Saturday, August 06, 2016

Nothing personal

As I get older and more receptive to new ideas and concepts, I've learned some things that help me through life. One of those things is putting a muzzle on my ego.

I've adopted a philosophy that suggests that our psyches are composed of two parts, our ego, or conscious self, and our intuitive or sub-conscious self. The ego, when in control, does some crazy-ass stuff. One of those things is taking everything personally.

For example, when someone cuts you off in traffic, this is not a personal affront. Your ego behaves like it is, but in reality, not only is the offender not aware of who you are, they probably don't even realize that they've done something to offend you. Until you engage. You flip the bird, or honk, or drive up beside them and launch a verbal assault. Now you're the one making it personal, and they likely don't react well.

Now that I'm more aware of what's going on around me, I see examples of the ego's power everywhere. For example, when we send an email, and the recipient doesn't answer. How rude! Well, not necessarily. They may be busy. Our email may have quickly been pushed down the list by the weight of a lot of other messages coming into their inbox. They may not be in the habit of answering every email they get right away. Email may not even be a priority communications channel for them. There are countless reasons why we didn't get an immediate reply, yet we will often take it personally. We may even lash out, or return the favour. Just the other day, a friend told me that they've been observing a coffee shop regular showing up, but not engaging in conversation with them lately, like they usually do. They took it as an personal insult. But they really had no idea why the other party chose to be less social. Maybe they're tired, or sick. They could have a major situation going on in their life that's distracting. Maybe it's nothing at all. I asked, "Did you go up and say hello?" They did not. So, I reminded them that it's very possible that the other person feels the exact same thing about them. "You didn't go up and say hello, so now they think you're being a snob." It turns out, the other person had cancer, and was acting a little withdrawn.

I've at least had one person ask me if there was a problem, because they were getting the impression that I was being standoffish. That perception resolved itself very quickly. I was told a true story that one time, an employee in an important position, at a company that shall remain unnamed, saw a colleague say hello to another colleague as they passed their office, but this same person never bothered to say hello to them. They took it so personally, that they erupted into an emotional rant in front of a senior executive about how they're constantly being harassed and bullied by coworkers. That person was put on stress leave and slowly released from the staff roster.

But all of these things have one thing in common. The ego. We need to remind ourselves that everything that happens around us is just that. Stuff that happens. In most cases, it has nothing to do with us.

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