“Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.”
The second agreement is do not take anything personally, and it sounds a lot easier than it really is. After working through the agreements for some time, my team and I were able to hold each other accountable on this agreement. It was always done in an honest and objective (non-judgmental) way. We began appreciating the accountability and it was in no way punitive.
In the book, The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz discusses the amount of self-importance that we place on ourselves. We use this self-importance to assume that another’s actions are about us. He states, “Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.” When we take things personally, we assume that the actions of others are all about us.
As a team we would practice not blaming other workgroups for inefficiencies, mistakes or misunderstandings. We also asked how we could be a part of solutions and make improvements in the work we impacted. We felt really good about the changes we had made, as relationships with other workgroups improved. We were starting to see that many of our team members were also responding favorably. Their performance was improving as a result of the new type of coaching they were receiving. This was especially important in the customer service industry, one where customers don’t typically call to tell you how happy they are, and it can be easy to take complaints personally. Everyone was now seeing the benefits of practicing The Four Agreements.
Then I started to pick up on something. I noticed that managers were really happy when their team was performing well. Yet when they could not get an individual performer to improve in a certain area or change a behavior that was not serving, they began to take it personally. They would ask questions like, “what am I not doing?” or “how can I make that person see?”. These were signs that they were taking the performance of their individual team members personally.
When we called attention to it, it was clear that the managers wanted the best for their teams and the individuals on their teams. There is nothing wrong with that. However, not taking things personally really means letting go of the control over another and shifting towards control over the only thing you can control – yourself. This frees up emotional space for a manager to objectively decide what the next steps in managing an employee might be.
Next week we will take a deeper dive into The Four Agreements and explore the third agreement: Don’t make assumptions.