I have heard the line: Don’t take it personally many times. We all know it’s a choice whether we do or not. I’ve made a decision to try harder and I’m noticing a difference. My technique is to not participate in a conversation that begins to sound like a personal attack. I’m a nice person who believes in the Golden Rule… Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I try never to purposely hurt someones feelings; but I guess there are mean people out there who feel better (or superior) by putting others down. I can’t be sure I’ll deflect all the attacks that may come my way, but I’m trying. One way to think about conversation is like email, only “in person”. The talk begins, you “open” yourself to take in what they say. Just like electronic mail that I look forward to reading, I feel certain I’ll hear positive sentences from good friends of mine. On the contrary, others can start off a conversation with fighting words and my personal defenses are triggered. That’s when I hear “Don’t take it personally” in my head. It’s difficult when the words are just not true. I have learned some lines from friends of mine that work at this point. “I’m going to have to disagree with you,” is a good line to break up the direct words meant just for me. Another good idea is to ask a question. Say, “Let me ask you this,” then pause to collect your thoughts and pose a non-threatening question. I’ve been aware lately of those pauses. If you have the “floor” to speak anyway, why not just stop in the middle of a sentence and take the time to decide what to say. I used to admire people who could speak in rapid-fire, adding funny lines and moving from one topic to another at lightning speed. I like to put people at ease when I speak and one of the aspects of ease is understanding what is being said. I used to pretend I understood what someone said, even when I didn’t. Now I don’t have a problem asking for clarification. Sometimes that comes out as, “WHAT?”; but I am usually smiling when I say that. Facial expressions are another communication avenue adding to the words said, or sometimes all on their own. I have felt judged by someone rolling or squinting their eyes and shaking their head. I’ve had someone open their mouth and eyes wide and stare at me in shock. Were those good or bad? Here’s the deal. Everyone wants to experience approval. Notice I didn’t say feel. We should not be living by what we feel, but rather by what we know is the truth. Confidently put your trust in the truth and know everything is personal if you are a person. Sometimes I have to sing a few lines of “Jesus Loves Me” to remember who my judge really is. So put on your Teflon defense and head out into the world, determined not to take it personally.