Do You Take Things Too Personally?
Today we welcome Stu Mills from Unlock the Door! I’m sure you’ve seen Stu here at Life, for instance and have read his deep and thoughtful comments. In this article, he talks about something we may all do at times. Take it away Stu!
Have you ever been in a situation where verbal attacks seemed personal, but weren’t about you at all? Do you take things too personally?
I had been called out to fix a television unit for a patient. This occasionally happens at the hospital where I work, so I walked into the bay and looked around for the right patient. After a second or so, I knew who had the problem because one man in the room looked very angry indeed.
I walked over to him, asking if it was his unit that had gone down (though I knew it was), and then got ready to fix it. What happened next surprised me. The patient sat down on his bed, looked me in the eyes, and said: “My lawyers are going to get in touch with your people.”
At first, I was stunned; what had I done to warrant this? I was trying to help! He then proceeded to detail what had happened, that his unit had been down for two days, that he missed the Royal Wedding, and that the operator had ‘blatantly lied’ to him. He was clearly furious, directing all his anger towards me. His eyes barely left me as I tried to repair his unit. I felt very uncomfortable.
After a few minutes, I had to leave to fetch some tools, and I excused myself. I was embarrassed; I’d never been spoken to like that before. As I left, I could hear other patients in the nearby beds joining in:
“That company is shit; they don’t do anything to help.”
“I had to threaten them with a court order before they got off their lazy backsides!”
When I returned, the air was thick with verbal poison. At that point, I just wanted to finish and get out as quickly as possible. I’d had enough. But then something popped into my head, a question, which helped me complete my work with a sense of grace and calm: “Could you be taking this too personally?”
And the truth was ‘yes, I was’ it wasn’t about me. For all their venom and spite, not one of the patients had attacked me personally. As soon as I realised this, I felt reassured. I realised I was taking it far too personally. They could say what they liked; I was only doing my job. I finished up, now letting the verbal poison bounce off me. I left with my head held high.
Have you ever taken anything too personally? Or have you learned to just let go from time to time? How do you handle an “attack” that feels personal, but really isn’t about you at all?
photo credit: Silke Baron