Nothing Personal

“It’s not personal” is a polarizing phrase.

On the one hand, there are people who feel that if it’s happening to them, or being done to them, then it is personal.  And I can understand that, because when you feel angry, hurt, or happy as a direct result of someone’s actions or words, it feels personal because you feel wronged in some way.

But I’ve come to understand that when someone says “It’s nothing personal,” what they really mean is “I didn’t do it (read “hurt you, etc”) on purpose.”  It might seem like a trivial difference, but it’s actually not . . . to me, anyway.

The key is in the intention.  When someone does or says something that’s meant to hurt me or make me feel bad, then it DEFINITELY is personal, and I feel that I would be well within my rights to be upset about it.  But more often than not, the “offender” was simply going about his/her day and being him/herself.  If I get upset by something s/he has done or said then, well that’s entirely my own choosing.

When it affects you, it might not seem that way–and nobody wants to admit that they’ve chosen to entertain a bad feeling–but that’s exactly what happens.  How can I say that, you ask?  Well, it all came from my mother who taught me at a young age that I’m fully responsible for how I receive what’s been said/done to me.

When I used to get called stupid or ugly by my classmates, I’d go home crying.  But my mom would ask me “Are you stupid?” or “Are you ugly?”  When I responded “no,” she simply said, “Then why get upset about it?”  As a child I couldn’t fully reason that out, because it still hurt to have that said to me, and I didn’t know how NOT to be hurt by it, but as an adult, I’ve come to realize that when someone says or does mean things to me, the issue is really about them and whatever they’ve got going on in their lives.

Which is why “Nothing personal” doesn’t bother me anymore.  Granted, there are people who will use that phrase after deliberately trying to knock you down (literally or metaphorically), but again, that’s their issue, not mine.  I’ve got enough stuff going on in my life that I don’t want to waste my time or energy stewing about whether or not someone set out to do me emotional or physical harm.

And that brings us right back to the crux of the situation . . . intention.  We’ve all got so much stuff going on in our lives–kids/parents; school/work; significant others/friends; careers/hobbies–that usually we don’t have the space in our heads to plot ways to intentionally hurt someone.  Yes, we can be careless because we’re so focused on our own stuff, but being careless isn’t the same as doing something on purpose, and in my opinion, those who think it is the same thing aren’t fully able to accept their own responsibility in the equation.

The phrase “It takes two to tango” is a perfect, simplistic way to sum up what I’ve been saying.  There are at least two parties in every situation (unless it’s you talking to yourself . . . then you’ve got other issues 😉 ), and each person is responsible for his/her own action/reaction within said situation.  If someone yells at you, you don’t have to become upset and yell back; there are a myriad of possible responses available to you.  You could tell them you don’t appreciate their tone and to please speak to you in a nicer manner.  You could simply walk away.  Heck, you could even punch them in the face.

Or . . . you could understand that their anger/resentment/etc is their own issue.  That maybe they’re so completely stressed at the moment they don’t have full use of the manners that were hopefully taught to them growing up.  And realizing that makes it MUCH easier to just shrug your shoulders and think to yourself . . .

It’s nothing personal.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. cminichino
    Apr 04, 2014 @ 07:16:13

    Very well said, Alyx (as usual!). But, you know me and I have a rebuttal 🙂

    You were lucky enough to have a mother who clearly loved you, making it easier (I think) to become the wonderful, balanced person that you are. If it was your mother who said every day, “You’re ugly and stupid,” it would have harder not to believe it.


    • Alyx Morgan
      Apr 04, 2014 @ 07:24:23

      You are SO right, Camille! It would be very difficult to see yourself as anything but stupid or ugly if you were repeatedly told that by someone who’s supposed to love & support you. And if THAT person were to later say “it’s nothing personal,” I would have to call BS on them! When someone deliberately sets out to hurt you, it’s ABSOLUTELY personal, but they’re a huge jerkwad for doing so!

      Thanks for stopping by, Camille, & for the compliment. It’s always nice to see your rebuttals here. 🙂


  2. Dana
    Apr 04, 2014 @ 13:47:23

    Another facet to this situation is that while people often DON’T mean to hurt other people, it’s a sign of their maturity and empathy if they’re willing to look at WHY what they did/said affected someone else adversely and consider whether or not they were careless. Sometimes yes, people are ultra sensitive and you hit a hot button without meaning to, and I agree that intention IS important. And some people really seem to look for offense in anything that’s said or done. But it’s also important to continually develop self-awareness and awareness of how our behavior affects the people and the world around us. Makes for a much happier and calmer life!


    • Alyx Morgan
      Apr 04, 2014 @ 16:07:05

      Very good points, Dana. I started to say why I agreed with you, but it wound up basically being a rehash of your words, which were good enough as they were. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by today.


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