How To Not Take Things Personally (So You Reduce Stress & Conflict In Your Life)

One of the four agreements by Toltec Wisdom teacher, Don Miguel Ruiz is “Don’t Take Anything Personally”. In other words, realize that nothing other people do is because of you. This powerful agreement acts is a reminder that self-limiting beliefs rob you of joy and create needless suffering.

This “agreement” is so simple yet so profound.

When you act with this principle in place, you safeguard your mind from unnecessary emotional rollercoaster rides. You can apply the agreement to every facet of your life including your work life, business, your love life (especially dating), looking for a job, dealing with your kids, your parents, your neighbor, your boss, the person at the grocery store… the list goes on.

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Ruiz provides a formula to deal with potentially hurtful behavior from others by boiling it down to this simple point:  you have a choice on how to interpret events and feedback from people. Each person sees the world in a unique way, so how others treat us says more about them than it does about us.

Realize that each person has their own subjective reality and that their views are ONLY their views. Not facts about who we are and aren’t, based on OUR truth.  If their view doesn’t fit your perspective or point of view, you don’t have to believe them.

In my work, I see how limiting beliefs control our reality. Many limiting beliefs stem from a casual comment someone made, which we then internalized or took as truth.


According to Freud, in projection, thoughts, motivations, desires, and feelings that cannot be accepted as one’s own are dealt with by being placed in the outside world and attributed to someone else. During one of my graduate courses in a Masters in the Psychology department, we did an exercise in pairs. We were told to hold up an imaginary mirror, with the reflective part of the mirror facing the person talking to us. Holding the mirror, my partner spoke and saw his own reflection. Whatever he said was aimed or reflected at him, not me. This gave both of us a very tangible experience of seeing that what we say is a direct indication of where we are and not the other person we are speaking to.

This exercise is about projection. People project their personal hurts, wounds, stories onto the person they are talking to. Don Miguel’s guide is to remind us that in part, we are all walking around projecting and as such, remember not to take things personally, as whatever the person is saying is very often more about them than about you.

Ok.. so now we understand the best practice of not taking things personally. But… we’re human. How do we reduce stress and conflict in our lives with this method?

Here are a few techniques to reduce stress and conflict:

Begin to notice when we are taking things personally. The physical sensation might feel like a punch in the stomach. It might feel as if someone is pouring a shame milkshake on you. You might have a wave of fear or feel confused. Hearing your inner critics starting to voice their opinions is another sure sign that you are taking something personally. For certain, your stress level will begin rising.

Whatever your feeling, begin to have an awareness of the physical sensations that are happening in your body. No need to fix it at this point.

Awareness is the first step.

Ask Questions: One hack to not taking things personally, is to ask questions. You may not always have control over many things in your life, including what people say to you, but you do have 100% control over how you react to each situation. (believe me, I’m no angel and it’s not always easy to shift into curiosity mode when you are triggered).

The goal of not taking things personally, is avoid unnecessary stress and conflict. Try asking a few question to deflect conflict. It may also avoid the downward spiral of negative thoughts could be popping up in your mind.

Be receptive instead of reactive. The most common and most familiar way to respond when someone says something that triggers you is to react. When we react, we let our ego and mind get in the way. Pain and suffering can be a result as we have not created space between what was said and the “me” it was directed to. Noticing your physical response and then asking questions puts you in a receptive vs reactive/emotional response.

  • Take a compassionate stance. When you have compassion for yourself and the people around you, you don’t react and jump to an assumption. Imagine that they are either:

1) having a bad day

2) meant something totally different that what you understood

3) …make up whatever story you want here, just shift your mind out of taking it personally.

A sure fire hack to avoide jumping to a negative conclusion and thus getting triggered, is to live by the rule “Don’t take anything personally”. Not taking things personally puts you in a more centered and grounded place where you are the master of your mind.

Use Don Miguel Ruiz agreement as a guide to rapidly transform your life. When you are in control of your emotions, you avoid giving away your power. Sign up for a free 30 minute session with me to discover what blocks are holding you back and to gain that powerful clarity you’re hungry for.

Jacqueline Neuwirth is a Co-Active Life Coach with a focus on Love & Relationship Coaching, and Career & Business Coaching for clients ready to accelerate success in their professional and personal lives.

Through her 25-year history as a designer, entrepreneur and visionary, Jacqueline has led clients through the labyrinth of real-life struggles with practical, deliberate and concrete tools to reach goals that align with both their souls desire and their financial target.

She draws on many facets of human development that are often at the root of frustration, burnout and stress to help clients tap into their heart and authentic self to get unstuck, out of overwhelm to create a business and life they love.

If you’re ready for this kind of support in your life, schedule with Jacqueline today to find out how to get clear, get confident and get going on creating  a future you love!