Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Second Agreement

In last week’s blog I provided a little background on “The Four Agreements” and then we addressed Agreement 1: Speak with Integrity. This week I am ready to tackle Agreement 2.

Agreement 2:
“Don’t take anything personally - Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”- Don Miguel Ruiz

OK, I’m already taking this personally because I struggle with Agreement 2. Agreement 1 is much easier for me. I don’t want to be lied to and I will not lie to others. Most of us can buy into that concept. Even though lies and misrepresentations are rampant in our culture, we still hold up the ideal of truth and honesty. Agreement 2 is tough and I have my doubts about some parts of it.

I do think there is merit in not taking things “too personally”, but I don’t see how we cannot take things personally when we are personally impacted. And to say that “Nothing others do is because of you” and is a “projection of their own reality” is fine if we are talking metaphysics. But when someone projects their reality into my reality (or my lane on the freeway), I tend to take it personally.

Nevertheless, we do inflict unnecessary damage on ourselves and eventually on others by taking things “too personally”. If you interview for a job and don’t get it, don’t take it too personally. Sometimes it’s not about you, it is about the hiring authority or the other candidates who were being considered or a combination of factors. (But it is worth considering that it may have something to do with you, at least in part. So don’t take it “too personally”, but do think about what you might do differently in the future.)

When the headhunter does not call you back every so often just to “see how you’re doing”, don’t take it too personally. It’s probably not about you. But if you’re a pain in ass jerk with totally unrealistic job expectations, it might have something to do with you. (And I say that with all due respect to the jerks out there.)

I think the keys to not taking things (too) personally, are to give others the benefit of the doubt and don’t let your ego control your emotions. One quick story makes this point and makes it in a dramatic fashion. This happened a couple of years ago. I had a candidate who had completed a long cycle of interviews. He was excited about the company and the company was excited about him. But, at the last minute an internal candidate expressed interest in the position. The company let me know that it might be a couple of weeks before they made a final decision. I told the candidate what was going on. After a week or so the company came back to me with an offer for my candidate. I called my candidate on his cell phone. Voice mail. A couple hours later, I call again. Voice mail. I call his home. Voice mail. I send an email. No response. One day goes by, then another, then the weekend. By now he’s got probably 10 voice messages and half dozen emails from me. The client wants to know what’s going on. I’m looking like an idiot. I am pissed. I know this candidate has bailed out on me. Just because the company was honest with me about considering the internal candidate and I was honest with the candidate, he got his panties in a wad and decided to just bail out (or make me sweat). I’m just about ready to write the whole thing off and the candidate calls me. He’s one big gusher of apologies for not getting back to me. I listen and wait for the reason. Then he tells me that his mother passed away unexpectedly. The last 4 days had been crazy, they had to travel half way across the country and deal with the funeral and his father and the rest of his family. It had been a mess. He knew he should have called, but he just didn’t want to deal with the offer or me or the other company right then. He had asked a colleague of his who had been one of his references to call me and let me know what was going on. The guy swears that he called and left me a message. He left someone a message, but it wasn’t me. But that’s not the point.

The point is this: Give others the benefit of the doubt. Don’t let your ego get the best of you. And don’t take things too personally. (By the way, my candidate did end up accepting the offer.)

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