One of my favorite non-fiction books is called, The Four Agreements. The title is a bit hokey. But the content is spot-on.
The book talks about the importance of creating personal freedom. One of these four agreements to create personal freedom is: “Don’t take things personally.”
This really hit home for me. I realized how often I take things personally — especially when it comes to receiving feedback in the workplace.
Our tendency is to interpret the feedback we hear as a personal attack. It’s the biggest reason for why we don’t ask others for feedback. And it’s the biggest reason why others become discouraged from ever giving us feedback again.
How do we overcome this? How do we not take feedback so damn personally?
First, remind yourself: “It’s not all about me.”
There are other external forces shaping why a person may be giving you this feedback.
Maybe something happened earlier that day that caused them to be in a sour mood. Or, maybe something happened with their old boss that’s caused them to believe “this work environment sucks.” It has nothing to do with you.
Second, remind yourself: “I don’t need to be liked.”
You don’t need your employees to like you. You do need them to like their jobs and feel fulfilled and excited and motivated to work. But you don’t need them to like you as a person.
The minute you let go of the notion that you don’t need to be liked, by your employees, your leadership team, etc., your focus begins to shift toward what’s best for the company overall. Doing so allows you to open up and hear things that you might’ve previously taken personally.
Third, remind yourself of what you care about.
You do care about your company being successful. You do care about creating the best environment for your employees to thrive.
So if that’s the case, focus on hearing that feedback through the filter of: “How can I listen for information that will help move my company forward?”
After all, that’s what you want. You want your company to do well. Listen for things that will help you meet that goal — everything else is secondary or irrelevant.
Granted, it’s incredibly hard to not take something personally.
But in reminding yourself of these three things — it’s not about you, you don’t need to be liked, and you care deeply about your company as a whole — you can begin to escape the trap of taking things personally.
You and your company will be so much better for it.
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