I recently found myself in a situation where I needed to apologize to someone I hurt. I was conflicted, my thoughts filled with self-justifying righteousness, “I am right, and I am hurt, too!” Yet at the same time, I was filled with regret, choking on unfinished words and self-reproach. “This isn’t turning out the way I want it to,” I said to myself. Ugh…the only way to get myself out of my self-inflected situation was to say, “I’m sorry.”
Apologizing is difficult, especially when the stakes are high and the hurt runs deep. It’s easy to let yourself off the hook, blaming the other person and minimizing your role in the situation. When you finally bring yourself to say the words, stress hormones flood the body creating fight or flight responses. Your brain screams, “Don’t do it! Run!” or “Get mad! Don’t go down without a fight!” It’s takes everything in your power to go through with it. Your mind spins as you think of the million ways to express yourself. But in the end, it’s worth it. When you apologize, it allows space for both you and the other person to move forward, to let go, to forgive. It will make you and the other person feel better.
So how do you apologize the right way?
Write Down the Outcomes You Want
Before you go into a high stress situation, know what you want to get out of it. Write down your desired outcomes and keep them handy during the conversation; it will help you stay on track if the person responds emotionally and you can review them if you find yourself getting emotional or making excuses. Examples of outcomes might be to repair a damaged relationship, defuse an emotional situation, or simply to own your part in a conflict.
Check Your Emotions. Choose How You Want to Feel
Emotions don’t have to dictate your feelings and reactions. Even when they are strong, you can still choose how you want to feel. You can choose to feel compassion, relief, or ownership. Or you can also choose to feel angry, justified, or shameful. It’s up to you to determine your outlook on the situation, so check your emotions and choose to see the bright side of apologizing.
Apologize. Own it. Don’t Over Explain Your Actions
It’s best to just say, “I am sorry; I own what I did.” Most people don’t want to hear excuses because they water down the apology and make it feel insincere. Sometimes though, it may be appropriate to explain your side, but only do it to help the person forgive, not to minimize your role in what happened. Over explaining sounds like excuse making.
Express Regret, Be Specific
In addition to saying, “I’m sorry,” you should express regret for hurting the other person. For example, “I regret hurting you; it was wrong of me to blame you and it damaged our relationship. Our relationship is important to me and I understand that I have to earn your trust back.” This validates the person’s feelings which is what most people want out of an apology. Being specific brings a tone of sincerity and it shows you understand how your actions affected the person.
Ask Questions and Listen
Remember, the person you are apologizing to isn’t there to only hear you out. Give him or her the opportunity to respond. Ask questions to draw out meaningful dialogue, listen carefully and don’t get defensive.
Make Commitments and Keep Them
After you’ve apologized and expressed regret, make a commitment to change your behavior. Outline what you are going to do differently and follow through. Everyone makes mistakes but there is nothing worse than repeating it because you didn’t change your behavior. Trust can be rebuilt quickly if you demonstrate that you’ve learned from what happened.
Smile, Say Thank You and Leave
At the end of your apology, smile. Smiling makes everyone feel better and it releases tension. Thank the person for listening and then leave. Most people need time to process and hanging around afterwards doesn’t allow the space required to do so.
Following these steps will help you deliver a sincere, meaningful apology and will start the process of forgiveness. As famous cartoonist Lynn Johnson famously wrote, “An apology is the super glue of life. It can repair just about anything.”
Thanks for reading and as always, I appreciate comments, likes and shares!
Deflection: How to NOT Shrug off Responsibility and Pin Poor Performance and Decision Making on Someone Else
Accountability is the cornerstone of authentic and inspirational leadership. True accountability means you understand and accept that you and only you are responsible for your attitude, actions, decisions, communication, and health of your relationships. It’s hard work, requiring vulnerability, humility, integrity, and a willingness to put your ego aside. It’s uncommon to find this kind of accountability; for some reason these qualities are labeled as signs of weakness. I believe they are just the opposite.
Rather than hold oneself truly accountable, many people use deflection to shrug off responsibility and pin poor performance and decision making on someone or something else.
Deflection may sound something like this:
We shouldn’t tolerate this type of behavior from ourselves and from those around us.
So how do you stop yourself from being a deflector?
It starts with awareness. Think back on the times you were given tough feedback. Did you own it or did you blame someone or something else? Did you say thank you for the feedback or did you minimize your role in the situation? Be honest; you can’t make changes unless you embrace the hard truths about yourself. It may seem like silly advice but the only way to be accountable is to start being accountable. The only way to stop deflecting is to stop deflecting. When you hear yourself saying things like, “yeah, but” or “you always do XYZ” or “it’s not my fault” stop immediately and instead say, “I was just about to deflect blame and I don’t want to do that. Thank you for this feedback.” Then listen.
Next, take ownership and focus on the things you can control. Sure, there could be many reasons why something happened; it’s natural to want to look for causes outside of yourself, but the only way to improve a situation is to own your part. Don’t let yourself off the hook. And really, if everything is everyone else’s fault, then what part do you play in your own life? Do your actions not have any consequences? Are you truly powerless over the decisions you make and the outcomes that are a result of your decisions? I didn’t think so.
Now it’s time to create a new habit; an accountability habit. Ask someone to call you out when you start to deflect. Look for opportunities to take more ownership when things aren’t going perfectly. Pay attention to what triggers your “blame something else” mechanism so you can gain more insight around when you start to deflect. Apologize when you slip up and blame someone else.
Now how do you deal with a person who deflects all the time?
When dealing with deflection in the moment, the best technique I have found is to bring the focus back to the person by saying something like this:
Handling deflections in such a way does two things; first, it acknowledges that there are extenuating circumstances to every situation which may deserve digging into and second, it shifts the conversation towards accountability which is where solutions can be derived.
I also suggest giving honest and direct feedback. The deflector may not realize how often he or she does it and with a little coaching, could change the habit. Have a few concrete examples prepared and say something like this, “I want to share some feedback with you, if that’s okay. I’ve noticed that anytime we discuss the issues with this project, you shift the blame to someone else. For example, when you say things like “this project was handed to make like this” or “I wasn’t part of the team when that happened’ it makes you sound unaccountable and undermines your credibility as a leader and team player. I know that this is not how you want to be perceived so that’s why I wanted to bring it up. Were you aware that you’ve been doing this? Is there something going on that you want to get off your chest?” Show you care by courageously giving feedback.
Sometimes though, it may be best to ignore the “blame game” and focus on finding a solution. While shifting gears without addressing the deflection doesn’t solve the issue, it can be more productive than getting the other person to accept responsibility. There are times when you just need to move past the “what happened and who did it” phase to the “how are we going to fix it” phase. But even in those times where giving feedback in the moment doesn’t make sense, I always recommend circling back and having the conversation. No one can improve without candid feedback and we shouldn’t be fearful of giving it in a kind and helpful way.
My only other advice is to not take things the blamer says personally and don’t get defensive; I know dealing with deflectors can be frustrating but remember, their blaming isn’t about you, even if it feels like it. I also suggest trying to limit your interaction; habitual blaming can be a form of narcissism and most narcissists (at least the ones I know) have no interest in changing because they don’t think they are doing anything wrong.
There is nothing more honorable than accepting responsibility for your actions and decisions. Don’t be afraid to admit your role in tough situations. Show gratitude and compassion when others admit their own faults, too. We should encourage and applaud each other when we show up with sincere, honest accountability.
In closing, I’ll leave you with a quote from American writer Ralph Marston:
Concern yourself more with accepting responsibility than with assigning blame. Let the possibilities inspire you more than the obstacles discourage you.
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We all screw up. Finding a person who hasn’t made a big mistake is like finding a purple unicorn bathing in a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow; it won’t happen. And if you have yet to royally screw up, don’t worry, you will. It’s bound to happen; you haven’t fully lived life until you’ve done so.
While making a massive mistake can cause you to want to crawl under a rock and never show your face again, it can also teach you a profound lesson. Screwing up can dramatically change your life for the better…if you choose to embrace the painful experience, for better or worse.
So let’s say you’ve really stepped in it. Now what? How can you embrace your screw up and move forward?
Don’t Dig a Deeper Hole
It’s easy to allow one bad decision to lead to another. You don’t have to keep digging yourself a deeper hole. From this moment on, stop the cycle, climb out of the hole, and commit to doing whatever it takes to fix the mistake.
Don’t Make Saving Face Your Priority
It’s natural to want to save face and minimize the reasons why you made the mistake. Remember, justifying is just a way of making excuses. Don’t defend, downplay, or omit parts of the truth. Truthful accountability is the only option and it’s far more honorable to fully own your screw up than to try to diminish it. Instead of trying to save face, make repairing the damage you’ve done your top priority.
Say You’re Sorry and Mean It
A heartfelt and authentic apology can go a long way to fixing the damage that occurs after a big mistake. While it doesn’t make the situation go away, showing honest regret gives people more space to forgive you. When offering an apology, be specific and ask for feedback. There is nothing worse than apologizing for the wrong thing. But remember, no one wants you to apologize incessantly; he or she only wants to see results, so apologize once (maybe twice) and then prove your remorse by taking action.
Make and Execute an Action Plan
Don’t let yourself off the hook after an apology. If there is no action…no notable change…then your apology is moot. Before putting a plan of action into place, dig deep as to why you screwed up; understanding your motivations, fears, and decisions is the key to not making the same mistake twice. Once you have a deeper understanding of what went wrong you can develop a plan to repair the damage. A good plan should address the root cause, not the symptoms. Don’t be afraid to ask for help; sometimes a path forward isn’t clear and seeking advice, counseling, and/or coaching can shorten your bounce-back time.
Keep Your Commitments
Do what you say you are going to do; hold yourself accountable to your action plan. The only way to revive your reputation and to bounce back is to follow through and keep your commitments.
Let it Go
Nothing good comes from beating yourself up over and over again. Negative self-talk keeps you stuck in the shame spiral. Embrace your screw up. Learn from it. Vow to never let it happen again. But let it go. The only way to move on is to allow yourself to move on.
Let Your Mistake Make You a Better Person
Making mistakes will keep you humble and will teach you all kinds of ways not do things in the future. Screw ups keep you grounded and (hopefully) cause you to be more forgiving of others because face it, none of us are perfect. Overcoming a face plant makes you stronger and more resilient. Embrace your screw up so that someday you can look back on it with gratitude; trust that what you learn from it will make you a better person.
While following this plan won’t take the embarrassment of making a mistake away, it will allow you to hold your head high as you gracefully and authentically handle the aftermath. Remember, you are not alone in screwing up; we’ve all done it and we will all do it again. The real growth comes from what you do after the damage is done.
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“You're always you, and that don't change, and you're always changing, and there's nothing you can do about it.” - Neil Gaiman
There is only one thing that’s certain in life and that is that things will change. No matter how much you deny, resist, or ignore it, the unfolding of life brings new challenges and experiences that you must adapt to, one way or another.
Each of us experience change constantly yet react to it in many different ways. While some of us embrace change and even drive it, most fall into the “change resistant” category. Our brains expect certain things to stay the same and when they don’t, the information we trusted breaks down causing us fear over what comes next. What we don’t know tends to scare us and change creates a lot of unknowns. Even positive change comes with challenges and discomfort. Change. Is. Hard.
In today’s fast-paced, quickly-evolving world, it’s important to develop your ability to handle change effectively. While it’s never easy, here are somethings you can do to adapt to change with a bit more grace.
Freak Out For a Minute, Privately
There’s nothing wrong with being scared of change, especially when it blindsides you, so go ahead and freak out for a minute. Just do it privately. Negative reactions on public display almost never produce good outcomes. Go for a walk alone, vent to someone you trust, write in your journal, scream into your pillow…let it out in a private place to release pent up emotions and then start focusing on how to deal with the change.
Give Yourself Time to Process
When change hits hard and fast, it can feel overwhelming. Your brain starts racing, making up a story which usually concludes with the world as you know it ending. But if you think back on all the times you freaked out over change, how often did the story end the way you first imagined it? Probably never, if you are like me. That’s why it’s good to give yourself time to process the change. I can promise that tomorrow, it won’t seem nearly as bad as it did today, so think it through and come up with a plan after sleeping on it.
Be Honest About Your Feelings
It’s easy to focus on the situation or person, blaming and barraging the bringer of change or the change itself. Don’t do this. Be accountable and own your fears and other feelings. Look inside to understand your resistance so you can clearly articulate why you have such strong feelings. Put words to your feelings by asking yourself questions and answering truthfully. Why do I feel this way? What am I afraid of? Why am I resisting? If I embrace this change, what’s the worst that could happen? What’s the best that could happen?
Get More Information
Don’t assume the story you told yourself about why the change is happening is true. It’s probably not. Ask questions and do more research so you understand why something is changing. The deeper your awareness, the faster you can settle your mind, fine tune your response, and adjust to the change.
Give Your Opinion
It’s okay to want to influence the outcome, especially if you feel passionately about something. Consider what you want to achieve, be conscience of your tone, listen to others, and then give your opinion. Always look for a positive solution; a win-win may not be possible, but you’ll feel better once you’ve expressed yourself.
Accept the Change
Life is so much easier when you stop resisting every little change, so pick your battles carefully. Sometimes change is worth resisting and sometimes you just have to accept things as they are. Resisting can make you miserable and you risk damaging relationships and your overall happiness. Take a deep breath and give yourself permission to surrender every now and then. Stop complaining about it to others. Look for the positive and give it some time. Before you know it, you’ll have adapted to the change and it’ll be a distant memory that doesn’t seem all that bad.
Change is what makes life interesting and amazing. It teaches us profound lessons and promotes growth and wisdom. It can take us to faraway places or deep within ourselves. It creates exciting opportunities and yes, sometimes it breaks our hearts. It’s what weaves the tapestry of our lives together, creating a colorful patchwork of experiences, emotions, thoughts, and relationships that make up our existence. Embrace it and do your best to enjoy the ride; if properly harnessed, change can inspire you to be the greatest version of yourself.
“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance” – Alan Watts
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One of most important attributes to becoming successful is self-discipline. It’s almost impossible to achieve excellence without it. Self-discipline helps you stay focused; it gives you the gumption to stick with something even when it’s difficult. It helps you choose winning the long game over short term gratification. Self-discipline allows you to overcome obstacles and deal with the discomfort of pushing yourself to new heights. With enough self-discipline, you can form life-long, positive habits; once you form a habit, it no longer requires discipline and you propel yourself towards success because it’s what you do day in and day out.
What is self-discipline? Essentially, it’s the ability to control your impulses, emotions, reactions, and behaviors. It’s the ability to forego short term gratification in favor of long term satisfaction and gain. It’s basically saying no when you really want to say yes.
How does self-discipline lead to forming habits? If you do something over and over again, it eventually becomes a habit and once something a habit, life gets easier; you no longer need willpower to force yourself to do it. For example, last year one of my goals was to do more yoga. I made a commitment to do it 30 minutes every day for 30 days. I felt so much better that I continued for another 30 days which turned in 6 months, etc. Now I get up an hour earlier to start my day off with 60 minutes of yoga. I don’t have to set my alarm anymore and I do it EVERY day. If you would like more insight on how to use discipline to form habits, read the Power of Habit. It’s a fantastic book.
The word self-discipline makes most people shudder just uttering it but being self-disciplined isn’t about leading a restrictive and boring life void of enjoyment, relaxation, and fun. In fact, it’s next to impossible to be self-disciplined in all areas of your life and I don’t recommend it. Instead, you should use self-discipline to focus your energies on what’s most important to you. Let it help you make the tradeoff between the short and long term so that you make better choices. In the long run, you’ll be happier when you have formed habits that make your life better.
So how do you become more self-disciplined? Here are my tricks:
You are the master of your destiny, the creator of your life. If you want your destiny to look, be and feel a certain way, then you have to develop the discipline to form habits. Vigorous habits will help you get to where you want to be. While it seems counter intuitive, I have found that I am happier and healthier the more self-disciplined I become. I think you will find the same thing, too.
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You are a collection of all the stories you’ve told yourself. That’s right, your life is a work of fiction and you are the main character.
We all tell ourselves stories about the things that happen to us, the decisions we make, and why other people do the things they do. You make assumptions and then act upon those assumptions. That’s how you create your life; your stories become your reality. You wear your stories like a warm winter sweater because they give you comfort that you actually understand what’s happening around you. You do this because your brain can’t stand not understanding why something is happening. It is constantly looking for patterns, assigning cause and effect, then creating a narrative that you subsequently believe, even if you have no access to the actual truth. Psychologists and scientists call this the narrative bias. We couldn’t survive without it.
There’s good and bad news to consider when pondering your narrative.
First the bad news. If you create a story that is negative, inaccurate, or based on a lie you’ve been told or that you’ve told yourself, you could send yourself down a path that might lead to poor decisions, low self-esteem and needless suffering.
The good news is that you can create a different story. You can challenge your assumptions. You can think about the way you think. You can break down belief systems that hold you back. You can build upon the positive things that happen in your life. You can choose to let go and move on.
Even though your story might feel real and unchangeable, it isn’t. It doesn’t matter if you’re living a charmed life or one of struggle and despair. Your story isn’t real and it isn’t permanent.
So pick the one thing in your life you want to change or make happen and tell yourself a different story. One where you are progressing, succeeding and winning. Then start taking action to create that story. It doesn’t mean it’s easy; it just means it’s possible. Be willing to do the hard work.
I’ll leave you with this quote from Jordan Belfort, The Wolf of Wall Street. I am not saying you want his story (or maybe you do; he is very wealthy and everyone loves a comeback story) but it’s a statement worth keeping in mind.
“The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it.”
Thanks for reading,
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Honesty is the best policy. There is no doubt that Sir Edwin Sandys nailed it when he wrote this statement all those years ago. But let’s be honest, we all lie.
Sometimes we tell big lies; outright lies that are the opposite of the truth. Sometimes we tell softened truths; lies that temper the truth in an effort to minimize making another person feel badly. Sometimes we omit parts of the story…not really lying but not really telling the whole truth. And we justify all these little white lies by telling ourselves that we are doing it to protect the ones we are lying to. Or to make people feel better. Or that the little white lie you told to boost your image is harmless…stretching the truth doesn’t hurt anyone and it sure did make you feel a little better about yourself.
We tell lies like these everyday:
“Those pants don’t make you look fat!”
“For some reason you’re voicemail just came through; that’s why I’m just now calling you back.”
“The check is in the mail.”
“No, I don’t think you are abrasive. I don’t know why anyone would tell you that.”
“The trout I caught was a record breaker!”
Humans are wired to be a bit dishonest. At least that’s what Dan Ariely, behavioral economist and famed author has found in his numerous studies on honesty and cheating in context to human behavior. According to Dan, we all lie and cheat...just a little bit, or at least until our brains reward us for stopping ourselves from cheating or lying further. Sure, you just told a fib but you can pat yourself on the back for stopping at just one. By all means, you could have expanded upon the lie but that would be outright dishonest.
It’s easy to justify why it’s okay to tell a small lie. But here’s why you shouldn’t.
There isn’t a person out there (okay, maybe a few) who wouldn’t say that he or she values honesty and believe that it’s a top character trait. But we throw this value out the window when we tell little white lies. What’s more important: staying true to your values or telling that lie? What good are values if you don’t live by them?
Giving honest feedback is difficult to do but telling a little lie to avoid giving it is a cop out and a missed opportunity. Wouldn’t you rather know that those pants really aren’t that flattering? Or that people actually do see you as abrasive? Or that you need to make improvements at work? You’re not alone. We all need feedback so be kind, candid and smart in your timing, but don’t tell a lie to avoid giving feedback.
No one likes being lied to, period. You can tell yourself that you are lying to protect the other person, but the truth is, you’re still lying. Dishonesty breaks down trust in a relationship and without trust, there isn’t much of a relationship. Overtime, anger, resentment and suspicion may replace the positive feelings people had about you. Lying just isn’t worth it.
The Self-Justification Trap
If you’re like most people, telling lies will make you feel uncomfortable and uneasy (as it should). In efforts to ease these icky feelings, you may tell yourself a story. “I did the right thing by lying. The truth would have been far worse on her and therefore it’s justified. Besides, she really doesn’t want to hear the truth anyway.” This is the ‘self-justification trap’ and it basically means you are lying to yourself to make yourself feel better. Don’t let yourself off the hook; stop justifying your lies.
It’s Hard to Remember Lies
Telling the truth is always your best option. That way you don’t have to remember the lies you told. Sure, being honest in the moment may be difficult, but getting caught in a lie that you don’t remember telling will cause you to lose credibility.
Little Lies Can Turn into Big Lies
It’s easy for a seemingly harmless little lie to turn into a massive one when you have to tell more lies to support the first one. Just remember the story of Pinocchio.
Let’s face it, despite all the reasons not to, you will still lie. You won’t tell your spouse that “yes, in fact, you have gained a little bit of weight.” You will exaggerate your role in a situation. You will downplay your opinion of a coworker when he comes to ask for feedback. Little white lies will escape your lips…just like they will from everyone else’s. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t attempt to minimize the lies you tell. Try your very best to always be authentic and honest. And when you do tell a lie, be aware of it and admit it to yourself. Self-deception is the worst kind of deception.
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One of the top investments you can make in yourself is to hire a coach. Seriously…find a way to fit the cost into your budget. It doesn’t matter if you are an executive or not, there are all kinds of personal development and life coaches who specialize in various types of clients. You can find one who will fit your needs no matter where you are in your career or personal life. I promise, you won’t regret it.
I started working with two coaches a few years back, a life coach and an executive coach, and I have benefited greatly for it. My goal was to find a coach who could help me understand myself better and grow as a leader. I needed someone who I could bounce ideas off of…someone I could say anything to without fear of being judged as being emotional, irrational, or flat out wrong. Someone who I could say to, “I don’t know how to handle this situation.” I was looking for someone who would help me hold myself accountable and teach me new tools for handling hard situations. I was lucky enough to find the two coaches I still work with today and they have helped me do all of these things and so much more.
So what can a coach do for you and why is it so important to one?
There is great benefit in talking with someone who isn’t attached to you or your situation. Even if those closest to you are great listeners, they are still impacted by what you say and do and cannot be completely unbiased. A coach is there to support you and only you and will listen and give feedback accordingly.
Candid feedback is a gift, even if it sometimes hurts. Unfortunately, it’s rare to get direct, constructive criticism and advice. As you move towards higher levels of management, getting feedback becomes even more important. Unfortunately, you’re less likely to get it and if you do, it’s probably not accurate (face it, most people are too scared to tell the boss what they REALLY think). A good coach will give it to you straight.
Learn New Tools
What good is getting feedback if you don’t know how to address your issues? A coach will offer fresh perspectives and can provide you with the tools to better address the challenges you’re facing. For example, your coach can teach you how to be a better listener, how to employ feedback models, how to stop yourself from interrupting others, how to calm yourself down in an instant, and much, much more.
Holds You Accountable
Personal accountability is the cornerstone of success but sometimes you need help; it’s too easy to let yourself off the hook, make excuses, and fall into victim-hood and the blame game. A strong and assertive coach will support your accountability efforts and should point out when you aren’t holding up to your end of the deal.
Learn More About Yourself
Self-awareness is key if you want to grow personally and professionally. It’s critical that you understand the impact you have on those around you. Effective coaching will allow you to develop self-awareness skills by helping you understand your emotions, experiences, vulnerabilities, strengths, weaknesses, personality traits, and to uncover unresolved issues that are holding you back.
To be effectively coached, you have to want to be coached. There’s no point in spending the time and money if you aren’t prepared to look deeply into the mirror your coach will hold in front of you. It takes grit, resilience, and strength to be able to take feedback, address blind spots, and make the necessary changes to become a better leader, parent, employee, and most of all, a better person. But it’s worth every minute (however painful) and every penny (however expensive).
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I once was told that taking things personally is one of the most selfish things a person could do.
This statement stuck with me and I found myself sharing it often. Not wanting to be a hypocrite (or selfish), I decided I had better start paying more attention to whether or not I regularly took things personally. To my dismay, I realized that I did…far more often than I wanted to admit. I also found that when I did, I felt bad about myself. I felt bad about other people. I felt bad about the situation. I felt bad about everything. Yuck.
After suffering a bit longer, I decided it was time to stop taking things so damn personally. Here’s what I did….
When my husband made a wisecrack at my expense, I took it as teasing (and actually laughed with him) rather than as him trying to make a point. When a coworker didn’t smile back at me, I told myself he must be having a bad day rather than that he must not like me. When a friend called to cancel happy hour, I believed her reason of being too busy with work rather than feel sorry for myself because she had more important things to do. When my boss gave me feedback on my argumentative communication style, I told myself how lucky I was to have someone who cared enough to help me see how my actions were impacting others rather than get upset with him for not taking my side. When someone didn’t like my idea, I didn’t get my feelings hurt; I told myself I needed to vet my idea more thoroughly and work on my delivery rather than that my teammates were being dismissive because they think I’m stupid.
You know what happened? My life dramatically improved. Every time I put a positive spin on my perception of a situation or conversation, I relaxed. I also found it much easier to be accountable for my actions. I became more open to hearing and considering different opinions. I became less attached to my own ideas. It was easier for people to talk to me and give me feedback. I was happier. I think I even became more likeable. I know I liked myself a whole lot better.
I would like to encourage you, too, to stop taking things so personally. You will not only improve your life, you will improve the lives of everyone around you. You will be happier. And you being happier makes the world happier. And we all know that the world could use more happiness.
Here are five things you can do to stop taking everything personally:
1. Don’t make other people’s rudeness, grumpiness, curtness, etc. about you. It’s about whatever is going on with them. Smile, internally wish them well, and move on.
2. Consider all feedback constructive. The more you get the better you will be, even if the feedback doesn't feel valid. Make modifications and apologize when necessary. But don’t take any of it personally; instead be grateful for it.
3. Don’t expect people to read your mind. If you do, you’ll regularly find yourself disappointed. Face it, most of us aren’t psychic so there is no point in expecting others to know what going on inside of you. Always be honest about how you feel and what you are thinking. Candidness matters.
4. Don’t make assumptions. You don’t really know what other people are thinking or feeling so don’t assume. Plus, incorrect assumptions cause undue suffering. If you don’t know, ask. Even if you think you know, ask. Seek to understand.
5. Tell yourself a different story. Each of us view the world through our individual lens. We all have deeply rooted biases and personality types that influence the color, texture, and feel of that lens. Our lenses are shaped by our parents, family, friends, and communities, and by our experiences. How each of us sees the world is very personal and very different. And that’s what makes the human species so amazing. But it’s also our biggest downfall. We fall in to the trap of thinking that our thoughts and feelings are THE TRUTH. “I am right and they are wrong.” Even people who are highly self-aware find it difficult to break outside of their own way of thinking. None of us really know THE TRUTH. We really only feel and see our own truths (which may be flat out wrong). So if you are taking something personally, recognize that the story you are telling yourself is just that: a story and there’s a good chance it’s wrong. Why not tell a different story? One that doesn’t involve turning angels into demons.
Not taking things personally takes effort and persistence but it’s worth it. You’ll be much happier and feel better about yourself when you able to let things easily slide off your back. You’ll be more open-minded and better able to take feedback when you let other people have their own opinions without becoming defensive or protective. Life is better when you turn your story from a negative one to a positive one.
As always, thanks for reading! Please feel free to share, like, and comment if you are so inspired. Please click here to sign up to have my blogs sent directly to your inbox. Just scroll to the bottom of my homepage.
Sometimes life just doesn’t go your way. Rejection, disappointment, failure, and hurt feelings are an inevitable part of life. How you deal with such events, though, determines how happy and successful you are in life. That’s right...your attitude, mindset, and actions can turn tough experiences into positive, life changing ones…if you choose.
The key to bouncing back is being resilient. Psychology Today says that resilience “is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes. Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient, among them a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Even after misfortune, resilient people are blessed with such an outlook that they are able to change course and soldier on.”
Sounds great! Who doesn’t want to be able to turn misfortune into fortune (or at least be able to appreciate and learn from the lesson in it)? But for most people, it’s easier said than done. Here are some ways you can build up your “bounce back” muscle.
Take Responsibility for Everything that Happens to You
The only way you can build resilience is to take responsibility for your life. Resilient people refuse to be a victim. Things don’t happen TO you, they happen BECAUSE of you. This may sound harsh but adopting this mindset is the only way to empower yourself to change your situation, no matter what. To do this, I employ counterfactual thinking. According to Wiki, “counterfactual thinking is a concept in psychology that involves the human tendency to create possible alternatives to life events that have already occurred; something that is contrary to what actually happened.” Let’s say your boss gives you feedback that you completely disagree with. In your mind, justify why you are right and she is wrong. You tell yourself that she just doesn’t see all that you do and she isn’t worthy of being your manager. You shut down and don’t make any changes. This type of thinking gets you pretty much nowhere, keeping you stuck and unhappy, the opposite of resiliency. If you employ counterfactual thinking, you might ask yourself, “What if she’s right? When have I exhibited this behavior? What do I need to do to change? How can I step up and improve myself? Perception is reality so what do I need to do to change this perception?” Owning it means you can change it. If you want to be resilient, refuse to retreat, deny, ignore, or blame. Remember, things don’t happen to you, they happen because of you.
Change Your Approach
Once you’ve accepted responsibility for your situation, now you can change it. Analyze what went wrong and why. Come up with a plan to make necessary changes. Then put your plan into action. Let’s say the feedback your boss gave you is that your performance is mediocre. She feels that you only do the bare minimum to get by and that your teammates feel you don’t pull your weight and are becoming resentful. After some self-reflection, you start to see why they feel this way. You never stay late, never offer to help your co-workers, and never volunteer for side projects. Sure, you have a life outside of work, but so does everyone else on the team and they are making sacrifices to be great teammates so why aren’t you? After acknowledging their feelings and apologizing, you decide that if your teammates stay late, so will you. You take on a small side project for your boss so you can start to build her trust. You ask her to give you real-time feedback on your performance and you find a co-worker who will agree to hold you accountable to being a better team player. There’s nothing like changing something that is holding you back to build self-confidence which leads to being able to bounce back from hard situations.
Build Your Support System
Having a shoulder to lean on makes all the difference in the world when bouncing back and people who are resilient take the time to build a strong network of people whom they can rely on to help them through tough times. It doesn’t have to be a big network, just a strong one. My network includes my husband, my mom, a few mentors, and a few highly trustworthy co-workers. It also includes people who help me stay well such as my massage therapist and acupuncturist. It’s not huge but it has depth. If you don’t have a strong support system, it’s not too late to start. Reach out to a few people you can trust and start to build friendships. Hire a therapist or a life coach. Lean on members of your family. Don’t fall into the trap of telling yourself that you alone and that no one cares…doing this only weakens your “bounce back” muscle.
Do Something That Makes You Happy Everyday
There’s no better way to improve your life than by doing something you love every day. No matter if everything is going right or everything is going wrong, doing something that brings your joy, happiness or satisfaction will increase your resiliency. Read a good book, ride your motorcycle, do yoga, play with your kids…do whatever you need to do to bring a little joy into your life. Feeling lost about what makes you happy? Go for a walk. I promise you, there is nothing better at improving your mood than moving your body and a walk will always make you feel better.
Take a Deep Breath and Let it Go
Letting go is the only way to truly be resilient. There’s no point on holding on to old baggage…all it does is weigh you down. And beating yourself up over and over breaks down resiliency. So do yourself a favor, stop the negative self-talk, forgive yourself and anyone else involved, learn from the situation, and move on. Just take a deep breath and let it go. It is what it is; the most important thing now is doing what you need to do to go forward.
Don’t Give Up
The fastest way to not bounce back is to not bounce back. Giving up is an excuse. You have to always keep trying. Yes, you will have to change, grow, and ask for feedback. Perhaps you will have to get professional help. But whatever you do, don’t give up…not if you want a happy and successful life. Think of the most successful people you know. Maybe they seem like they just breeze through life but in reality they, too, have had to overcome setbacks and negative experiences. You must dig deep and summon up the determination to handle whatever life throws at you and to persevere no matter what.
Life takes all kinds of twists and turns. Sometimes it meanders along; other times it feels like everything is right on track. Then again, maybe sometimes it feels like it’s in a free fall towards rock bottom. Being resilient allows you to go with the flow, no matter the situation. Don’t let your mistakes and failures take you down. Look at them as research on how not to do something and bounce back stronger than before.
Thank you for reading and please feel free to comment, like, or share. I appreciate you all spreading the love if you are so inspired. Click here to sign up to receive my blogs in your inbox.
A Quick Blurb on what this blog is about.
Welcome to my blog! My name is Kerry Siggins and plain speaking, honest leadership is my mantra. My intention is to help those who lead (or want to lead) become better at saying and doing what needs to be said and done in a way that it can be heard and seen, one person at a time.