How often do people tell you not to take things personally? It's one of those annoying generalisations that seems highly significant yet whose meaning is elusive.
In a recent coaching call, my client announced that she didn't want to take things so personally. She said her husband had repeatedly asked her not to take work issues so personally, as he felt it generated anxiety and negativity that was destroying their relationship.
It struck me that she was looking to change something for somebody else - her husband - rather than wanting something directly beneficial for herself. Wanting something for yourself is important, because it means you are more like you to take action, and you also gain clarity when you can describe your desires in terms that are personally meaningful.
So I asked her, when she stopped taking things personally, what difference would it make to her. She replied that it would enable her to have a more balanced life. She could focus on work at work, and give her family the full attention she wanted and they needed when she was at home. Not only would this make her better at her job, it could also save her marriage.
Now we had a compelling goal, we didn't have to treat ‘taking it personally’ so negatively. As she had admitted her tendency to take things personally, I asked her how it might be if she chose to take more things personally. Candidates included all the good things she’d done and all the successes she’d had and that we had talked about during our coaching sessions. I asked, ‘When was the last time you went home and told your husband all the things you've done well and taken personally? When did you last review for yourself all the things you've done well that you could take personally?’
‘Yes,’ she said, ‘I think I’ll take those things more personally from now on.’