The Thick Skinned

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Here's an important rule for life: It's not all about you. To develop a thick skin you must first remember that you are not the center of the universe. Yes, sorry to say, you are not the fixed point around which the universe turns.

Say someone isn't paying you enough attention. You brood and brood. "Is she mad at me?" "Did I say something wrong?" Your gloomy thoughts intensify, leaving you emotionally crippled and thinking that you have ruined everything.

Yet there may be a good reason for her inattention. Maybe she's having a rough week at work, and she has ten projects to complete by Friday. All of which are putting her in a foul mood. Or think about it in another way. Maybe she is behaving badly and being a jerk. But why are you fussing over it?

If this is how your mind works, you may indeed be overly thin skinned. And some rethinking is in order. You will need to learn a few skills and think outside yourself.

Here are a few tips to developing a thick skin:

  • Don't take things personally. Sometimes you may need to reframe a person's bad behavior by remembering that it's not about you.
  • Don't let others get to you. Refuse to get overly responsive to the negative feelings and provocations of others. Adopt strategies that regulate emotional arousal; otherwise negativity hijacks the thinking brain. Try simple deep breathing or declare time out.
  • Remember that everyone gets rejected sometimes. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move on. Don't be discouraged if it takes a few times to get it right. Successful people are rejected over and over, but never stop trying.
  • When you're rejected or something doesn't go your way, counterpropose a new solution. Often, the person declining your offer is not rejecting you. He may even want to hear another idea. Successful individuals come back from rejection with new proposals. They're creative at coming up with additional ways of looking at things and solving problems.
  • Don't hesitate to unstick sticky situations. If you're discussing an issue and the conversation is going off track, stop it and restart it on the right track. You could say: "This isn't going productively. Let's reshoot this scene from the beginning" or "Can we take it from the top?"
  • Don't be self-focused. If you do focus on yourself, you'll likely dwell on your shortcomings. Instead, think about your goals and what steps you need to get there.
  • Stop the self-talk. Counter self-defeating self-talk with truth talk: "You can be your own worst enemy, so give yourself a break."
  • Don't worry about looking stupid. If you are asked a question and you don't know the answer, you can simply say, "I need to think about that and get back to you later."
  • Learn to be patient. Don't be impulsive or react to a situation without giving yourself time to cool off.
  • Don't be quick to blame. Recognize that other people have their ups and downs.
  • Think about others. Enter social interactions with this thought of making the experience itself enjoyable. Ask yourself, "What can I do to make you feel more comfortable."

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