QTIP = Quit Taking It Personally
by Eric Nagler
I watched as my friend Stan Dale mediated a room full of conflict. I heard voices couched in confusion, fear, anger, and disappointment as accusations flew, some directed at Stan himself.
I watched him give space for every feeling, judgment, and concern, not just respecting and caring for the speaker, but embracing and honoring every word as precious—even those that attacked him. Rather than diminish people, he welcomed their feelings with gratitude. As alienated people felt his nurturing, I watched anger turn to love. The disenfranchised began to relax, and themselves began to listen and see value in other points of view. Not every issue was resolved, but all the issues became less charged with judgment and fear.
It is a gift to simply listen to someone without trying to fix them. But it’s one thing to simply listen when your partner is talking about themselves, and quite another when they’re talking about you in anger. How did Stan keep his cool?
He knows that people don’t express their anger cleanly, that they feel they have to justify it, and so they express it by blaming others. He knows a lot of the anger thrown at us is unfair, and if we argue back it will often lead into a hopeless labyrinth of painful words. He knows if the goal is to get back to love, arguing doesn’t help. Most importantly he knows that all that stuff directed at him is not really about him.
Stan Dale calls what he was doing QTIP, which stands for Quit Taking It Personally. The secret, he says, is when the person speaks, to look for how they are speaking about themselves. It’s their picture, their story. Sure some of it may ring true and some not, but that’s not what’s important at that moment. An angry person’s biggest need is to be heard, and the most powerful tool to help listen is to QTIP.
“You ignored me the entire meeting!” (This person is sharing feelings of alienation and anger)
“Thank you for pointing that out to me.”
QTIP is a powerful tool for holding on to myself when feeling attacked or judged. It provides a sense of distance from the pain and defensiveness I might otherwise experience. But also, taking “me” out of the equation makes more room for “you.” When I am truly free of taking it personally, I can fully see how people are talking about themselves. QTIP helps me see that beneath the surface of anger and negative judgment the person is sharing their fears, their experiences, their dance with life. And this, too, is intimacy, showing me who they are.
Without QTIP as a guiding principle, anger becomes a weapon of dissociation. With QTIP it can be a tool of association. I know you. You are just like me.