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How to ... not take it personally: ‘You are not here to please the other person, or to mind their feelings and emotions’

You can challenge what they’ve said in your own mind too

So someone made a dig at you? It can leave you feeling hurt, misunderstood or angry. It’s hard not to take a mean comment personally, but thinking about it differently can help.

If someone makes a remark to criticise, embarrass or make a joke at your expense, it can say more about them than it does about you, says Ciaran Coyle, a counsellor and psychotherapist with

“It could be that the person has a negative self-image themselves. They might be constantly telling themselves they are not good enough. It can be envy or jealousy on their part and they could be trying to bring you down because they don’t want to be the vulnerable one,” Coyle says.

Behaviour like this can stem from a lack of emotional support in their childhood. “Maybe they were mocked or humiliated. Low self-esteem is always linked there.”


Perfect Peter?

If someone points out your flaws, or what they think you lack, this can often point to their own anxiety and perfectionism, says Coyle. “Perfectionists can grow up to think their value is linked to how well they do at school, what their achievements are, how big a house or car they have, all these material things.”

“They are unable to accept that we are all flawed. As human beings, we all make mistakes. They can have unrealistic standards and that can lead to them making fun of or mocking other people,” says Coyle.

“Happy and secure people don’t go around trying to make others feel unhappy and insecure.”

But I’m nice!

You could be the nicest person in the world and someone can think you are being nice because you want something from them. “When someone has grown up in an environment where they felt unsafe, they can become hypervigilant,” says Coyle. “They can think this person is paying me a compliment because they want something. Be mindful, their bad behaviour towards us is not usually about us.”

Sense check

If someone passes a comment and you’re not quite sure how to take it, ask them about it. “You could ask the person to clarify – ‘I’m just wondering if this is what I heard you say, is this what you mean?’ “Sometimes we can misunderstand,” says Coyle.

Shake it off

If someone has a certain opinion about you, that’s on them. “It’s about realising that opinions are just opinions, they are just interpretations,” says Coyle.

You have some control over how much you let another’s opinion affect you.

“It’s connected to how you feel about yourself and how much you are choosing to let in,” says Coyle. “We always have a choice. Ask yourself, does their opinion really mean that much to me? You can say, ‘I’m committed to my own healing. I’m choosing not to let this in.’”

You can challenge what they’ve said in your own mind too.

Get curious

If you tend to take things personally, get curious about that, says Coyle. “Maybe you were dependent on approval from others in childhood or adolescence. You weren’t taught to maintain boundaries or you were afraid to say no,” says Coyle.

“If you believe all the harsh comments, you take them to heart and get obsessed over conversations, that can stem from how secure you were growing up. It can play into why you struggle with taking things personally.”

Focus on your own behavior and responses, because that’s what you can control, says Coyle.

Radical acceptance

Some people just won’t like you. Your values don’t align and you will never see eye to eye. Accept that, says Coyle.

“You are not here to please the other person, or to mind their feelings and emotions. You are here to honour yourself and to put your needs first,” he says. “Let go of that sense that you have to appease others or worry about what they think of you.”

Joanne Hunt

Joanne Hunt

Joanne Hunt, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about homes and property, lifestyle, and personal finance