Stay up to date on everything mediation!

Subscribe to our free newsletter,
"This Week in Mediation"

Sign Up Now

Already subscribed No subscription today

Don’t Take it Personally. Really?

by Tammy Lenski
June 2013

Tammy Lenski's Conflict Zen Blog

Tammy Lenski

It’s so simple to advise, “Don’t take it personally.” And yet, too often, it’s utterly useless advice to someone in conflict. There’s something else they have to do first, before they can hope to stop taking it personally:

They have to take it more personally.

It’s a meritorious goal, not to take it personally. Yes, it is. When we can pull it off we do our mamas proud. Don Miguel Ángel Ruiz was right when he said, “Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”

The trouble is, conflict has an insidious way of preventing our reasoning selves from landing the plane. Conflict has a way of wrestling the controls from our hands, hijacking us, and flying us to the lip of Kilauea Volcano.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t just magically pull it off because I’m advised to do so. Call me obstinate or inept. And I’ve worked with an awful lot of people who couldn’t help but take it personally and I doubt that only the most flawed people in the world have somehow found their way to me. No, I don’t think it’s because they were flawed or unskilled or lazy.

I think it’s because conflict by its very nature lives in our gut and chews on our insides and the discomfort of that experience distracts us from lofty objectivity. Conflict is conflict because it is personal, at some level.

To learn how not to take it personally, we must first take it more personally. We must step closer to it, wrap our arms around it, accept it, and work with it. We must understand why it’s eating at us instead of trying to hold it at arms length and examine it like a museum specimen.

When we allow it closer, instead of pushing it away, we allow ourselves to be taught by it, to learn what that gut-wrenching is trying to teach us. We learn something that can set us free.

I have something coming in the next few months that will help you free yourself. Stay tuned for details.


Dr. Tammy Lenski helps people resolve conflict in ongoing business and personal relationships and bring their "A" game to difficult conversations. Since founding her NH-based conflict resolution firm Myriaccord LLC in 1997, Tammy has worked with individuals and organizations worldwide as a master mediator, executive coach, speaker, and educator. Author of the award-winning book, Making Mediation Your Day Job, she recently received the Association for Conflict Resolution’s prestigious Mary Parker Follett award for innovative and pioneering work in her field. Her second book, The Conflict Pivot, was released in 2014.


Email Author
Author Website

Additional articles by Tammy Lenski