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5 Tips to Not Take Things Personally

How many times have you been left out of a meeting to which you should have been invited or perhaps a customer you’ve called and emailed a couple times has not responded to you? You might internalize this and say to yourself, “What did I do, what’s wrong with ME, why did they leave me out?

Below are my 5 key tips to remember about taking things personally:

1. Presume goodwill.

You are working hard, doing good work, being a great employee, so don’t jump to the conclusion that decisions have been made to leave you out, or slight you. Decisions are made all day every day which have nothing to do with us, yet we can tend to personalize things, many things which have nothing to do with us. Assume that people have good motives and that decisions are made for good business reasons. Business is business and if you start with this, it will help you not personalize what occurs at the office. If you are in sales and you are having trouble reaching a customer or prospect, keep trying, but move on if you need to. Whatever value you bring to this customer or prospect is not needed at this time by them, or not at all. Move on to where the opportunity is.

2. Get the facts.

If you choose to, find out what happened if you were left out or didn’t get that call back. Ask questions, not as a victim, but as a professional, a businesswoman---getting the facts. “I noticed I was not selected to serve on this project and I would have liked to have been. I am wondering about the decision process to how the people selected were chosen?”. Be as neutral as you can be like a reporter asking questions to cover a story. The facts can be valuable. Remember here too, there is an option to do nothing at all, perhaps you do not need to get the facts. You can opt to presume goodwill here and assume there was a good reason a decision was made and did not have anything to do with you personally.

3. Handle it professionally.

When you find out that a decision is made not in your favor or you have not been included in something, go on a fact-finding mission. Don’t do it as a victim, do it with personal power. You can make statements like this, “Bob, I see you have organized a lunch to discuss the project I’m working on and I think I should be included”. Versus, “Bob, why wasn’t I included in this lunch?” With this last question you take a victim role and put Bob on the defensive around why you weren’t included making it difficult to include you. Embrace your value. Subordinate your insecurity. EXPECT to be treated with respect. Set boundaries around how you are treated if you need to. If you have a mentor, ask him or her, outline the situation, how would he/she handle it?

If you see that promotions were given to two people in your department and you were not promoted and believe you deserved a promotion, take some time to cool off, get perspective. Then schedule an appointment with your boss to meet. Tell him why you believe you deserve to be promoted. Perhaps bring in a list of your accomplishments and talk about the value you bring. Ask him to consider promoting you and when you can meet again to discuss it. If you ask, “why were these guys promoted and not me?” you assume the victim role and your boss will be on the defensive. Use your personal power. Stick to the facts, don’t compare yourself with others. Make your case. And get a time line about when you can talk again. Or better yet, get an agreement from him about …if you do these things, I will consider you for a promotion on this date. You have nothing to lose by doing this.

4. Take action if you need to.

Maybe you HAVE been slighted, left out, overlooked. It’s time to take action. Be bold. Whether it is a meeting in which you should have been included, a promotion you did not receive, or a customer who did not give you the business. First get facts, find out why, yet don’t spend too much time here. The why often doesn’t matter. Again….business is business. Sometimes we don’t find out the why. Yet if there is a “why” we should know about it might be valuable to our growth to find out. Perhaps your boss thinks you need more experience, this is valuable to know---get more experience, but hold him accountable to how much is enough to earn the promotion and confirm another meeting for the future. Perhaps the customer liked the service or product of the competitor more than what you offer, that’s valuable information. Maybe the customer has known the competitor for years, has played golf many times and socialized with him….he likes your competitor---valuable information, your cheese has moved. Or maybe you can offer a better deal and get the business done despite their close relationship…it can be done. Customers usually take the best deal, despite anything else. This can be a great learning experience for you around the product or service you offer, and how you are selling it.

5. Relax …but Be Bold.

I can tell you for sure, my happiness and career satisfaction is much better when I have decided that things happen without much consideration about me at all. Don’t take things personally. Make the assumption that everything, all decisions are just business and have nothing to do with you personally. That way you don’t spend valuable time worrying about whether you’ve done something wrong or you are not liked. Taking this attitude is so liberating. If you find you do need to speak up, stand up…do something, do it. Do it professionally, with confidence and embracing your personal power, and stick to the facts. Go forward, be good at what you do…and be bold.

Susan's Takeaway

What I have been known to do is conjure in my mind the reasons why these things may have happened, all having to do with something wrong with me, or something I’ve done wrong---I’m not liked, I’m not valuable, whatever. My insecurity kicks in. When it gets right down to it, we may never know what the truth is. The key here is do not assume it is you at all. Perhaps you need to find out why you were not invited to the meeting? Perhaps the customer who has not returned your call has been busy, or is not ready to talk to you about new business. In this case, as the book, “Who Moved My Cheese”? says, move to where the cheese IS, not where it used to be or where you wish it were.

I think it’s funny when we take things personally and we say something about it and people are so surprised. Often people will say, “Oh, you took that the wrong way, I didn’t mean that”. Acting as though we were just too sensitive to something being said. Maybe we were. Maybe we weren’t. Yet handling it this way can show our insecurity around being left out or feeling like we were treated like we didn’t matter…and not show our confidence and strength.

If I could change one thing about my career and how I handled myself in various situations, it would be to assume everything is just done out of logic, based upon business decisions, and having nothing to do with ME PERSONALLY. It’s hard to do, but once you decide that this is what you will assume, decisions made, how people treat me, have nothing to do with me. Even if they do, does it matter? No. Not if you are doing your job, being kind and setting boundaries. Rise above it—boldly go forth and do what you need to do.

If you found this article helpful and would like to get a regular dose of career and personal improvement tips for women, subscribe to my blog and tune into my Podcast, LeadingShe.

About LeadingShe

A podcast in which executive women who are leaders in their industries, companies, and most importantly...their lives, share inspiring stories about the obstacles they've overcome to succeed in a male-dominated world. Host & Creator: Susan Branscome Listen, Subscribe, Rate, & Review on Apple Podcasts and everywhere else you listen to Podcasts.


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