It’s all about me? No, it’s all about them

I’ll let you in on a secret about other people’s actions…..the majority of the time (and I’m talking 99.9% of the time), other people’s actions and language have absolutely nothing to do with us personally and everything to do with what’s going on inside them right now. Yet, most of the time we take their comments and actions personally. So much so, that we get offended, defensive, angry, upset…. the list goes on. And all the while, we are using precious energy credits worrying about things that have nothing to do with us and everything to do with the other person. I’m exhausted just thinking about it!

I’ll give you an example. I was speaking with a client recently who mentioned that a fellow colleague had chosen to remove herself from a project he was working on in order to focus on other priorities. A few weeks after making that decision, she then started bombarding him with questions about what was happening on the project – when things would be delivered, whether they were actually focusing on the correct outcomes etc. Understandably, this was quite frustrating for him…. after all, she had removed herself from the project due to other demands and had given him free rein to manage it, so why was she now so interested in its activity? My client was frustrated and had started avoiding his colleague to avoid her questions and to also avoid snapping at her whenever they interacted.

What we feel, we project

We see this quite often in our work, not to mention in life in general. Most likely, it isn’t that this person doesn’t have the belief or trust in her colleague to deliver the project, but more likely they are feeling conflicted about not having control any more or challenged in other areas of their work or life and this is an outlet to vent, show their competencies etc. As humans, we are wired to feel emotions and act accordingly. Specifically, our brain is wired to keep us alive, so it constantly scans for signs we are being attacked. If someone is feeling threatened – be it physically or emotionally – they will act accordingly to protect themselves.

Acting and thinking above the line…

We talk constantly about staying above the line. Above the line behaviour is being accountable, solution focused, being pro-active, looking for the positives and believing that you always have choices. Having an above the line mindset allows you to create desirable outcomes in any situation and help manage others’ expectations appropriately.

In the situation above, rather than complaining and taking offence to another’s actions toward us, the above the line behaviour would be to consider what is driving this person’s actions? What are they really trying to achieve? Do they feel left out? Is there something you’re missing or not aware of? The above the line approach would be to have a discussion about what the other person would like to see the project achieve, is there anything they feel is missing, and then confirm if they are still in agreement that you are the best person to run the project. If this is the case, use the opportunity to ask your colleague for their patience and allow you to start delivering some of the desired outcomes before they continue to question the project’s activity. After all, everyone’s energy is better spent working on activity that drives outcomes, rather than having the same conversation over and over again.

Remember, most often people’s actions have nothing to do with us personally. Taking this view into your interactions allows you to be impartial to their behaviour and to focus on driving outcomes rather than emotions.


If you’d like to find out more, join the conversation in our next open workshop.