How to Not Take Things Personally: 6 Helpful Questions

Improve your self-esteem and happiness by not taking things so personally.

When you feel attacked by someone, it can be hard not to take it personally.

It may have been a throw-away comment, direct criticism, bad behaviour or merely a facial expression from somebody that has got you upset. And now it has you questioning the entire situation on repeat – the words that were said, and your entire life in general.

It’s enough to ruin your day.

Even worse, it can impact your relationships and greatly reduce your happiness.

If you take everything personally and to heart, it will tear you apart. Take criticism, learn, adjust, and move on. Johnny Iuzzini

So, what can we do instead of letting such situations drag us down? Well, I find that asking myself a few simple questions always does the trick. It’s proactive and shifts the energy in an otherwise nasty encounter.

Here are 6 helpful questions to ask yourself, when you want to make sure you’re not taking things so personally:


Do I need to clarify the details of what happened?

It can be so easy for things to be misconstrued.

For example, text messages lack tone, body language, facial expressions and emotion – some pretty important components of communication. Even in face to face conversations, I’ve been in situations where things have been misheard, people get distracted (hello, small children at your feet!) and sometimes people speak without having all the facts.

Stop and think. Take a step back and reassess. Before you take something personally, is there anything you can ask to clarify the situation to make 100% sure you and the other person are on the same ‘page’?

Often times, it’s a simple miscommunication and the issue can be rectified quickly.

Is this more about them?

Can I think about this from their shoes?

This isn’t about trying to place blame. It’s about empathizing and attempting to understand the situation from the other person’s perspective. When we are able to do this, we start to see the situation differently.

Are they going through a tough time? We all have our own ‘stuff’ going on and depending on stress at the time, we don’t always act how we should do. This is of course, not an excuse, but it goes a long way in helping us to understand that we don’t need to take this personally – because basically it’s not about us at all!

If the relationship is important to you, it’s best to communicate with the person involved. Let them know how you’re feeling by this encounter – speak up and let them know!

Is this in or outside of my control?

Thinking about the situation, is there something you can do about it or not? Is it within your area of control (your actions, your thoughts, your behaviour)? Then do it. Take action towards fixing the issue.

Or is the situation completely out of your control (other people or external forces)? Because if so, there is absolutely no reason for you to be taking this personally.

You may be being unfair to yourself if you’re holding yourself accountable for such things.

Is there some truth here?

This can be a hard one, but it’s so important to be self-aware. Is there actually some slither of truth about what has been said?

If you’ve heard this before from others – received similar ‘feedback’ or ‘criticism’ before, then you may be getting offended because deep down you know there is something true about it.

Put aside the hurt for a while and sit with the thought. What part do you play in this situation and how can you best move forward from it?

What steps can I take to build up my self-esteem and confidence?

When our self-esteem and confidence is high, we rarely take things personally. We know and understand ourselves. We are aware of our limitations and take steps to rectify things that are within our control. We are confident in trusting ourselves and standing up for ourselves when need be.

Therefore, to avoid taking things so personally in future, focus on building up your own self-esteem, happiness and confidence.

Related: Make Happiness for Yourself: 20 Simple Tips

Where can I move my focus to instead?

Sometimes there is literally nothing we can do about changing a situation. No clarification can be sought, no apologies made and no rhyme or reason.

Instead of mulling over it and letting it ruin your day – what can you move your focus on to instead? Something that is more positive, uplifting and productive?

Can you help someone else to have a better day, practice gratitude for all the good in your life, or get out and do some exercise? Any such activities will shift your focus for the better.

My feeling was, you plant some seeds. If they grow, great; if they don’t, you don’t take it personally. Not my problem; I just kept planting. Just like a farmer. Hank Haney

Sometimes things that are said and done are personal. No denying it. But more often than not, other people don’t mean anything by it. And taking things personally only leads to unhappiness. So do yourself a favor and try the above questions next time you feel yourself taking an issue personal again. Hopefully it will help you move on from it much quicker.

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