How to Not Take Other People’s Reactions Personally

by | May 9, 2017 | Blog, Business-Building Resources, Easy Legal Steps Bestselling Book

I’m now convinced. We can’t take other people’s reactions personally.

If you’re like me, you’ve spent most of your life worrying what other people think of you.

I gave other people’s opinions about me more credence than my own. I molded myself to fit what I was supposed to do and be and say, rather than giving the greatest weight to my own beliefs first.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not an easy task to quell outside opinions, and we shouldn’t ignore other people’s opinions entirely, of course…but maybe we shouldn’t give them so much weight and we should start giving our OWN opinions more heft.

But how exactly do you make the shift to not take other people’s reactions personally?

This topic is so important to me that I wrote about it in my book “Easy Legal Steps…That Are Also Good For Your Soul” in Chapter 5. Here’s an excerpt from the book that tells you how I pivoted my perspective:

“It doesn’t serve any of us if we squash our beliefs or diminish our values. What I try to remind myself is that other people’s reactions to my thoughts or actions actually aren’t even about me. They’re about them.”

Why is that?

Each person filters what others say and do through their own eyes and experiences.

Have you ever noticed that when you’ve shared a thought—like a strong political belief or controversial opinion—with someone and they have reacted with neutrality. They listened to you passionately express your thoughts, then they shrugged their shoulders and responded with, “Whatever you want to believe is fine. To each her own.” They didn’t get upset. They didn’t engage in debate. They weren’t triggered in any way to fight back or defend their own beliefs.

But then there are times you’ve shared that same belief with someone else and they abruptly snapped at you and raised their voice to say, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard! How can you even possibly believe that garbage? Are you really that idiotic?”

Yikes. The exact same statement. Two different responses.

You can feel attacked by the second response, but the truth of the matter is that their response wasn’t about you or even about what you said.

Someone else’s response has nothing to do with you.


Yes, that’s right. Know that you are never, ever responsible for the thoughts, beliefs, or actions of someone else. No matter what anyone tries to tell you.

Others’ choice of reaction (and, just to remind you, it’s always a choice) about what they hear, filter, and interpret through their own belief systems does not involve you. Your comment may have unearthed their inner debate team, but you are not part of their internal filtering system, and therefore you are not responsible for their response. Ever.

Their response is never about you.

This realization that I am not responsible for anyone else’s opinion of me was an enormous paradigm shift for me.

And as my friend and literary coach, Anjanette Fennell, always says, “You can’t say the wrong thing to the right person, and you can’t say the right thing to the wrong person.”

You can’t please everyone, and you won’t. While you should use care and forethought with your words and actions, you are not responsible for others’ reactions to what you do and say. Those reactions are their choice entirely.

They may argue that what you said upset them. But, what really happened is that you said something that threatened a belief (whether conscious or subconscious) or touched an open wound in them and they responded with strong emotion.

It’s important to be sensitive to others’ feelings and not deliberately say or do things that hurt others, of course. If you hurt someone, it’s appropriate and loving to apologize that your words or actions hurt them. But you do not ever need to apologize for THEIR feelings, choices, actions, or responses, even when they think they have no control over them or try to blame you for the severity of their reaction.

Letting go of feeling responsible for other people’s reactions is life-changing.  

Other than parents caring for children or legal dependents, we are not responsible for other people and they are not responsible for us. We are not responsible FOR or TO each other.”

And realizing that, my friend, was a game changer for me. I hope it might be helpful to you too.

Have you struggled with not taking what other people say about you personally? What has helped you lean in and believe in your own opinions over those of others?

We learn from each other, so I’d love to hear what’s worked for you. Please hit reply to share or comment here on the blog.

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