One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in the past several years is that, more often than not, “It’s not always about you.” Even when there seem to be problems with a supervisor, a coworker, a partner, or even simply a friend and you don’t understand why they are acting this way towards you, don’t immediately assume it has anything to do with you.
When I say I learned this, I really mean that my close friend Jo Anna taught me this. She was my boss’s executive assistant, and whenever I asked her what was going on, she frequently said, “It’s not about you.”
I always used to find this message a bit cryptic, because when my boss was being dismissive of me, or others, how could it not be about us.
But Jo Anna knew what else was going on, things that we were not mindful of, she knew why he was acting the way he was. It could be that he had just had his ass chewed by his boss, and he wasn’t really available for a discussion about my problems as he had problems of his own to deal with.
Although to be fair sometimes it was about me!
It took a while for Jo Anna to get his message across to me before I finally got it, but once I had it made me look at things differently.
Firstly any time I had a meeting, a review, or an incident that seemed different to what I had expected, I always used to ask myself, “Is this about me?”. Sometimes it was, but not always.
If I could spot when it was not about me, I could control my reaction to it, and not take it too personally.
Secondly, and more importantly and the reason for this post, it also made me examine my own behaviours when dealing with people.
How often had I been a little bit less helpful than normal, dismissive, or downright rude, when it had nothing to do with the meeting at hand or the individual themselves and was more to do with something that was going on in my life.
Once you look at this and are aware of it, much of how we treat people is tied to how we feel about other things.
Once we know this, then we can look to try and make our behaviours relevant to the meeting at hand, rather than other influences that are nothing to do with what is going on in that meeting.
This is not something that is easy to do, but at least if you are aware of it, then we can look to try and mitigate it.
People deserve to be treated based on their own merits and not based on what’s going wrong in our own lives.
So if you have an experience with a boss or a colleague where their behaviour was not what you expected, remember “it’s not about you” and look to see if there is something else going on, there may be another explanation.
And if you find yourself treating people differently than how you should, remember that whatever is making you feel off, “it’s not about them” and look to try and treat them as the situation deserves.
If we can do both of these, we will do a great job of reducing unnecessary stress both within ourselves and also for our teams.
If you want to learn more about creating highly engaged teams or being a better leader click the link to make an appointment to talk about how I can help.