How To Stop Taking Things So Personally

by | Nov 29, 2022 | Healthy Relationships, Personal Growth

It can be difficult not to take things personally sometimes. 

  • Someone doesn’t return your phone call. 
  • Another person is “busy” every time you invite them to do something. 
  • Yet another person asks you why you’re always “so emotional.” 

When we interpret other people’s actions as a “report card” on our loveability, our worthiness, our safety, or our inherent goodness – we suffer.  

I became acutely aware of this recently when someone left me a long voicemail, wanting to connect and catch up with me.  

I left a return voice message back right away: I was happy to hear from them, had a really busy schedule at the moment, and offered to connect with them after the holiday season passed.  

Two days later, I received this: “Um, hi.  I haven’t heard from you and you haven’t responded to my attempts to reach out to you, and I don’t know, I guess I am just feeling really ghosted or something by you.  Like what’s up with that? It doesn’t feel good. OK, bye.” 

My heart went out to them at that moment.  For whatever reason, they clearly hadn’t received my voicemail response, and were feeling hurt, confused and wanting information.  Maybe they wanted to know that they mattered; maybe they were feeling vulnerable and wanted more understanding and connection.  

I also felt some tension arise in me around the insinuation that I had “ghosted” them, and noticed myself bracing against the part of me that felt defensive and wanted to be known for the truth of my intentions.  I had called. I had cared. I had responded.  

If I had taken the “I am just feeling really ghosted or something by you” personally, things could have rapidly gone south.   It was enough that this dear person had already taken my apparent non-response personally, without my adding fuel to that fire.  

I replied – via text this time –  with some empathy and curiosity about what may have happened to the VM that I had left right away.  They texted back, “Ugh … sorry … I didn’t see your VM so I went darker and darker as the days went by. Sorry sorry sorry.” 

We’ve all been there. Sometimes we “go darker and darker” in the absence of information, clarity and connection.  We take things personally and start reacting as if our worst fears have just come to pass.  

So, what can we do to stop the spiral, and to stay in connection with one another?
What might help us take things less personally?  

Here are some tips: 

Remember: It’s Not About You.

Understanding that all people are ever doing is trying to meet their most pressing needs in any given moment is key to not taking things so personally. When someone takes something that you said or did personally, see it as an expression of something they fear, not as something about you!  If I had focused on the subtle accusation that I had “ghosted” someone, I would have been more likely to respond from a place that centers me: I don’t ghost people; I called back, I didn’t do anything wrong.  However, when I focus on what they might be feeling or needing (instead of making it about me), I may guess that someone is afraid that they aren’t important, afraid that they don’t matter.  I might connect with their fears, worries and vulnerabilities and when I focus in that way, my heart is more likely to open towards them.   

When people respond to us with anger, accusation, blame or hurt, they are actually responding from an internal place of vulnerability or insecurity.  And, this often has less to do with the actual incident itself, and more to do with unhealed parts of themselves reaching out for help and compassion.  

Trust Your Goodness.

I knew that I wasn’t ghosting this person.
I knew that I had treated them with care.
I knew they mattered to me.
And, I knew there had to be a misunderstanding.

Had I felt insecure about myself and reactively had needed to “prove” my  goodness, I wouldn’t have been available for a more gentle, connecting conversation.  

The next time you experience a moment of self-doubt, take a few minutes to remind yourself of what is true about yourself and your actions.  Relax into that truth and allow any fears to move through you before you respond to others.  

Unpack Your Triggers.

When I take something personally, or feel more reactive and defensive about something than is usual for me, it’s often a cue that I am feeling unsure and vulnerable about an aspect of my identity.  Maybe I have some self-judgments or this incident has touched on a place of woundedness and fear in me. 

Practice Self-Compassion

Connecting gently with your present moment feelings, memories and needs is a way of being kind to yourself. It’s not the same as self-pity, which is when you feel sorry for yourself and stay stuck in that negative emotion. Nor is it self-indulgence, i.e., wallowing in emotions like guilt or sadness because it feels good to do so. Instead, practicing self-compassion means adopting an attitude of kindness toward yourself when you’re going through a difficult time and letting go of negative thoughts about who you are as a person. 

Let in Feedback 

The best way to stop taking things personally is simply to accept what people are saying as information about their meaning-making system, rather than resisting it and believing it’s true about you.  It’s easy to get defensive and argue when you feel criticized, but remember, all criticisms and judgments are just requests in disguise.  Listen for the neutral information, this person’s experience, the meaning they made of the event and what needs are up for them.  When you put your focus on their needs, with a commitment to caring about their needs – even if you’re unable to actually meet their needs, you’ll discover a well of compassion and options that weren’t available before.  

And, just a quick “cheatsheet” to summarize:


  • Don’t make it about you, or your identity 
  • Don’t get defensive or argue
  • Don’t blame others for your feelings
  • Don’t lash out or snap back 


  • Take a deep breath and regulate your own nervous system
  • Get fresh air and sunlight
  • Focus on your feelings and needs 
  • Focus on their feelings and needs 
  • Express empathy for their suffering 
  • Invite information about how they interpreted events 
  • Learn to reframe criticism as a gift and use it to your advantage
  • Share information or clarify anything that might be amiss
  • Express your own truth
  • Grieve the gap between intentions and impact 
  • Get curious about what might help 

Taking things personally can be a tough habit to break, but freedom and compassion abound on the other side! It gets easier and easier to start seeing how everything you encounter is simply an opportunity to meet people’s needs at a deeper level. 

To paraphrase something that Marshall Rosenberg often said, remember all anyone is ever saying boils down to a “please” or a “thank you.”
Once you truly live into this truth, you’ll have more fun in life, and be more open to new opportunities and experiences!

And now it’s your turn ….
What helps you to take things less personally?
I’d love to know!  Leave a comment below.


  1. Fatima Naqvi

    So beaut written. Thank You for sharing your experience.
    In such situations, I step back mentally for few seconds, empathize with myself first, then with the other( in front. As your stated there is some unmet need or desire that makes one resentful or remorse.

  2. Leah

    Well said Yvette and all so true! What helps me to not take others actions or reactions to my nervous system personally is to focus on fairness instead and ask “Am I being treated like others? Or am I being bullied?” So then whether or not something is personal isn’t preoccupying, but rather, what is, is my belief that we all deserve to be treated equally. I have found that the more fragile someone is, the more threatened they will be in general, especially by comparisons of themselves to others. So if I am being bullied as I was, for ex, by a professor in college, I go for trying to ameliorate the personality discrepancies and lack of nervous system fit. Once I got cancer, I had to become very good at this as Oncologists can have more avoidant personality styles and simply write me off, even as they dispense treatment. I was forced to confront them and we did ultimately hash our differences out and I receive fairness. But we are merely ants, briefly on this earth, and crawling into fits is the way to go. So the skills you teach us so that we may ask for fairness are golden.
    Here is what changed everything: Realizing, after enough years of being loved in the real world, that my violent Mother’s targeting of me was never personal. According to the shaper of my neuronal universe, “You are 99.9 your Dad, not me.” I was also born out of wedlock in 1960 and thus stressful for my mom from the beginning. My sister, born 11 months later, came after they had married. And then he died. So I, and not my sister was hated, beaten, rejected daily and threatened with foster care. As I grew up Mother grew so jealous and competitive, that the abuse became life threatening. This of course transferred to adulthood, where I rolled over for others so that they may better step on me. Fully grieving the injustice that my Mom’s choosing me was painful, but I knew deeply it said nothing “bad” about me enabled me to get fairness, which is mutual respect social intercourse. And an embrace of my intensity, unabashed love of others, and animation, that are the legacy of that abuse, but often a fit for some, and not for others. Que vive la difference!!

  3. Rene

    What helps me is to realize that things often are done with good intentions. Even if part of the intention is to fill in personal needs from the person with the good intention. For instance, someone offers help and expects you to be grateful so that person feels needed. Being clear towards another helps too to make things less personal for yourself and the other person instead of just walking away and withdrawing saying “I need some space right now for me, it is not personal, it is not something you did or said”

  4. Suzann Long

    When I am able tonot take things personally and I am conscious and mindful of it, The experience is overwhelming like the sun bursting out from behind a dark cloud..needs for freedom and integrity and loving kindness are met in abundance. I see the seeds planted with the help of Yvette and everyone on the calls beginning to grow and take root. I am beginning to be able to trust my goodness and consequently respond accordingly to others. It is freeing and connecting at the same time. Thank you
    and thank you Leah once again describing your experience . It is inspiring and i am honored


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