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“Get under your skin” is an American idiom that means something or someone has strongly affected you – usually in a negative way. This has likely happened to you countless times. It’s certainly happened to me.
I remember teaching one of our Insight Synergy Programs with a colleague. I shared something with the group on the first morning. When I paused, my colleague chimed in. “Let me say what Sandy just said in another way,” he said.
I felt a twinge. Why did he need to correct me? It was a twinge of curiosity mixed with a bit of displeasure. When he did it a third time, the displeasure scaled up, and he had officially gotten under my skin.
At the next break I asked him to stop correcting me. My colleague was puzzled, “What do you mean? When did I correct you?” I reminded him of his “let me say what Sandy just said in another way” line. He laughed. “If I wanted to correct you, I would have said that. I was merely giving the group another version to reflect on to aid in their understanding.”
Really?? So what got under my skin?
Similarly, a client, Fred, (not his real name) shared his own under the skin story. A customer made a request of his team that was against company policy. Fred made it clear to the customer that his request could not be fulfilled and why. The customer then went around Fred to other teams and then up the chain of command looking for his desired answer. When Fred heard about this, he was furious. I spoke with him more than a week later and he was still upset. Clearly an “under the skin” moment.
I asked Fred how he could be so sure that the client’s behavior was a lack of respect.
Fred was surprised. “What else could it mean,” he asked. I told him I didn’t know but neither did he. People have their reasons and justifications for their actions based on how they think.
To both Fred and I, it looked like the other person’s actions got under our skin. But that’s not how the mind works. It was my thinking that my colleague’s comments were a correction and Fred’s thinking that his customer’s behavior was disrespectful at the source. Our thinking did what all thinking does – it created an experience. Only it happens fast and invisibly. Maybe we should call it “under the radar” instead of “under the skin”.
Can you prevent things from getting under your skin? Probably not. But there is an antidote: understanding and remembering what is going on inside your mind in the moment. When my colleague assured me that he was not correcting me, I took a moment to reflect. If he’s not the source of my upset then what is? Could it be my thinking?
Whenever you look inside and see where your feeling and experience is coming from, a space opens. Into this space, a new thought can come bringing with it a new experience and potentially a new reality.