How many times as a child or a young woman were you told that you have to “thicken your skin” Or maybe “Don’t let them get under your skin” or “toughen up?”

In one of my recent presentations someone asked “How do you let go of the heart and become tougher?”

First of all, never let go of the heart. The heart is who you are and what matters to you. You get hurt because it’s meaningful to you and the hurt is a sign that you need to take some sort of action. What you feel is an indicator that a boundary has been crossed, one of your values has been triggered or it’s feedback that this is not the direction you want to go.

But you still need to protect it, so what do you do?

Quit Taking It Personally (Q-Tip) – The person who talks behind your back is really dealing with their own stuff. They might feel they are competing with you on some level and aren’t doing well. If you know you truly don’t have a role in this, let them spin. Don’t get sucked into their vortex.

But what if that can affect you? If it’s threatening you professionally, personally or financially, and what I mean by that is if you could get fired, be physically harmed or lose money, you need to do something about it. If it’s personality driven or posturing, it will come back to bite them at some point and you need to stay on the high road.

Let go of the emotion so you are just dealing with the issue at hand. Our emotions cloud our judgement at times and can cause us to react in an inappropriate way. Your anger is a sign that says “do something about this.” The anger is meant to move you forward but it’s not meant to accompany you when dealing with this person from this day forward. If that’s the case, then the anger and the person who you choose (yes choose) to let anger you – wins. Why did you get triggered?

What can you learn? So whether it’s a gossiping co-worker, someone who stole your idea, an employee who quit and left you in a bind – what can you learn? What can you do differently as a result of going through this? You are meant to grow through situations, not just go through them. Take the new information and make better, more educated decisions.

Make it process.  Challenge yourself by asking yourself by asking these questions:

  1. Is this really my stuff or is this their issue to deal with? In which case you don’t have any business being involved.
  2. Why did I get triggered by this person or this event? What is underneath my emotion?
  3. What can I learn from this situation so that I can make a better decision the next time?

When you start examining how and why you feel a certain way, you’ll start to understand your triggers. When this becomes a habit you’ll be able to look at these tricky situations in a different light; one where you don’t have an emotional charge. You’ll see people and their patterns and be happy that you no longer have to go for the ride on their merry-go-round anymore.  That’s when you’ll be working smarter.

Until next time, here’s wishing you the clarity you deserve!


Debbie Peterson is a Keynote Speaker, Seminar Leader and Mindset Expert helping executives and professionals develop more confidence and clarity as they create the next chapter in their career. With a focus on leadership and communications, she has helped corporations, charitable organizations and professionals to create the mindset necessary increase career success, productivity and engagement. You can find great career tips and advice at or at