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10 Questions about "Not Taking Things Too Personally" on Sonshine FM Table Talk

Updated: 3 days ago




I recently joined the lovely Johanne Pillay, in the Sonshine FM Radio Studios to discuss "Not Taking Things Too Personally".

Not only did Johanne ask excellent questions on her Table Talk show, it was such a pleasure to discuss this topic and provide some helpful tips to the Sonshine FM listeners. Jo shows her genuine heart for encouraging and loving people so openly, and even though I was a wee bit (ok quite) nervous, Jo made it a wonderful experience.


Not taking things too personally is a very popular topic, so I thought I would share the discussion with you, with the answers providing a little more detail than our aired conversation. I hope you enjoy this read, and if you'd like to listen to the podcast, here's a link! https://www.sonshine.com.au//shows/table-talk-with-jo/


1. Does taking things personally relate to a person’s maturity and mental/emotional health?


Yes it does... The degree to which an adult takes things too personally is a very reliable indicator of their maturity and general mental health.


You might think “Well why is that? It’s because this indicates that regular misinterpretation is occurring for this person.

The trouble with this is that the person’s feelings or thoughts are misrepresenting the present situation to them. This is usually due to unresolved past hurt, parental influence, self-rejection or previous trauma among other causes. It essentially highlights that there is healing needed for this person. So there will be a need to develop some personal skills in responding to the thoughts and feelings that lead to taking things too personally.


This person is at risk of feelings-based living, which is living a life directed by your feelings. (This is a sure-fire way to create trouble and dysfunction) It’s troublesome because our feelings are not always an indicator of what is true. And we can only live with sound mental health if we align our feelings with truth and reality - not the opposite way around.


Feelings are a subjective internal experience - not an objective, factual reality that everyone on the planet lives in. So when we allow our feelings to decide and determine our reality for us, we venture away from reality. When what we need to be doing is allowing our rational mind - and reality to keep us aligned with what is real and true.


As a side note...

When a person’s thoughts and feelings are misrepresenting situations to them, it results in all sorts of negative repercussions. Unnecessary conflict and loss of relationship, not only in friendships but also in parenting, pastoring, professional relationships and not least of all, trust (for both people involved).


2. Why is it important to recognise everyone has agendas and contextualise their comments?


It’s important to recognise that everyone has their own agenda - intentions, motives, plans and pressures in their lives.


When taking things too personally, we often assume “it’s about me” when in reality it isn’t. More often than not it’s about what’s going on in another person’s world and it’s not about us at all. 


We also sometimes assume that others are thinking / feeling the same as we are. So we fall into the trap of projecting what we think and feel onto them or assuming we know what they were thinking or intending. But we often get this wrong.


It’s important to contextualize other’s comments because we may otherwise misinterpret the situation - and then react in a disproportionate way. (For example, shutting down and silently withdrawing, or blowing up and escalating the situation.)


Disproportionate reactions occur when a present situation bears some resemblance to a past experience when we were significantly hurt, vulnerable or afraid - and the associated feelings from the past automatically re-occur... (without our understanding of this connection to the past)


This all happens automatically without any active intention of your own. So feelings like being belittled, dismissed, shamed, unloved, unwanted, rejected, and so on, may arise - and this is what’s crucial - it’s not about the present. It’s about the past. 


So the trouble is that it’s not common knowledge that our feelings aren’t a reliable guide to the present reality - they are a reflection of the past.

We need to learn to hear what people are actually saying, rather than what our feelings or history is telling us they’re saying.


For example, when we feel offended, we can automatically think 'my feelings are telling me how it is' and therefore “This person is being intentionally hurtful”. But with a more accurate reflection of these feelings and finding the link to their past source, we realise - this feeling is just the past on repeat. For example, this feeling dates back to the hurt I felt growing up because "my mum / dad was extremely critical of me and I never felt good enough".

So we can make the mistake of projecting our feelings from past experiences onto current situations when it is not actually the same situation at all. 


Some tips for Contextualising - Ask Yourself:

  • “To take this in context, what are the external factors I need to take into consideration?” 

  • “Did I hear the actual words they said, or what I expected to hear?”

  • “Am I projecting my view onto this person?” (my view of me, thinking it's theirs?)

  • “What does the evidence say?” (note-to-self, my feelings are not considered evidence)


3. Can you explain the concept of off-loading and how it manifests in interpersonal relationships?


“Offloading” is when someone takes out their negative feelings on someone who is unrelated to the cause or source of it, this is usually an innocent bystander, family member or friend.


For the person that is displacing their emotional offload - this is a psychological defence mechanism in which a person re-redirects a negative emotion from its original source to a less threatening recipient.


To put it simply, “Off-loading” manifests as someone “taking it out on others” and this varies a little for children and adults.


Young children are less likely to manifest this behaviour because they’re not more open and direct about expressing their feelings. Regardless of whether their response is appropriate, they’re not so restrained about telling you what they think or feel.


For example: 

A frustrated 4-year-old is more likely to simply yell at their parent.

A 16-year-old young adult, might displace their frustration with a parent by fighting with a younger sibling.


As another example, an adult employee who is reprimanded by their manager for making mistakes at work later arrives at home and when their spouse reminds them they forgot to take the rubbish out snaps at their spouse “Get off my back!” 


As a side note...

This highlights the need for better communication and assertiveness skills. 

Conflict delayed is conflict amplified, so it’s really important to speak up before you get angry.


You don’t need to get angry with someone if you’ve already set a boundary with them. You then let consequences do the rest.


4. How can unrealistic expectations contribute to feelings of disappointment in relationships?


One of the most common examples of this occurring is when two people are early into their marriage.

Both people have different pictures in their mind of 'how things are meant to be', so they have different expectations. 


These expectations are based on the spectrum of their personal experiences - which is vast! Not to mention the influence of other’s opinions. Which doesn’t seamlessly match up with the other person.


Expectations automatically exist in us all - and it causes disappointment because we haven’t taken into perspective the essential aspect of the other person’s expectations.


When we balance our expectations with others - then we can agree, 

and have much more harmony in our relationships. Balancing expectations with others is the aim here, as this establishes a foundation that you both can work together from.


If you do find yourself frequently disappointed by others, a worthy question to ask yourself is “Did we balance our expectations of each other?” 


Instead of assuming others are on the same page as us, we’re better off having the conversation “Hey I just want to check-in to see if we’re on the same page...” 


Learning effective negotiation skills is really beneficial in response to balancing expectations and setting more realistic expectations for others. 


5. What strategies can be employed to navigate someone else's bad day without taking it personally?


It’s really important to recognise that others can have a bad day too.


We all face many challenges throughout life, and nobody is exempt from this - so when it’s not about you, there is no need to take it personally.


When someone has an outburst, it’s also helpful to remember that this is an indication they are under significant emotional pressure. 

Another’s bad mood does not need to drag you down with it - you can choose your response.


Remind yourself “Others can only offload on me if I choose to wear it.”


It’s ok for them to have a bad day or a bad mood, and it’s a reflection of what they’re going through.

Here are some tips!


1. Set your focus - what is it you want to accomplish?

  • Eg I’m going to have a good day even if my spouse is stuck in a mood.

2. Set your intention - why is this so important, why does this matter?

  • Eg. Why? Because this is my day off, and I need to run errands, get organised and take some time out to relax.

  • If I don’t, I’ll go to work tired on Monday and that might just put me in a mood! :)

  • What is it I need to tell myself, it’s ok for them to be in a mood, and for me to set a boundary - by not allowing it to infect me too. 

3. Offer support

  • I can offer my support and encouragement, but if they want to remain in a mood - that is their choice.

  • It’s not up to me to “fix” another person’s mood - I can only have the power to influence someone - not change them. 


6. What does it mean to say that "they can only off-load on me if I choose to wear it"?


It means there is a boundary you can draw, as to whether you choose to wear it (accept and absorb) another person’s mistreatment.


If you experience someone off-loading their anger or frustration on you, it is not because of you - it’s because they have other influences pressuring their behaviour to react this way. 


So the first thing is to recognise that another person’s outburst - anger -and even abuse, is not your fault.

A person’s feelings and behaviour are the sole responsibility of that person. So you are not responsible for another person’s outburst - their response is their responsibility.


You have the freedom to choose your response, instead of automatically taking it to heart. The Bible says “Guard the affections of your heart” - so you have the ability to assess the situation, and guard your heart from what is neither true or good.


You can choose what you tell yourself in your own mind, what feelings you dwell on, and by these intentional actions you can direct your attitude, and your feelings. 


God has given each of us the freedom to choose, it is part of our free-will and ability to have self-control. 


So choose not to wear it - not to automatically take to heart things that are not true. Guard your heart to the degree that you only allow truth to enter it and make its home there.


7. How does having the presence of Jesus within ourselves influence how we respond to criticism or negative comments?


The presence of Jesus or the Holy Spirit within us changes everything, it has a significant impact on how we respond to others.

It’s a phenomenal thing to try to describe actually. I personally understand what it feels like to struggle in my own weakness and inability to forgive, be patient or be gracious to others.

We all have a propensity to this weakness as humans and there’s no shortage of opportunities in this life to experience being hurt, offended or mistreated.


But also I know what it feels like to feel empowered by the Spirit, to witness patience, kindness, forgiveness and love, that I did not naturally possess before. And I know that it’s not something I could have just obtained overnight.

It’s like love (the true kind - selfless, love without fear) has supernaturally been infused into your heart, and you have a sense of peace that comforts you and keeps you grounded no matter what happens.


So when you seek God - you open up your hearts to receive, when you search for truth about Him - He speaks to your heart, He heals up your wounds, He gives you courage, and peace that vanquishes every worry.


There is a point at which the Spirit intercedes and changes your heart from a stony self-protective one - to a heart with grace, where you feel unburdened of past pain and trauma because His presence cleanses your soul. 

It is such a wonderful experience to witness yet to describe it, well, the work of God in the heart of one who truly seeks Him is beautiful beyond words. 


As a side note... 

The best source for seeking God is obviously the Bible. If you're new to this and seems a bit much to start with, open up one of the first New Testament gospels like John or Matthew. There are many books that write beautifully about the truth of God’s love - two of my favourite authors are Charles Spurgeon and Max Lucado.


8. What are some characteristics of deeply insecure individuals, and how can we avoid becoming "thin-skinned"?


Some characteristics of a deeply insecure person are over-sensitivity - very easily offended or upset, and can be more destructive like being controlling or manipulative. So people may feel like they need to walk on eggshells around them, and avoid being honest with them.


To heal from having become thin-skinned - over-sensitive or taking things too personally. 


First, if you experienced neglect, dysfunction or abuse as a child, ask your Heavenly Father to direct you towards the right help and for His help in healing. Don’t ever give up on asking either! Sometimes you must pass the point of giving up and persist still - before your prayer is answered - so never give up! :)


Second, please don’t take this personally but you will really benefit from developing healthy boundaries and better communication skills. But hey those who are self-aware will have recognised their need for this already - so no surprises there!


Third, it’s like the wise person who builds a house, they don’t build it on a swamp with sinking soil, and they don’t built it on a desert - with shifting sands. They build it on a foundation - a very strong one at that.


Otherwise the house will not stand firm, the ground beneath it will shift in changing weather and circumstances.


So likewise when you build the foundation of who you are on a firm foundation, you are not swayed and broken down by the pushes and pulls of other’s opinions and words.


Other’s treatment of you does not define who you are. So you must not put your worth in other’s hands.


When you put your worth in other’s hands, you’re giving it away - and one day they may praise you - then next they may toss you aside. 


So your worth must never be left for others to define. 


God created you as precious, and nothing changes His love for you. Now that’s a foundation that will never shift or change beneath your feet!


The foundation of who you are must be established on what is true. Nothing else will keep you secure like this.


9. Why is it important to set boundaries and earn trust before allowing others to define or describe us?


Just as you don’t leave your worth in other’s hands to determine. You also don’t allow others to define you as a person, if they don’t actually know you, or haven’t demonstrated that they’re trustworthy.


If someone hasn’t taken the time to get to know you first, then their opinion of you doesn’t hold much weight does it? - What could they be establishing their opinion on then? Assumptions perhaps? All sorts of things.. without evidence or truth.


So we mustn’t allow other’s who don’t know us, to define who we are.


If someone hasn’t earned your trust yet (by demonstrating honesty, integrity, respect, humility, consistency etc), then they haven’t yet earned the right to define who you are either.

 

So you mustn’t automatically accept other’s opinion of you - take it to heart - or take it personally.


So this is a really healthy boundary to set for yourself and others - “Before I give others the right to define or describe me - they must first take the time to get to know me, and they must demonstrate that they are trustworthy.”


Allow only what is true, to define who you are. 


The only one who can truly define who you are is the one who created you - only God knows your true value, so his opinion of you is trustworthy.


He says you are precious and loved, that you have a purpose and you are His. He claims you as His own - wow, that’s quite something, you are wanted by the Creator of the universe. 


It’s important to set boundaries in relationships because there needs to be healthy limits to our personal responsibility, our space, control and freedoms.


Boundaries also establish a healthy guide for our thoughts, feelings, 

words and actions. (It’s helpful to know where the line should be drawn.)


Every relationship needs healthy boundaries so that 

love is balanced with wisdom, responsibility is balanced with freedom, control is balanced with the limitations of personal power and so on. 


Without boundaries, relationships are unhealthy, and they can become unstable, unsafe and unloving. If you don't have healthy boundaries, you may be allowing others to walk over you, giving your power away, allowing others to treat you in ways that violate your principles and even rights. 


If you have a habit of “people-pleasing” or “needing to have control” - then applying healthy boundaries is key to establishing a healthy balance in your relationships.


10. How does declaring - "enough is enough” contribute to resilience and self-acceptance in the face of criticism or negativity?


Declaring “enough is enough” is setting a boundary for yourself to acknowledge you are enough.


You are enough, because God loved you before you could do anything to deserve it - so you don’t need to measure up to some imaginary - self-imposed standard to be “enough to be loved”. 


You can declare for yourself - I am enough, because I am already loved. 

Love is not something you earn, it is something that is given. 


It’s strange that there is a part of us that often defaults to this dilemma of trying to earn what God has already freely given.


We are loved, to unimaginable lengths! More significantly than we can fathom.


Being loved and valued by God - that’s enough. 


When it comes to self-acceptance, this is best aligned with God’s acceptance.

God’s acceptance is apparent - He loves us and accepts us through Jesus. 


Yet you can love and accept someone even when they have destructive behaviour...

Think of the “terrible two’s” 

just like a child can be destructive, so can an adult. It doesn’t mean they are not loved - but their behaviour certainly isn’t. 


So it’s true to say “I love you, but I don’t love your behaviour” - or “I love you, but your behaviour is not acceptable because it’s destructive.” 


In the same way, we are loved by God, but it doesn’t mean that He loves our behaviour. That’s just reasonable isn’t it, because we’re rather destructive when left to our own devices! 


So it’s important to recognise this as a separate matter to our being loved and accepted. That is settled - we are loved and accepted. 


So far as whether we have room to grow - yes absolutely!

We all have opportunity to clean up our act - to align ourselves with truth and love and wisdom... To grow in patience, humility, and kindness.


As a side note... 

In the face of criticism and negativity - it’s important to allow what is true to challenge you. If you have room to grow in an area - consider it, take it in your stride, allow yourself the challenge, swallow your pride and get to work. 


Before you can grow in wisdom, you must grow in humility.


If someone’s delivery of feedback or advice is aggressive, dismissive or belittling etc, you are also welcome to offer them some feedback too...

Eg. “I’ll be open to hearing your feedback when you can deliver it in a respectful way.” 


I hope you've enjoyed this read. If you have any feedback or further questions about this topic, please feel free to get in touch! :)



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