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Maya Angelou Had It Wrong

This might be Maya Angelou’s most famous quote:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

And, it’s based on a Myth. Nobody can make you feel anything. People can do all sorts of hateful and hurtful things. These behaviors can be strong invitations to feel a certain way, but they are only invitations. Only you can give consent for your feelings. If you believe others can make you feel good, or bad, you’ve given up control over your dignity and self-determination.

I’m sure that wasn’t the intent of Angelou’s statement. I know that because she also said this:

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

Our attitudes about ourselves and others is probably the biggest determinant of how we will feel about their behavior.

If my attitude is that I am only OK if I please you, then I will allow you to “make me feel bad” or “make me feel good” and give in to keep the peace.

If my attitude about you is that you are lazy and uncommitted, then I will try to “make you feel bad” to get what I want.

Conflict without casualties requires that we stop believing myths about emotions and start taking responsibility for our feelings.

Things to Ponder

  • What do you believe, say or do that reinforces the myth that others can make you feel?
  • What can you change today to take back control over your emotions and behavior?
Maya Angelou Had It Wrong

Nathan Regier

Nate Regier, PhD is CEO and Co-founding owner of Next Element, a global leadership communication firm specializing in building cultures of Compassionate Accountability®. A former practicing clinical psychologist, Dr. Regier splits his time between writing, speaking, training, consulting, and developing Next Element's global network of certified trainers. He is co-developer of the Leading Out of Drama® training and coaching system for positive conflict, and has authored two books on drama and conflict; Beyond Drama: Transcending Energy Vampires, and Conflict Without Casualties: A Field Guide For Leading With Compassionate Accountability. Nate is a certifying master trainer in the Process Communication Model®. He lives in Newton, KS, is married and has three daughters. Learn more about Conflict Without Casualties here.

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APA Reference
Regier, N. (2019). Maya Angelou Had It Wrong. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 Feb 2019
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