“Don’t Take It Personally”

I was asked in a recent parenting seminar on any rules for dealing with the rollercoaster of teens. I turned and wrote on the board:

Rule 1: Take Nothing Personally

After the chuckles stopped, I added the second rule:

Rule 2: See Rule #1

That was it. That was the extent of the rules. Because it is the “taking it personally” that suddenly makes the conversation go downhill.

In his book, Four Agreements, Miguel Ruiz makes the same point.  One of his agreements is to take nothing personally.  The reason for his suggestion is because nothing is really personal.

When someone tells me he or she is angry with me, that person is saying much more about him- or herself than about me.  Whatever they say is a perception, not necessarily correct or true.

But our response is to become defensive, to react to the attack.  And there is a good reason for that.  Our brain’s most primitive part is designed to detect threat.  It is not designed to be good at assessing whether a threat is actual or not, only that there is a threat.  Brain researchers tell us that there is an area of the brain, the amygdala, that is deep within our brain structure.  It is always scanning for threat. 

Survival depends upon over-reacting.  So, we are better off,  survival-wise, responding to real threat and perceived threat with equal speed and force.  If I am walking down a path and see a crooked stick, my mind registers the possibility of a snake, and I freeze.  Then, the rest of my brain catches up and assesses that it is only a stick.  I move on.  Had it been a snake, but my brain was set to assume it was not a threat, I would have been bitten.  Not good for survival.

Unfortunately, what is good for survival is not so good for personal relationships.  When someone raises their voice to me, or uses critical words, my deepest instintual part sees threat.  And since the person probably doesn’t just stop, my mind continues to register threat.  Suddenly, my body is ready for one of two responses:  fight or flight.  Neither are particularly useful responses in having an intelligent discussion.

So, not taking it personally is a step in stopping that immediate response of fight/flight.  If it is not a personal attack, there is no reason to respond to the attack.  And, of course, as with most things, this is easier said than done.

Make it a spiritual discipline (which means you will have to work at it) to take nothing personally.  Whatever is said, do as your mother said “consider the source.”  And while your mother may have meant it in a somewhat derogatory way toward the other person, in this case, consider the views, feelings, and understandings of the other.  Perhaps the other is having a difficult time.  Perhaps there are some key things that trigger a response in the other.  Perhaps it has just been a misunderstanding.  Unfortunately, misunderstandings can spiral out of control as each misunderstands the other, resulting in resentments, which only increases the potential for misunderstandings.

Take nothing personally.

More marriage saving information can be found in my ebook, available by CLICKING HERE.Lee H. Baucom, Ph.D., is the author of the bestselling relationship ebook, Save The Marriage. It is available at http://www.savethemarriage.com .

By |May 11th, 2006|News, Uncategorized|0 Comments

What’s The Problem?

People often ask me: why do we have so many problems in marriage? From my perspective, it seems that a great deal of the problem comes from two directions.

1) We are raised to take care of ourselves. We are raised to be independent people, unaffected by those around us. Sometimes, the training doesn’t work, and we become people desperate for connection. We live at the extremes: independence or over-dependence. The best advice for marriages is interdependence. Relationships are helped when people are interdependent. In other words, both bring something to the table and add to the other, while still being distinct.

2) Culture plays against marriage. Listen to the songs, watch the TV and movies. We are surrounded by poor images of marriage. In fact, the dominant theme is having affairs and having casual sex. Neither are very healthy and helpful for marriage.

So, the roots are there, and then exacerbated by what we bring to the table. Marriage advice wants to make it some deep fault of each individual, but that is just the flavoring on the steak, not the meat of the issue.

More marriage saving information can be found in my ebook, available by CLICKING HERE.

By |May 2nd, 2006|News, Uncategorized|1 Comment