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Don’t Take It Personally

By Cassy Mulhern | Posted on 02.27.2013 | 6 comments
Don’t Take It Personally
In our last post, You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover, we talked about Precipitating Factors. Precipitating Factors could be problems at home or a car breaking down on the way to work—anything that contributes to a person acting irrationally or lashing out over a seemingly small incident, acting outside of their normal behavior.
Have you been on the receiving end of someone’s acting-out behavior? How did you feel during and after the hostility? Hurt, upset, confused, mad? Did you feel that you must have done something wrong? Or did you want to yell right back at the person?
We need to stay calm and in control and try to not take someone’s hurtful behavior personally. In our Prepare Training® program, we refer to this as Rational Detachment. If we don’t practice Rational Detachment, we are more likely to respond in a defensive, argumentative way, which could further escalate a situation. Our intent in a situation like this is to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.
  So how do we rationally detach when someone goes off on us?

1.    Have a Plan
One of the first things we recommend is that you have a plan ready ahead of time for how to respond to some common outbursts that could occur in your workplace. Practice calm, professional responses to the outbursts you may face by visualizing yourself in a situation with a difficult person and responding exactly how you would if the outburst was really happening. This “strategic visualization” is a common concept, especially in sports, where athletes visualize themselves in game situations running the perfect route for a touchdown, having a perfect shot off the tee to set up a birdie shot, or acing a serve.

2.    Use Positive Self-Talk
Another way to rationally detach is to not take the other person’s behavior personally and use positive self-talk.  We need to realize that we may not be the true target of someone’s hostile behavior and that anyone else could have received the same outburst. Tell yourself, “This may not be about the two of us; it may be about other issues in his life.” Or repeat to yourself, “I’m going to be respectful. I’m going to be respectful.”

3.    Release Negative Energy
It’s very important that we explore ways to release the negative energy gathered during a confrontation. Positive ways of doing this include exercising, taking breaks, and meditating. For example, right after a conflict occurs, take a break and walk around outside to clear your head. Or call a loved one to talk and prevent you from replaying the conflict over and over in your mind. Or drive around blaring music and singing to calm down and release stress.
These quick reminders are great ways for you to maintain and promote workplace cultures full of respect, service, and safety all year round.
Please help fellow readers by sharing your favorite positive ways to expel negative energy absorbed during conflicts!
Jimmie P. Hicks
Excellent material, newed more free stuff
4/26/2013 8:33:04 AM
John Nagley
Simple just turn and face them; smile and giggle.
3/8/2013 7:58:19 AM
Michael Ho
If someone says something that pushes your button, step back and examine that button.For example,if somebody called you "fat" and you have issues over your size, then it will hit you; if you were very thin and toned and were called the same,you'd probably laugh the remark off. As humans,we all love positive remarks and loath negative ones. If those remarks were true, I would better myself for myself and not anybody else. A word is just vibrations of air molecules coming out of our mouths, nothing more, nothing less! In such a situation where someone is having a go at me verbally, I normally visualise myself as being an actor on a dramatic soap series on tv, or on Springer or Jeremy Kyle; I'm on an actor and at the end of the play, I'll take off my stage mask and put on my real one and go home.Or do a Homer Simpson and let your brain go "Lalalalala.."!!!
3/7/2013 3:59:48 PM
Nicole Williams
Finding a release is very important. We are only human and there are going to be sometimes when you are going to take it personal. You might feel like the individual who us acting-out just hates something about and that is why the person is always targeting you.
What really works for me is Kick-Boxing, Yoga and Meditation. The Kick boxing get’s out my own anger aggression and negative feelings, not to mention it puts me in amazing shape! The Yoga, Meditation/Prayer calms and centers me.
3/7/2013 2:08:24 PM
Raquelle Solon
Thank you for taking the time to share your own experiences on this important issue Scott. We always enjoy hearing from our Certified Instructors! I think you made some interesting points. I wish to offer a few of my own thoughts based on my experience.

It is human nature to be upset. It is also difficult to refrain from taking things personally, but not impossible. How we respond to a situation makes a marked difference in how it plays out. The overall goal is to avoid power struggles and refrain from a knee-jerk reaction to disruptive behavior. Providing your participants with strategies for de-personalizing difficult situations is an important goal. I believe this is the point made in Cassy’s blog entry. You make an excellent point about the fact that many times staff may need to wait to release the tension or negative energy. Having a means to do this in order to help keep calm is important. Just a few examples include: physical exercise – take a walk, debriefing with a supervisor or talking with a friend or co-worker, and listening to music after the incident. In the heat of the moment, staff may need to take an emotional step-back and self-talk to help us respond appropriately. Again, it's great to hear about the strategies our Certified Instructors are using and sharing with others.
2/28/2013 3:33:55 PM
Scott Workman
Cassy, I am a NVCI instructor and have worked as military police and security in public schools and now in a hospital. I've had quite a few opportunities to practice rational detachment and help others through it and I've come to think that "not taking it personally" is not possible. We all take things personally--it's human nature to be upset when another person acts out toward you. I believe the difference is how long it takes you to get over it. I have over 30 years in the military, law enforcement and security so I can get over things very quickly whereas the less experienced security officers and medical staff I train may not be able to. So I try to give them strategies for how to both stay rationally detached and get over it quicker each time it happens. You usually have to stay at work after the event and can't release the negative energy until you get off work so you need to learn how to keep going. Cheers!
2/27/2013 7:10:39 PM