I hope you can forgive me for another movie reference. As an actress, so many of my touchstones come from the world of cinema. As I noted the other day in my post There’s No Place Like Home, I watched the movie You’ve Got Mail with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. It’s a wonderful movie and one that was fun to revisit for a while. It’s funny how things hit you differently at different times. Since I’d seen it a bunch when it first came out, I was reacquainting myself with some of the great writing Nora Ephron did on this film. But this time, a section of dialogue jumped out at me which it hadn’t done before. It was when Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) goes to Kathleen’s (Meg Ryan) apartment after her store closed because he’s found out she’s sick with a bad cold. She’s not very gracious about the visit and is not polite to him at all. He says to her “It wasn’t personal“. She replies “What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn’t personal to you. But it was personal to me. It’s *personal* to a lot of people. And what’s so wrong with being personal, anyway?” He doesn’t quit know what to say to this challenge so he replies very eloquently “uh, nothing“. She retorts, “Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.”
This stood out to me as if Klieg lights were shined directly on the text. My whole life I’ve been told I take things too personally. In business, when I was passed over for a promotion for someone that was still in the training program, I was told this was nothing personal, just the best decision for the business (really? it had nothing to do with the fact his salary was half of mine?!). In acting when you are the product, you work your entire career to not take the rejection personally. You are too blond, brunette, tall, short, green eyed, female, whatever. How on earth those comments can’t be taken personally is beyond me!
It is personal to me as I’m sure it is to the majority of people walking around. Dismissing customers, comments, complaints & suggestions with a flip “It’s not personal” does a disservice to the integrity of a human connection. It’s saying your priorities are more important than the other persons. Sometimes it’s an easy cop-out to a difficult situation or a way to avoid a truthful confrontation. But don’t fool yourself, it may not be personal to you, but it’s very personal to the other person. Remembering that fact may help find a better way to express yourself.