Let’s start off this article with a little story about a wise taxi cab driver…
Sixteen years ago, I learned an important life lesson in the back of a New York City taxi cab. I hopped in a taxi, and we took off for Grand Central Station. We were driving in the right lane when, all of a sudden, a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us.
My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car by mere inches! The driver of the other car, the guy who almost caused a big accident, whipped his head around and started yelling bad words at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy.
And I mean, he was actually friendly! So, I asked him, "Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and could've sent us to the hospital!" And this is when my taxi driver told me about what I now call, "The Law of Garbage Trucks."
"Many people are like Garbage Trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it, and if you let them, they'll dump it on you. When someone wants to dump on you, don't take it personally. Instead, just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. You'll be happier because you did."
Wow. That really got me thinking about how often do I let Garbage Trucks run right over me? AND, how often do I then take their garbage and spread it onto other people: at work, at home, on the streets?
It was that day I resolved, "I'm not going to do it anymore." Since then, I have started to see Garbage Trucks everywhere. Just as the kid in the Sixth Sense movie said, "I see dead people," I can now say, "I see Garbage Trucks." :)
I see the load they're carrying ... I see them coming to drop it off. And like my Taxi Driver, I don't make it a personal thing; I just smile, wave, wish them well, and I move on.
~ Author Unknown ~
If you’re a long time reader, you know that most of my work is about helping people develop their emotional intelligence. And learning to take things less personally is a perfect exercise in developing our self-awareness, self-management, and social-awareness.
Let’s face it. We all carry around our own fair share of old garbage. The garbage that I’m talking about here includes past experiences like, rejection, injustice, disrespect, the silent treatment, anger, and perhaps even feeling invisible. And like the taxi driver says, when it piles up so high that we can’t carry another ounce, we dump it on some unsuspecting, often innocent, victim.
Things start to go haywire when you and I become unsuspecting victims of a gigantic dump. The cunning little ego in our minds jumps in and starts egging us on. This is all about you! How rude! Are you going to let that idiot disrespect you? Go ahead, stick up for yourself…this is personal! The resistance of our egos causes the friction within us. And before we know it, we find ourselves battling in a hot-tempered war…likely over something insignificant.
The truth is…the battle is not about you (or me) at all. It’s all about the other person who simply can’t carry any more of their own garbage. We can’t control where other people dump their garbage, but we CAN control how we respond to it. We CAN allow others to do what they need to do without it affecting us.
So, how can you become more like the taxi driver and not take things too personally? Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Stop sweating the small stuff – Richard Carlson said it best. Don’t sweat the small stuff…and it’s all small stuff.
- Lighten up – Stop taking yourself so seriously. Not everything is about you. Learn to grin and bear it.
- Choose your battles wisely – Life is too short to fight them all. Look for the fork in the road, and then take the path of least resistance.
- Take 100% responsibility for your own happiness – Only you can make yourself happy or unhappy. Exercise your choices well.
Mike Dooley says, “For as long as you are capable of anger, there are lessons to learn. Thoughts become things…make yours good ones.”
What is it that you do to keep from taking things too personally?