider volunteering your time at a hospital, school event, local humane society, or website like wikiHow.
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    Remind yourself that you don't need anyone's approval. If you're especially sensitive to how people treat you and you often overreact, you might have a strong radar for rejection. You worry that you're doing something wrong if you pick up on any kind of displeasure, and you want to fix it. However, it is important to understand that just because someone isn't happy with you doesn't mean you've done something wrong. In many cases, it means that person isn't happy with themselves and expects you to fill in the blanks (which is impossible).
    • Consider playing rejection therapy to gently increase your tolerance of rejection.
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    Surround yourself with positive people. You will develop more confidence in yourself and be happier if you hang out with people who treat you well.
    • Remove toxic people from your life. These are people who treat you poorly or who dump all their problems on you without reciprocating in a supportive way.[2][3]
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    Take care of your physical self. Take time to take care of yourself with grooming and dressing to look your best. Keep your clothes clean and wear clothes that fit properly. Toss out old clothing that doesn’t fit, is tattered, faded, etc.
    • Keep a good posture, as it can improve your mood.
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    Be kind to others. Being kind to strangers makes others feel good. Truly listen to other people, do random acts of kindness, and find ways to make other people smile. You'll walk away feeling a little better.
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    Smile. You’ll be surprised at the reactions from others. You never know what kind of day someone is having and what kind of effect a simple smile may have on someone.
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    Get creative. Do and make things. Doing and creating things feels good. It’s amazing to hold a finished product of something you created that never existed before! Enriching and feeding your mind builds on itself and you’ll find yourself interested in new things that spark intrinsic interest, as opposed to external interests of money or prestige.
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    See a mental health counselor. If you think that you respond too sensitively to other people’s comments, you might benefit from talking about things with a counselor. This person can help you identify issues that lend to your hypersensitivity. They can also suggest strategies for coping when you interact with negative people.

Part 2
Communicating Assertively

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    Speak up. When you feel that another person is being rude or disrespectful, speak up about it. For example, if a person is continuously making rude jokes, let him know how you are feeling. He might not realize how hurtful or aggressive he seems and how his comments are affecting you.
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    Use "I" statements. “I” statements convey that you are willing to take responsibility for your own thoughts and behaviors. This puts the focus on you and your feelings, so that the other person doesn’t feel like you’re attacking them.Nonviolent communication can be a useful technique.
    • Not an "I" statement: “You are very rude and you trying to purposefully hurt me!”
    • "I" statement: “I feel hurt when you say things like that.”
    • Not an "I" statement: "You are a terrible person who is too immature to see that your friends never see you anymore!"
    • "I" statement: “I'm feeling sad because I feel like we don't hang out much anymore, and I would like to see you more often.”
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    Approach the discussion calmly. Attacking the other person is will most likely not be very productive. Rather, keep your calm and explain that you are trying to have a dialogue. You want to communicate how you feel instead of fighting with the other person.
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    Use appropriate body language. When you communicate assertively, pay attention to how you hold your body. Keep your voice calm and your volume neutral. Maintain eye contact. Relax your face and body position.
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    Recognize when you aren't getting anywhere. Most people will respond constructively to "I" statements and peaceful, non-aggressive discussion. Some people may get upset, so if the conversation is going nowhere, it's time to walk away. You may choose to try again later, or simply distance yourself form that person.
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    Be aware that some people are abusive. They may use emotionally abusive tactics, such as humiliating you, blaming you for everything, or invalidating your feelings. You may feel scared, exhausted, uncomfortable, threatened, or bad about yourself when you are around this person. If this is the case, the person is highly toxic and you should cut contact right away.
    • If you are uncertain about the situation, or if you have a condition (e.g. autism) that affects your social judgment, ask for advice. Confide in someone you trust, and research abuse on the internet.

Part 3
Looking at the Situation

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    Assess the situation. Sometimes we take things personally and blame ourselves for a person’s bad behavior. For example, an upset and emotional child may yell at you, “You ruined everything!” because the wrong cake was chosen for a 12-year-old’s party. It is important to assess the situation and acknowledge the preteen’s mean behavior is most likely due to hormones, life changes, or their own inability to regulate their emotional responses when expectations are not met. It probably has little to do with the actual cake choice or parenting.
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    Avoid exaggerating the situation. Sometimes, we might read too much into a situation based on previous experiences or assumptions about people.[4] This causes us to exaggerate a situation without honestly looking at the facts. Try to look critically at the situation.
    • Don’t jump to conclusions.
    • Don’t catastrophize the situation. This is the idea that it’s the “end of the world.” Are things really this bad?
    • Stay away from thinking that things are “always” and “never” happening.
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    Ask for clarification. If you hear a comment that you find offensive or rude, think about asking for the person to clarify what they mean. They may have misstated what they meant, or you may have heard incorrectly.[5]
    • "Could you please clarify? I'm not sure I understand."
    • "I didn't quite catch that. Could you please rephrase that?"
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    Give others the benefit of doubt. If you have a habit of taking things personally, it means that you're apt to assume someone is directing some form of aggression towards you when they could be just joking around or having a bad day. It might be your instinct to react emotionally, but pause for a second. Maybe it's not about you.
    • Think back to a bad day you had before. Is it possible that this person is having a day like that today?
    • Recognize that they may consider the event a mistake. We all say things we regret, and this could be one of their regrets.
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    Know what you’re sensitive about. You may have certain triggers that you’re very sensitive about. For example, you might feel really sensitive about your clothes because your mother always criticized what you wore when you were little.[6]
    • When you identify your triggers, you can acknowledge that you might be taking things too personally.
    • It may also be helpful to inform people about your triggers. "I'd rather you didn't make jokes about me being a witch. My nose and face are a bit of a sore spot for me, so it stings a little."
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    Refocus your attention. When you take things personally, you shift your attention from what someone said or did to how you feel. Those feelings can intensify if you fixate on them. You might even catch yourself rehearsing over and over what you would have said back to the person if you could. This is known as ruminating. There are a number of strategies to help you stop ruminating over a problem. Some of these include: [7]
    • Try mindfulness exercises. Be present in the moment, which will bring you away from a previous moment that you’re ruminating about.
    • Take a walk. Get a change of scenery to distract your mind from the problem.
    • Schedule a worry break. Allow yourself 20 minutes to worry about a problem. When 20 minutes is up, move on to something else.

Part 4
Understanding Other People’s Motivations

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    Take someone’s emotions into account. Some people may react aggressively to certain situations or behave badly after a bad day. In such a situation, their hostility is being delivered to anyone in their path, and has nothing to do with you. Abusive behavior has nothing to do with the receiver.
    • For example, a store clerk may be less than cheery, or she may be downright mean to you. Rather than take this personally, remind yourself, “This person may just be having a bad day and wants to go home. She probably deals with rude customers all the time. There is no need take it personally...” You could even say something nice like, “I hope you have a good evening,” with a smile. You might make her feel a bit better. But even if it makes no difference in her day, you can know that you did what you could to make the situation better.
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    Look at how the person treats others. They might tease or insult everyone they meet. Some people are just antagonistic like that. Ask yourself:
    • How does this person interact with other people?
    • Does this person act like this with everyone?
    • What is the content of their speech as opposed to the tone?
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    Consider the person's insecurities. Could they feel threatened by you in some way? If so, don't feel bad for being your awesome self. Think about how you can help this person feel better about themselves.
    • Give this person a compliment if possible, or ask them if they’d like to talk about anything.
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    Consider the other person’s emotional management skills. Keep in mind that the other person may have poor communication and emotional management skills. Some individuals do not learn how to communicate effectively or how to express and manage their emotions. This is important to remember because it helps you be patient and sympathize, much the same way you would with a young child who hasn’t yet learned to regulate and express their emotions.
    • Imagine that there's an inner child acting out, because the person hasn't learned how to deal with problems in a mature way. It's much easier to be patient and feel compassionate when you visualize a learning child at the helm of their behavior.
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    Recognize the other person’s background. Some people lack or have a different set of social skills and norms. Sometimes a person can come across awkward or maybe even a bit rude, when they do not mean to. Some individuals act a certain way and lack the awareness of how their behaviors are being received. It is not a cold or rude behavior directed at you.[8]
    • For example, someone from a different culture that is a bit more reserved may come across as cold or aloof.
    • Others, such as someone with autism, may not be aware of certain social cues or speech inflections. They may come across as insensitive or rude when they do not mean to be.
    • Some people may not realize their “joking” behavior is not being well received by others.
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    Identify whether criticism is constructive. Constructive criticism is a suggestion intended to help you. It is not a critique or criticism of your self-worth or character. For the person giving the criticism, it is easy to point out places in need of polishing. But sometimes we forget to mention how much someone is shining. Constructive criticism should have clear and specific ways in which to improve. [9] This is opposed to non-constructive criticism, which may just be a negative remark that offers no ways of improving.
    • For example, imagine you’ve worked the last few weeks to prepare an important project for your boss. You’ve tried your best and you feel good about the final result. You submit it, hoping for the praise you feel you deserve. But you get back a list of things to improve on. You may feel deflated, offended, or unappreciated. You may take this critique as criticism rather than as your boss’ sincere attempt at improving your work.
    • Not constructive: “The article is sloppy and poorly referenced. The second topic is lacking in substance.” (This comment offers no methods for improving.)
    • Constructive: “The article you wrote needs to have a few more references and an expansion of the second topic. Other than that, this looks good.”
    • Definitely not constructive: “This is a terribly written article.”
      • It can be hurtful to hear criticism that is not constructive. Think again about this person's skills in managing their emotions and interacting with others.
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    Ask questions when you receive criticism. When you hear criticism, especially when you don't hear constructive remarks within that criticism, ask the person what they mean. This shows them that you value their opinions and is a tactful way to improve their ability to give constructive criticism.
    • For example, if your boss says, "This is a terribly written article," you can follow up by asking, "I'd like to hear more details about what you don't like about the article. Let's work together to improve it."

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