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I'm just a girl in the world.. that kind of likes to write. Mom of 2 teen girls & work as Talent Attraction & Marketing professional. Oh, & I'm addicted to my phone, Social Media, HR/Talent Marketing & Caffeine... you can learn more about me at www.linkedin.com/in/theonecrystal

Rant On: It IS Personal!

So, I’ll concede that sometimes the things I find inane or annoying really aren’t that big of a deal to anyone other than me… but, I have a serious bone to pick.  With a phrase that when used, a) often makes the person saying it a liar because it’s largely inaccurate; and b) and is highly inflammatory/antagonistic.

What’s the phrase that has my dander up, you may wonder?  It’s this:  “It’s nothing personal.”  Here’s the problem though – it’s almost always personal to someone… even if it’s not you.

I think typically when people say this, what they mean is ‘it’s not personal to them’ and it’s said in an effort to deter the other party from over-personalizing whatever negative news is about to be delivered.  The irony associated with the low rate of success with this tact isn’t lost on me.  However, much like the Southern idioms of “Bless their Heart” (1)  and “I’m sorry” (2); “It’s Not Personal” seems to have found a permanent place in the professional conversation.

Here’s the deal, though:  it IS personal or it wouldn’t be said.  In a story, this line is delivered by?  The antagonist... the person you struggle with, compete against, have trouble with.  It’s not ever a positive statement.   Recently, I read a blog post by Jason Seiden talking about a deliberate focus on using more positive statements.  In it, he talks about how negative comments can create miscommunication because it causes the brain to have to invert what’s being said to get to the real meaning.  Somehow, I see ‘it’s not personal’ having membership in the ‘negative statements that need inversion’ club; despite being presented as a straightforward fact.

The other way I see this unfortunate little phrase used is as a way to couch an excuse to break into a sensitive subject – again, making it a contradiction in terms as sensitive subjects infer a personal aspect to them.  Tonight, it was on the television.  Nightline or some such program was doing a piece on obesity and airlines; hitting on the inequities for the non-obese & raising the question on whether or not they should charge more for more weight.  It turned into a “is obesity bad” (3) conversation & so I tuned out… until the lady arguing against obesity said this,

 “I don’t want an obese person spilling into my seat … because I paid for my whole seat. It’s nothing personal.”

How could it be anything but personal when making the statement that you don’t want a stranger touching you or invading your “personal space?”  I think what she REALLY means is, “I don’t mean to offend anyone that falls into that category by the fact that this makes me uncomfortable because I get ‘offenders’ can’t immediately change it… so please don’t be personally offended by the fact that I don’t like it.”

Personally speaking (4),  I don’t use this phrase much.  Why?  Because if I’m going to bother with something; there’s a personal value in it.  Business, Romance, Fun, Parenting, Friendship … it’s ALL personal.  Life is personal… right?  Right.  Here’s hoping that as we move forward we can learn to be comfortable with conversations being … well, personal.

1) which means someone’s doing something superbly dumb

2) which seems to be the phrase “Excuse Me’s” new black…

3) does ANYONE actually think it’s good???  I don’t see people getting all geeked up about obesity.

4) pun intended

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2 Comments on “Rant On: It IS Personal!”

  1. sandraeamor 05/04/2012 at 8:15 pm #

    Excellent! Personally, I think this is quite an amazing post. (Sorry, couldn’t resist!) Let’s all get more personal! Hopefully this will get people thinking about how they use those phrases so that they can learn to just say what they mean instead of hiding behind words. Love the quote from The Office up there too!

    • TheOneCrystal 05/04/2012 at 8:49 pm #

      Thanks, Sandra – and can’t blame you, personally speaking, for the pun. 😉 Clearly I couldn’t resist, either – it’s fun! If you get a chance, check out the post I linked to by Jason Seiden – he talks a lot about what you say, how you say things, and conduct yourself in life… and they’re fab. That particular blog really challenged me; and definitely influenced this one!

      Again, thanks for your thoughts and your readership…totally agree, life would be better if we all just said what we meant… with tact, of course! 😉

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