Don’t take it personally

One of the most helpful tips I’ve learned over the past couple of years of personal development is to “not take it personally”.


I feel like I should prefix this by mentioning that I listen to a lot of podcasts. Some time ago I realised I have a large chunk of time in my day to myself. Between walking the dogs and commuting to work I have about 2 hours a day where I can be listening to things.

Instead of listening to music I started listening to web development podcasts including the Five Minute Geek Show. The thing that struck me about Matt Stauffer, who presents the Five Minute Geek Show, is that he didn’t just talk about technology. The podcast included non-technical topics like ‘Find Your Power’, ‘Overwhelming Stress and Anxiety’ and ‘Don’t be a jerk’. He made me realise that being good at technology wasn’t the most important thing in the career of a developer.

Personal Development

After absorbing the entire catalogue of the Five Minute Geek Show I was keen to learn more about personal development. I did my research and started listening to Dave Stachowiak on Coaching For Leaders, in spite of the tagline (they are born!), I was fascinated by the multitude of guests.

One of my favourite guests was Tom Henschel from The Look and Sound of Leadership podcast. Tom talked with Dave about ‘How to handle a boss who’s a jerk’, one of the ideas in this conversation was that you shouldn’t take things personally.

Suddenly a lot of things started to make sense. I was taking a lot of things personally and maybe the things people say were not personal attacks but just people acting like jerks.

How to stop taking things personally in 99 simple steps

Step 1, always enter every room backwards while humming the Night Rider theme tune. Just joking.

I’m not a coach so I can’t give you any more advice other than just doing it. I found it easy to notice when I’d taken something personally and try not to repeat that mistake. I tried not to get wrapped up in whatever chaos the person was causing and tried to keep myself focussed on other, more important tasks.

Attempting to cause less confusion

I decided to flip this on it’s head and attempt to be clearer with my communications. What if I was accidentally giving out messages that were not clear and may be taken the wrong way?

Soon I realised that trying to be witty or clever was actually a route to ruffling some feathers. Maybe some of the perceived ‘personal attacks’ were responses to my attempted humour or unnecessary sarcasm.

All my problems have been solved!

Well… not exactly. It does help to try not to take things personally. It also helps to realise that some people are just happy being jerks and that’s never going to change.

Useful resources

Do checkout the podcasts mentioned, this episode of The Look and Sound of Leadership is particularly on point with this article.

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