Of course we take it personally

I’ve had so many groups and teams create agreements with the sentiment: don’t take things personally. Alongside be non-judgemental and open and honest.

It’s almost impossible to never judge or take things personally and asking people to always be open and honest is another next-to-impossible ask.

Our emotional brain automatically takes things personally

Part of our brain is designed to look out for number one and to suss out any potential threats. As it does that, it plays it safe and reacts. It judges, it’s closed-minded and it interprets events. It seems to exaggerate and be over-sensitive sometimes. Especially when we’re tired or stressed.

So, if you, as a trainer, coach or leader are working with sensitive topics, if people are a little on edge or if they are stressed, they will be more inclined to take things personally. And to become defensiveness or possibly aggressive. That’s humanity.


It would be healthy to recognise these tendencies as normal. Perhaps when people do take things personally or they aren’t as open as they could be, maybe it’s a sign of stress in the individual or in the group. Or a sign that the topic is quite sensitive.

Of course, some individuals are more sensitive or more reactive than others. For them, it’s not likely that an agreement of “don’t take things personally” will even work for them. They might need to learn to calm their nervous system, recognise their habits around this and their impact on others. This will require feedback about their impact and possibly some work with a coach or some training that helps them recognise their reactivity, responses and impact.

When creating agreements, ask people how they want to manage their judgements (which will happen) and how they want to respond when they do take things personally and how they want to support one another when it’s hard to be completely open and honest. This would be a much more honest way forward with these kinds of agreements.

Rewired to Relate

Rewired to Relate

Rewired to Relate will help you understand more about how and why the brain takes things personally and what you can do about it in relationships and teams.

more info