It’s a really interesting question to ponder, because MOST of the time, it really isn’t about us —even when it feels like it is! We all process every thought and idea through our own filters. What we notice about others always is a reflection of what we care about or are interested in — our personal opinions, our values. It’s just how it is.
I know you have had the experience of, for example, getting a new car and all of a sudden you notice all the other cars of the same model on the road with you. It almost feels like everyone ran out and got the same car because you did, doesn’t it? Part of this feeling comes from that really valuable, hard-won human survival trait of Pattern Making — we make patterns like crazy all the time. It allows us to not clutter our brains by spending a bunch of time analyzing things.
We respond and react to the thing we are used to, focused on, care about. And we find it bizarre when others don’t notice or care the same way we do! For example, I do have several friends that not only don’t have pets, but actually don’t care about animals at all. I can hardly grok that. I’m likely, in any circumstance, to pay more attention to the critter than their human!
One of the exercises that is often suggested by counselors and coaches is to ask your friends what they think of you. It’s often a very positive and illuminating thing to do. After all, our friends like us! And it’s also illuminating about the friends, because the things they notice about you reflect what they care about. If they remark on your kindness and caring for others, it’s because that’s important to them. If they notice your shoes it’s because they are into shoes.
Here’s an ‘on-point’ example: Back in the 80’s I dated this really wonderful man, Bill. Bill was a car guy, big time. He had a gorgeous ‘Vette‘ that he babied and adored. At some point we noticed this really interesting thing. It was about the way we gave directions to folks about how to find some particular place. He gave directions with reference points of Gas Stations and Car Dealerships. I’m sure that those of you that know me will not be surprised to hear that my directions had to do with Grocery Stores and Restaurants. We each noticed and ‘honored’ what was important to us, what we loved and valued.
The point is that when someone makes a comment about you, judges you, criticizes you, it is alway much less about you and more about them. Something in their experience has been triggered. Something they have strong opinions about… something about them!
And here’s how and why this is useful to know. If, before any kind of challenging conversation or interaction, you can repeat to yourself, “It’s not about me, it’s not about me, it’s not…” you will be much more effective and calm in the exchange. Afterall, it’s actually not about you! It’s about their projection around you, or what you represent to them, or how they want you to be… but not actually about you. And that is true even when they say it is about you!
Huh? How can that be? I’m not saying you aren’t responsible for your actions. You are. But how others respond to them is their stuff not yours. This is good news/bad news. It’s less about us than we think. The real value here is that if you can hold the idea the this “isn’t about me” you can truly be more present, and effective in the conversation.
I believe that a really effective sweet spot is to be “100% committed and unattached, at the same time” because when we get “attached” we get muddled. And a great way to not get attached is to remember: “It’s not about me!”
Easier said than done, but well worth striving for and practicing, yes? How might your interactions with others be different with you knowing “it’s really not about me?”
Shell Tain, the Untangler
If you’d like to play more with this idea give me a call 503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com