We have heard it hundreds of times: Don’t take it personally. It’s just business. Your boss criticizes your performance or a client decides not to renew your contract. Maybe a colleague gossips behind your back or sends an angry email cc’ing your superior. These scenarios are tough to take, and most of us would struggle not to take them personally. We know the mantra of keeping the personal separated from business, and yet, when you think about it, and I know this is true for me, my business is very personal. I dare say that other passionistas out there love what they do as much as me. So how do you deal with that?

At the end of the day, while business is business, we are all people. One thing I learned is that it is always about people. Whatever we do we need to keep in mind that all people have feelings and that, of course, includes us as well.

Criticism stings, but some of us blow it out of proportion. We can’t seem to remove the stinger and we dwell on the perceived offense, wasting valuable time fretting about ourselves, or denigrating the person who slighted us. There is a psychological explanation to that and it has to do with being (overly) ego-centric, whereby we assume another person’s motives, actions or comments revolve solely around us. Here’s what Psychology Today says on the subject. http://goo.gl/X9QSX.

Confidence is the key

A woman who is confident in her skills and abilities, will shrug off bullies and not be derailed by constructive criticism. In my line of work you will always find people who don’t like you or try to put you down. If this happens to you you have two choices. Take it personally or not. As Eleanor Roosevelt said: “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.” Besides, mistakes and failures are important opportunities for growth. It’s okay to fail. We are judged by our ability to get back up. Mistakes build character. Perfection is boring. Look at these situations as having a rhythmic component. Like everything in life, there are ups and downs in business. It’s to be expected—and it’s okay. You can’t win everything and sometimes you have to take one for the team, fair or not. These are opportunities in disguise to help you grow way beyond your comfort zone and will make you a better person in the long run.

Business decisions are based on numbers and what is best for a company’s growth. They are often made without regard to whether you like it or not or what kind of message this may send to you personally. Just because your project was not chosen, or you didn’t get a perfect review, doesn’t mean your boss or client has something against you personally. It probably means that someone else had a better project proposal or that your last quarter wasn’t flawless.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.”

Bullies and gossips are another issue. Do you take their slings and arrows to heart and end of feeling inadequate? In an ideal world we want to be immune to their nasty digs if we are grounded and have a strong sense of who we are. A person’s opinion of you is just that, their opinion, which has been filtered through their version of reality. It’s not objective truth. You will not be sucked into a negative spiral if you remember that, but even if you do on occasion, you’ll know that you can choose whether or not to remain there.

Rise above it

In the real world our feelings do get hurt, but we must use our awareness to rise above it or take what “they” say and prove them wrong. With a judgmental mother and a couple of tough bosses along the way, I’ve become a master at not letting other peoples’ opinions of who I am or who I was going to become interfere with my sense of self. And today, I am happy to report that I’ve fared just fine. It’s just that I didn’t know it THEN!

I love this from the bestselling book The Four Agreements:

Even when a situation seems so personal, even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you. What they say, what they do, and the opinions they give are according to the agreements they have in their own minds. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in. When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world.

There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally. The whole world can gossip about you, and if you don’t take it personally you are immune.

As you make a habit of not taking anything personally, you won’t need to place your trust in what others do or say. You will only need to trust yourself to make responsible choices. You are never responsible for the actions of others; you are only responsible for you. When you truly understand this, and refuse to take things personally, you can hardly be hurt by the careless comments or actions of others.

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