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Carreer Connexion by Michele Majul-IbarraStop taking things personally

by Michele Majul-Ibarra 

A diverse workplace typically comes with a bunch of different characters and personalities. Regardless of how long team members have known each other, misunderstandings still occur. Then, there are also extreme situations where team members do not get along at all. As you can see, these scenarios can happen at any time in any workplace. When relationships are formed among team members, there is more of a tendency to take things personally.

For instance, let’s say you called a co-worker from another province to seek advice on a project that you are currently working on and that co-worker does not get back to you on the same day. Then you automatically assume that your co-worker dislikes you.

According to a study from Catalyst, an organization that promotes inclusive workplaces for women, some women tend to take things too personally and when they do this in a work setting it can be damaging to their careers. Jane Maloney, a New York consultant to HR executives, says her clients “have been increasingly telling her that employees are jumping to conclusions when they get constructive criticism. The employees assume they’re getting downsized, Maloney says, and are then less able to relate well to the feedback. “It gets blown out of proportion,” she says.

If someone does not call back immediately, why should it have to mean that person does not like us? Why should it not be just understood that the co-worker may have had a lot on their plate and was not truly able to get an opportunity to call back? Why do so many people assume that other people’s actions or words revolve around them? To avoid thinking that certain interactions are forms of personal attacks, here are a few ways to help change our points of view:

  • Not everything is about me. It is very easy to fall into the type of mentality that verbal remarks we receive are about us or about something that we did. However, it may be simply because the other person was having a tough day. After all, a person’s behaviour is typically a reflection of the issues that they are facing.
  • Do not jump to conclusions. If there is a comment or behaviour of a co-worker that has thrown you off guard, seek clarification from that person instead of judging the situation. Jumping to a conclusion will not help the way you feel because all it can do is worsen feelings of anger or displeasure from the situation.

What other people think and do are beyond our control. This one is pretty straightforward and it basically indicates that we have no control over others. They are their own person. What we can control, however, is the way we think. When we take things personally, we give others power over us by influencing our thoughts and allowing us to negatively respond to certain situations.

“Nobody can hurt me without my permission.” – Mahatma Gandhi



This article is intended for information purposes only and not to be considered as professional advice.

Michele Majul-Ibarra is an HR Professional. She graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology and a Certificate in Human Resource Management. She also holds the C.I.M. professional designation (Certified in Management). E-mail her at info@pilipino-express.com.

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