There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.
When I ask workshop participants and coaching clients what they’re hoping to gain from our work together and we begin to write down goals, they often say they want to learn how not to take the conflict personally. It’s a very common theme.
I look at this a lot, because I want that, too. In Don Miguel Ruiz’s insightful book, The Four Agreements, one of the agreements he suggests we make with ourselves to have a happier life is just this: “Don’t Take Anything Personally.”
Benjamin Zander, author, motivational speaker, and conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, often
quotes his father as saying, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”
I live in New Hampshire where winter can make each day a challenge. And, especially when I have to travel in snow and ice, I can even take the weather personally!
So how to we actually do it — not take things personally?
Personally, here’s what I do.
1) I reframe
I reframe it as not personal. Even when it seems to be, even when it hurts, I remember it isn’t about me. People do what they do because of who they are, not because of who you are. For example, when I imagine other ways the person might have behaved, I understand they chose this particular option because of their background, worldview, or perception of me, which may or may not be accurate.
2) I stop assuming
I stop assuming I know I anything about them. Assuming I know someone else’s motives is a kind of judgment of them, and I’ve found that assumptions and judgments of others’ motives is a trap — for them and for me. So I try to stay proactive with my inner and outer responses. And if their motives are disingenuous or malicious, I find out more quickly and can take steps to keep myself out of harm’s way. I might choose to avoid them or engage them in dialogue about the impact of their actions.
3) I stay curious
I stay curious about myself and the situation. I notice the assumptions I’m making and the reactions I’m about to have. Maybe my assumptions are accurate, and maybe they aren’t. What appears as anger directed at me may be general frustration at an unexpected outcome. When my family member says, “You never listen to me,” I can choose to hear it as a criticism or a call for support. I respond differently depending on how I choose.
On the wall in the waiting room of my health care provider hangs a sentence written by Plato over two centuries ago: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” As you move into the new year, resolve to notice when you’re making it personal, and see if it’s more purposeful to make a different choice. We invent life moment to moment. Invent it with clarity of intention.