It’s Friday afternoon–You’re in a planning meeting and you make a recommendation about a potential solution, which is immediately shot down by one of your colleagues. You thought it was a good suggestion and your demeanour probably reflects your disappointment. The meeting continues but you’re left with a feeling of frustration at not being heard or your contribution valued. The meeting ends, your colleague follows you to your desk and proceeds to tell you “Don’t take it personally…”
What does it mean?
The urban dictionary describes this statement as a “phrase people use as a disclaimer to make an excuse to say or do something rude or mean to you to prevent you from having a poor self-image or so there won’t be repercussions and make you feel they still like you even though they probably don’t.”
That definition seems a little extreme but perhaps there is some truth to it.
In the workplace, it is always a challenge to convey disagreement in a manner that will not damage the relationship. However, asking someone to not take it personally doesn’t mean that the person on the receiving end won’t do exactly that.
When someone disagrees with us, and feels the need to say so, how can we separate the message from the messenger?
Don’t jump to conclusions, get clarification, and ask questions.
Did they misinterpret your suggestion? What was it about your suggestion that they did not agree with? Sometimes just asking a few simple questions can diffuse the situation and clear up misunderstandings.
Separate our own experiences from someone else’s
It’s easy to take things personally instead of realizing that it reflects something about the other person, not us. Try to think about what they are saying and what it means to them, not to us. Perhaps they are seeing your solution from an entirely different perspective.
Learn from the experience
In my professional career, I have been on both sides of the “Don’t take it personally” dialogue. I’ve learned to view other’s reactions as sometimes personal opinions. I’ve also learned that not everyone agrees with me. I’m still learning to pause and keep it all in perspective.
There will be times in the professional workplace where we are frustrated by the behaviour of others. This is inevitable. By refusing to take things personally, we are able to focus on the task at hand.