Skillfully responding to ‘It’s not about you’ is about developing and maintaining strong personal boundaries and learning new skills that facilitate maintaining your power under duress.
Sometimes it’s when someone thinks we’re oversold on our self and we’re (to them anyway) acting like the world owes us. On the other hand, it may be a mistaken certainty (we’re certain but later discover we were mistaken) and we have erroneously claimed responsibility for something gone wrong – but it isn’t our fault! We were mistakenly connecting separate points to explain/understand why things happened the way they did. An easy example is parents getting a divorce and their children mistakenly presume it was their fault, something they did.
Other times, it’s an in-your-face attack. An example: Imagine an argument between friends or spouses. In the midst of the argument, Bob says hateful words and Sue feels hurt to her heart. Afterwards, Sue says Bob ‘pierced her heart with his words.’ Actually, Bob’s words fell on the floor and Sue picked them up and struck her own heart. We are each responsible for the way we interpret something another says. Although emotions can be volatile, and the other person may be close to our heart, it’s always our choice. Even when the other person hopes to hurt us with their words, it’s within our power and it’s our responsibility how we accept their words.
To paraphrase Viktor Frankl (Holocaust survivor), our power to choose our response is the one power no one can ever take away from us!
Think of it this way: Sue accepted Bob’s words, giving him the power to diminish her power when she absorbed instead of deflected. Effective responses would have been for Sue to say: ‘You may be right. Let me think about that and I’ll get back to you’ or ‘I’m so sorry you feel that way’ or ‘Looks like you’re having a bad day.’ Each of these disarm the conflict’s emotions and reclaim her power – the power she was giving Bob!
Too often, we’re like a sponge soaking it up and absorbing hurt like that’s our purpose but consider these options we have in receiving the words/actions inflected upon us:
- Like a nonstick pan, we can let things we don’t want slide off,
- Like a skillful martial arts master, we can deflect and redirect the onslaught,
- Like a strong Gatekeeper (Executive secretaries are strong gatekeepers — no one gets by unless they’re expected), we can keep party crashers from crashing in on us and ruining our day!