A Jewish Matchmaker’s Guide to “letting it slide…”
The righteous indignation of taking things personally; we’ve all experienced it. And we often make rash judgments and have hair-trigger responses when it happens. Why do we tend to believe that our way is the only acceptable way? Why can’t we hear a difference of opinion and not take it personally? Why are we so self-centered that we think the actions and words of another person have something, anything to do with us?
The answer to that last question is too broad a scope for this blog, but I do have a few tips for putting things in perspective when we feel put out by the words or actions of someone else. It’s easy to say “don’t take it personally”, but it’s not easy advice to internalize, but a slight change in thought processes or some objective analysis might help to bring your blood pressure back to normal so you can move on from the perceived slight into a more spacious and welcoming place- which is optimal if you are looking to share your life with someone else.
1) Your opinion is only your opinion. And in my opinion, this is the strongest advice on the subject. Yes, you think your way is the right way; you’ve had years of experience figuring out the right way, and now you want to share your right way with others. Guess what? Everyone else feels the same about how they do things. Guess what again? No one is “right” and the way someone else does it is just as valid and acceptable as the way you do it, or say it, or prepare it, or clean it, or raise it, or eat it, etc… The best confirmation of this is to remember something about which you once changed your opinion and realize that you defended your opinion just as strongly before you changed it, as you did after you changed it. Silly, isn’t it?
2) Approach all interaction as a learning experience. When you approach human interactions with the desire to learn something new, you put an entirely different spin on things. Most people are having a conversation not with the intent to learn a new perspective or see the world through the eyes of another, but with the goal of stating their opinion. We all do it- no need to beat ourselves up about it, but if you go into an interaction with the express desire to focus on what the other person thinks and feels- and refrain from correcting, defending, explaining, or advising- you just might learn something.
3) It isn’t about you. Believe it or not, as amazing as you are, most of what people say, do, or feel has nothing to do with you. There is no need to take offense. People act and react from their idea of who they are and what life has taught them. If someone disagrees with your parenting style- it has nothing to do with you; it has everything to do with what he/she has seen, heard, and experienced. The sooner you understand this, the quicker you’ll be able to “let things go”. Once you master this, you’ll be genuinely interested in hearing the perspective of someone else, as well as what led them to that perspective – learning about the other person and possibly gaining a broader perspective of your own.
4) Know thyself. If you are moving through life without introspection and some knowledge of your own behaviors and beliefs, you will probably be offended quite often. The thing is, we all have “triggers”- sensitive spots that when touched, can cause us to react without thinking. Maybe you are particularly sensitive to criticism because you were raised by a critical parent or you feel a sibling received more attention than you, so you are offended when you feel slighted or ignored. If you do the inner work to discover your areas of sensitivity, then you will be more aware when another person says or does something that pushes that trigger, and you can temper your reaction.
5) If all else fails…. Most people are basically good and don’t intend to say or do something that will hurt someone else. Yes, we have all said or done something out of spite when we are reacting from a hurt place, but most of the time, we don’t want to cause pain to anyone. If someone says or does something that feels hurtful to you, take the perspective that they probably spoke out of ignorance or obliviousness and that the intent was not to harm you or make you feel bad. And if it seems they really are trying to hurt you, look beneath the action and discover the pain that is causing them to lash out. Turn your attention to the other person and off of yourself, because as I mentioned before- it’s not about you.