There are two habitual reactions that many of us have can greatly increase the suffering we experience in life. One is taking things personally and the other, which is related, is interpreting others’ behavior.
Recently, a friend of mine was sharing with me that a co-worker was acting rather cool and standoffish with her. In the past, my friend had seen that this indicated that the co-worker was upset or annoyed… and my friend didn’t know what she had done. She wracked her brain trying to think of something she’d said, something she’d done… Then it turned out that my friend’s co-worker was anxious about an upcoming meeting, and it had nothing to do with her! When she asked me if I thought she was too sensitive, I responded that I think she fell into the trap we all do, from time to time, of thinking that it’s always about us. Think how liberated you would feel if you could detach from thinking it’s about you – and to choose not take on other people’s stuff!
Related to this is the danger of interpreting others’ behavior. How often have you started telling yourself stories about another person’s motivation, or imagined what is going on in their head … and then found out later that you were totally wrong? One of the tools I use in coaching my clients is a “perception check”. When you feel triggered you tell the person what you are imagining and how you feel as a result… and you check it out with them. So often what you think is going on is completely different from the other person’s reality. It’s always safer to ask than to assume!
I invite you to watch for these habits: 1) taking things personally and 2) interpreting others’ behavior. With awareness you can break through these patterns and live with much less suffering!