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Don't Take It Personally

(June 5, 2023 Newsletter)

“Don’t take it personally” is right under “Calm down” on the list of least helpful, most annoying lines we can hear.

But even though it’s annoying advice, it’s not…wrong…

When speaking with a coaching client last week, I realized that the antidote to “taking things personally” is shared humanity, one of the three core components of self-compassion, according to Dr. Kristin Neff (the other two are mindfulness and kindness).

How shared humanity helps:

  • Each component is a necessary part of the process. Without mindfulness, we’re not aware of what we’re feeling, and without kindness, our Inner Critics run rampant. But shared humanity is what wards off the scary sense of isolation that we feel when we’re criticized, embarrassed, shamed, or otherwise.

  • Neff explains that “When we’re in touch with our common humanity, we remember that feelings of inadequacy and disappointment are universal.”

The voice that says “poor me” diminishes when we remember that everyone’s upset their boss, team, colleagues, donors, investors, customers, or clients at some point. Ev-ery-one.

Reminding yourself of our shared humanity:

Hopefully you have a trusted colleague in whom you can confide when your Inner Critics flare up. Hearing the message “You’re not alone” can be hugely helpful. (and for a big smile, enjoy this #dearintern thread)

  • But the beauty of self-compassion is that you can be that friend and remind yourself that “we’ve all been there. I’m not alone.”

Leadership is lonely. Be your own best friend.

The unlucky truth is that the higher one rises on an org chart, the fewer confidants one has, which is why it becomes more critical to know how to remind yourself of our shared humanity instead of taking things personally.

  • It’s also around the same time when the challenges facing you become more complex, with more gray areas and fewer right/wrong answers.

  • As Neff says, “When we focus on our shortcomings without taking the bigger human picture into account, our perspective tends to narrow. We become absorbed by our own feelings of insufficiency and insecurity. When we’re in the confined space of self-loathing, it’s as if the rest of humanity doesn’t even exist.”

It’s bad for ourselves AND our organizations when we spend too much time in that place, so the next time you feel the instinct to take something personally, remember that not a single manager or executive hasn’t felt what you’re feeling – and you’re not alone.


The Coaching Corner

Who should keep track? An essential part of coaching is goal-setting and tracking. Of course, this is true in people leadership too. With some of my coaching clients, I have them fill out a short google form before we meet to report what they accomplished since the last meeting + results, and if they didn't accomplish it, why not? It doesn't have to be a form, but setting up a system for you and your direct reports that works for both of us is a cornerstone of strong supervision - it doesn't really matter if it's a board, a running google doc or sheet, or an email template, as long as you get ongoing visibility into their progress.


Two words: Ted Lasso. The series wrapped up this past week after three magnificent seasons. If you want to know why I loved TL oh so very much, read more and if you were also a fan of the show, reply and share your favorite lesson, moment, or Ted-ism. #believe


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