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 add, “but please don’t take this personally.” As if plugging in the word please makes it conventionally acceptable. So should I pretend you just insulted someone other than me? Or is your criticism so important that I should feel honored to be given such negative feedback by someone who feels so magnanimous?
No relationship is immune to this phenomenon. It is the mother-in-law who claims you should not have more children after you announce a pregnancy; the parent at your child’s school that tells you your daughter should not play a particular sport that 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, it is personal. Some people try to justify what they say but let’s face it, it is what it is. And it’s downright rude.
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 proverbial 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’. Hmmm. That sounds about right.
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 accepted a better position within a larger company.
The real lesson here is whatever communication you have with a friend, a 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 for your opinion, you should give a fair, kind and helpful assessment. However, if you feel it is your place to critique someone’s appearance, parenting skills or life choices, for example, with uninvited comments, think again. 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 nice 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 and 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 is personal!