It happens all the time, small mishaps between people that mislead one or both into thinking there are feelings of anger or resentment, this best sums it up: Yesterday a friend gave me a late Christmas gift, and I forgot it, along with my phone-charger. When I saw her today she asked if I’d shown the gift to my wife, I said, “No, I forgot it here.” Immediately her eyes widened, I could visibly see her building the thought: he didn’t care. I looked at her and said, “Hey, don’t take it personally, I forget something here every week. I was just in a hurry to get off work.” Crisis averted–feelings restored. That’s the proper use of the phrase: don’t take it personally, but I’m noticing more and more that it’s being used as a mask to subtly belittle people.
Lets say you really enjoy football, you watch it on TV, you attend games, you know trivia and you wear jerseys. The same general things we all do when we love something–get involved–it becomes part of who we are. If we’re talking, and I say, “Football sucks, and the people who play it are wasting their time!” It would probably make you a little upset. After belittling your favorite sport, or whatever you enjoy, for long enough, you’d probably tell me to fuck off. Rightfully so, but then I say something like: “Hey, don’t take it personally! I’m not saying anything bad about you, just football.”
Immediately confusion furrows in your brow because you know what I’m saying is true, I’m not really talking about you–you still feel slightly burned, but you can’t really argue with me. Still, it’s bullshit because you’re the embodiment of what you love, and put your time into, so telling a sports-fan that sports suck is the same as telling them they suck.
Don’t take it personally becomes a slogan to save face after being rude, or flat-out mean to someone. Luckily, this is easy to spot and shutdown. Remember, you have a right to feel upset when people say rude, mean, unhelpful, things, and it’s OK to feel angry when those things spoken are directed at you. Uplifting conversations elevate those who hear, not the opposite. Also look for this: after you’re visibly angry the instigator will keep insisting that you not take it personally. They will not apologize for wasting your time, or upsetting you; they’re not tearing you down (just what you enjoy). How do you end this farce? Long ago, some wise sage conceived a line of great wisdom: If you don’t have anything nice to say–SHUT THE FUCK UP!