By Kawania H. Wooten, CMP

No matter how you slice it, being a business leader or an entrepreneur can take a toll on your emotions and your self-esteem.  You try to keep a positive outlook and a “stiff upper lip” when your work is criticized or you don’t book a job or you don’t win an award.  But, it’s hard!  So, here are five practical tips to help you stop taking things personally at work and in life.

1. Understand That Everything Isn’t About You.  It may feel personal when you miss out on a promotion or you lose business to another company, but it may have nothing to do with you personally. So, what can you do?  Request feedback and find out why a decision has been made.  You may find that your boss promoted your colleague because s/he has a specific skill that could elevate the company.  Or, you may find that you didn’t book a particular client because they simply didn’t have the budget to afford your services.

2. Ensure You Aren’t Responding To Your Own Personal Baggage.  Before you respond to your colleague’s feedback or criticism, ask yourself, “What am I so upset?”  Does your colleague’s feedback sound “out of line?” Or, did it push an “emotional button” for you?  What can you do? Some of our emotional baggage runs deep, so you may have difficulty deciphering between constructive criticism and a past pain.  If that is the case, consider seeking wise counsel from a trusted ally or a professional business coach or better yet, a licensed counselor.

3. Not Everything is as it Seems. I have found that I “skim read” the messages on my phone, so I am more likely to jump to conclusions.  So, if I feel offended by a message that I receive on my phone, I don’t answer until I have an opportunity to sit down in front of my laptop and read the message again.  99% of the time, the message was a lot less offensive than what I assumed it to be when I quickly read it on my phone.

4. Breathe, and Take a Beat Before You Respond.  When you work long hours on stressful projects, your ability to think clearly can be affected.  And as a result, challenges feel larger than what they really are and feedback feels like attacks. What can you do?  Step away from the work for a period of time to clear your head.  It may feel like you are wasting time, but you will be much more productive once you clear the emotional distractions.  It can be something as simple as taking a walk around the block, or going on a long lunch or even sneaking away to a matinee to lift your spirits.  When you return to your desk, you may find that the size of the issue is not as big as it seemed before you stepped away.

5. Work on Your Self-Confidence. Not everyone is going to love your work.  If your colleague, friend or family member cares enough about you to tell you that your work could “use some work,” don’t punish him or her by lashing out or rationalizing that your poor performance wasn’t your fault.  So, what can you do?  Say “thank you” and ask for more details.  Listen to what s/he has to say.  Then, learn from the feedback.  It may not be easy to hear, but that is where your growth comes in.