By: Mary Morris
How many times has someone offended you and then said, “It’s nothing personal?” Okay. “Don’t take it personally” is a famous disclaimer from social offenders. They begin by telling you that you are not good at something and then say, “but please don’t take this personally.” As if plugging in the word ‘please’ makes it conventionally acceptable. So should I pretend you just said it about a stranger or someone other than me? Or is your criticism so important that I should feel honored to be given such negative feedback by someone so magnanimous?
No relationship is immune to this phenomenon. It is the mother-in-law who claims you should not have more children when you announce a pregnancy; the parent at your child’s school that tells you your daughter shouldn’t play a particular sport she is passionate about; the boss who bluntly states during your performance review, “You are not good at this job, but don’t take it personally.”
If you ask me, everything is personal. If you are saying it about me or my family or one of my friends, then it’s personal. If you haven’t called someone in ages because you have been too busy, and then say, “Don’t take offense, it’s nothing personal.” Well, in fact, it is. You are calling other people, aren’t you? Am I just the last person on a long list of important people and things in your life? Evidently I am.
If you Google the expression “It’s nothing personal,” you get some interesting material. The urban dictionary has an excellent definition of this expression that is too raunchy for my readers, but it essentially says this line is a lie told to a person before they pull the wool over your eyes, shall we say. There is also an album entitled ‘It’s Nothing Personal’ from a metal band called ‘Bury Your Dead.’ Well, that sounds about right.
Another fascinating find was the website “I hate people but it’s nothing personal.” Perfect! The bloggers have some decent material and apparently this concept is popular enough and large enough to put into a book? So, go figure?
An attractive friend of mine told me recently that she went on a date with a guy she knew casually through other friends. During the evening, he said, “You are an attractive woman. But you would be more attractive if you lost some weight. But don’t take it personally; you must know that you need to lose some weight.” Now where does one go from here? This man was thin but maybe not the best looking guy or the most talented so how should she respond? “Yes, well, you are right. I could lose some weight but then again, you could get a nose job! Or do you make enough money to afford that type of procedure?”
After polling my readers and friends about this topic, I learned that just about everyone has been offended at one time or another, the offender is typically a repeat offender, the victim of the verbal abuse is usually rendered speechless, and people take it very personally when the slam is about their children. Those are nasty waters that no one should enter without a life preserver (preferably made of armor).
The upside to all of this is that the offender usually ends up eating his or her words as the recipient of the slander moves on in life successfully. So, for example, the very capable expectant mother I mentioned earlier ended up with twins to add to her happy family, the young female athlete went on to win a national championship and the employee who received the bad review went on to accept a better position within a larger company.
The real lesson here is whatever communication you have with a friend, co-worker, or any other humanoid is personal. Sadly, the negative comments stay with a person even if they have no respect for the person who said it.
Obviously, if someone asks your opinion, you should give a fair, kind, and helpful assessment. However, if you feel like you are helpful critiquing someone’s appearance, parenting skills or life choices, for example, with uninvited comments, think again. The mirror may need to be held up to thyself. Remember the old adage from Bambi, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” This is good advice but I prefer the updated version, “If you don’t have anything good to say about someone, then chances are you don’t know them well enough to say anything bad.” So to all the inept masters of the verbal blunder – you know who you are – the general consensus is we don’t want to hear your rude comments and we don’t respect your opinion. And yes, that’s personal! Just saying. Until next time…