How to take things less personally

How to take things less personally

When it comes to happiness, it’s important to know what to do.

But it’s also important to know what NOT to do.

So identifying and being aware of those things that detract from or undermine our happiness, is a very worthy endeavour.

Now, the list of happiness enemies is a long one but one of the more common, is the unhelpful cognitive style of “personalising”. That’s when we unnecessarily take responsibility for bad things or blame ourselves for problems when in fact, someone or something else caused it or our contribution was only minor.

Taking things LESS personally, therefore, can make a massive difference which is why I’m happy to share this Psyche article by Joel Minden …

Need to know

The other day, I found out that one of my close friends had an extra ticket to a football playoff game, and he invited another friend instead of me. Hurt by this apparent slight, I thought I must have done something to make my friend mad, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. I also wondered if my friend thought I’d be a boring guest who’s not much fun to bring to a game. I wasn’t quite sure at first how to handle it, but eventually I decided to casually share what I’d heard the next time I saw him. He replied: ‘Yeah, I thought about asking you, but I know you don’t like football,’ which made me laugh – in part because it was true, but also because I had been so focused on what I believed this incident said about me that I overlooked a more likely explanation for his decision.

This example highlights two biased forms of thinking that involve taking things too personally. The first is personalisation, which is believing that you’re the cause of a negative event, despite having little or no evidence to support the belief. In my case, I thought I had missed out on an opportunity because I upset my friend, even though I had no idea what I had done. The second is mind reading, which is believing that someone is making a critical judgment about you, especially in an ambiguous situation where you’ve received no direct feedback. Again, in my case, I assumed that my friend thought I wouldn’t be fun to bring to a game, basing my belief solely on the fact that I wasn’t invited.

You can find examples of these beliefs in many ordinary experiences. Personalisation can emerge after any unwanted event but, for some, it stands out the most when other people are involved. Suppose you encountered a relatively minor social disappointment, like sharing a picture of friends online, only to find out later that one friend hates how they looked in that shot. In this situation, beating yourself up about it might highlight a personalisation bias (thinking it’s all your fault), particularly if your friend didn’t ask you to get their input before sharing photos.

Similarly, even the smallest interactions can drive a mind-reading bias. If you ask your server at a restaurant to explain exotic dishes or ingredients, you might imagine that they view you as pushy or uncultured. Or if you struggle to describe the details of your pet’s symptoms when you call the veterinarian, you might worry that they think you’re wasting their time. In these situations, it’s likely that the other person will actually have a certain amount of patience after numerous encounters with people who are unfamiliar with their job-specific jargon. But if you tend to take things personally, your attempts to make sense of their reactions could distort your sense of what’s actually happening.

There are several problems with these errors in thinking. The first, of course, is that they’re inaccurate, driven more by feelings, personal histories, ambiguity and conspicuously negative information than by objectivity. Another is that, if you commit to these biased beliefs, you limit your emotional options to feeling sad about your perceived flaws, anxious about your ability to withstand upcoming social challenges, or angry at others for not being nicer. Finally, they limit your behavioural options. If you accept these thoughts as facts, it can be hard to see past giving up, avoiding or lashing out. In short, these tendencies to take things too personally restrict your emotional and behavioural options and increase the likelihood that you’ll struggle with distress or dysfunction.

The importance of these cognitive biases was outlined by the psychiatrist Aaron T Beck, who emphasised in his cognitive model of depression the reciprocal relations among self-defeating, hopeless thoughts, feelings such as immense sadness, and passivity or withdrawal. The terms personalisation and mind reading were popularised by the psychiatrist David D Burns, who brought these concepts to a consumer audience in his classic self-help bookFeeling Good (1980)…

… keep reading the full & original article HERE