People are so wrapped up in their own lives. They really are. The Second of the Five Agreements is don’t take anything personally.
Do me a favor, don’t just read my blog – get the book. The Fifth Agreement is one of my top five most influential books I’ve read in my life. And it’s worth reading over, and over and over and over….basically any time you catch yourself breaking one of the agreements, you should go back and read it again. Because it makes life SO. MUCH. EASIER.
Have you ever watched one of those shows where there is a staged crime and then several eye witnesses are interviewed to give descriptions of the event? They all have different answers, and they all remember different things. Our life is much like that, too. First, people will always be concerned with their own welfare and happiness, including people that are concerned about others who you would never accuse of being selfish. My own mother in law – the most caring and sweet person in the world, makes the most selfish decisions. She REALLY LOVES to throw birthday parties for her family, and if she doesn’t get to she gets mopey. Even though her son would rather not ever have a birthday party, she makes a huge fuss about it and we basically have to have the party to make her feel good. She says it’s about him, but it’s really about her. She wants to have the party because it makes her feel good to do it for someone else. Many a martyr or kind saintly figure we come across might plea that they always have others in mind, and in their viewpoint they do. Take the story from another person’s perspective, and it changes.
So even when someone is doing something nice for you, they do it because being nice feels good, because being kind makes their spirits rise, because they are generally nice wonderful people, yes – but it also fits into their paradigms and their story they are crafting about the nice person they are.
When someone makes a decision that is inconsiderate or frustrating to you, it’s not about you either. You have to remember that everyone is playing out their own version of the script. No one sees the same thing, no one reads the same thing, and no one can understand everyone else’s emotions and thoughts. And if you continue to take everything everyone does personally, then you are in for a looooong and difficult, frustrating ride.
Take me for example. I am in a direct sales party plan business. In the beginning of my career, I would feel very personally attacked by any hostess who cancelled her date with me. How could she? Doesn’t she know this is my income? How come she was so thoughtless? Finally I asked one lady – what could I have done differently to hold this date with you? She explained absolutely nothing! I had sensed stress from her earlier on, and took it as her not wanting to communicate with me, and it ends up all along she was beating herself up about not being able to get people to come to her party and she felt guilty. She wasn’t trying to be mean to me at all – she was just upset. She ended up canceling finally and coming clean, but for two weeks before we had our open and frank conversation I’d been thinking why doesn’t she like me? I’ve been so nice? Why won’t she answer me about her guest list and how many people she has coming to the party, has she even sent out her invites? I tortured myself for no good reason. A great life skill set you can foster is asking direct and simple questions (that will be a later blog).
A popular example we use in our industry is one about restaurants. Let’s say that you own a Chinese restaurant. And I’m your best friend (I hate Chinese). I would come to your restaurant ONCE to be nice, to support you ONCE, and I would never ever ever ever come back. If I’m like most people, I’m not going to tell you I don’t like Chinese. If you took this personally, you would wonder forever why didn’t she return, doesn’t my friend like me, doesn’t my friend want to support my business, did I do something wrong, was the food bad? No, the food was great, for Chinese food (ick). And every time someone asks me for a great Chinese restaurant I would tell them your place, but if someone asked me for a great restaurant, I would tell them about my favorite place, Public House 124 down on Main. Not your restaurant. It’s not about you, it’s about me, and my personal tastes.
Now, that line above… If I’m like most people… let’s talk about that line for a minute. Remember yesterday’s blog? Agreement number one is Be Impeccable with your word. A better friend than I would have said, hey I’m going to come to your grand opening and invite all my friends, but I really really dislike Chinese food. Don’t take it personally, I won’t ever choose to eat there, but I’ll definitely recommend your place to anyone that asks!
By taking things personally, we end up making so many assumptions and thinking with our ego, rather than just saying it is what it is, and I can’t possibly know everything. There’s a lot of negativity that comes from taking things personally. And so much freedom from just deciding not to. As each moment passes, it passes, and that’s all we deal with is what is happening in the moment. Don’t make things more complicated than they need to be.
I love how learning about each agreement reinforces the others. Be honest, say what you mean, be direct with your communication, be impeccable with your word, but also realize that most people aren’t always following agreement number one. Any situation you face where other humans are making choices – it’s not about you. Unless they’re actually following the first agreement and tell you it’s about you 😉 (kidding).