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When It’s Okay to Take Things Personally

Carolann Iardarola has been told she’s “too sensitive” – but since when is that a bad thing? Read more from Carolann on her blog.

When It's Okay to Take Things Personally

“Don’t take this personally.”

Have you ever had someone say that to you? Well, I have and one time or another and if you ask me, it was one time too many. You know when you hear those words, it’s never going to be a good thing. Whenever someone starts a sentence with them, I take a deep breath because I know I’m in for a long ride of piss me off!

Not only have I heard those words directed at me, but I’ve also heard them many times when people were talking about someone else which pisses me off even more! It didn’t matter if I was working as a cosmetologist or as a director of training; those words hit like a ton of bricks every time.

I remember having a conversation with someone close to me, who said the infamous words, “Don’t take this personally,” to me during a casual conversation. I believe she was attempting to tell me that I was “too sensitive” and how I needed to be aware of that and to stop monitoring every word she was saying. After years of being told “don’t take this personally” here and there from folks, at that moment, I’d just about had enough! I proceeded to stop her speaking and this is sort of how the rest of the conversation went.

Her: Well, don’t take this personally but you really need to be less sensitive. You are always analyzing my words and you need to be aware of that and stop being so sensitive.

Me: Wait one second – well how else am I supposed to take that? You are speaking to me so it is now personal  – right?  And you are directing that statement towards me – correct?

Her: Yes, but I didn’t want you to take it personally.

Me: Well how the hell else am I supposed to take it?

Her: See, this is exactly what I mean. You are too sensitive.

That conversation was a no winner  – full stop! I realized a long time ago to pick my battles – this was one that I chose to not pick.

When someone says those words to you are they judging you? I feel pretty strongly they are crossing personal boundaries. Even the tone of the phrase, “don’t take this personally,” resonates with a step right inside of your personal space. It sounds utterly condescending. It also puts people in a defensive posture. This phrase creates a negative vibe between the two conversing and can often lead to hurt feelings and resentment.

This phrase creates a negative vibe between the two conversing and can often lead to hurt feelings and resentment. Am I being too sensitive? Maybe. Would it have been OK if she told me that I was without using that phrase? Yes – it would have been far more effective. These words make me feel out of sorts and puts me immediately on the defensive – and yes I take that personally!

Now, in business, when you are told, “don’t take this personally”, it can take on an entirely different meaning. Some folks can interpret that as a blanket statement not meant for you personally – literally!

Example: If your reporting manager tells you there is a new policy which means you can’t wear open-toed shoes to work any longer, and upon explaining this new policy, you became upset, or displayed a negative reaction to what she was telling you  – and upon her seeing you upset she said, “don’t take it personally” because this is a company-wide policy and not directed towards you. I would say that her telling you that would be perfectly acceptable and not insulting – at least I would not be offended in the least.

Bottom line – As we all know, words can and do hurt, so be mindful of what you say and how you say them. Next time you say, “don’t take it personally but…” to someone, think about how it comes across to them. It can and does sound condescending and if your intent is to truly help or advise them, they just might be hearing the “tone” in what you are trying to say and not the content.


Carolann Iadarola

Hi! I'm Carolann, the owner and author of Sassy Townhouse Living! I'm very passionate about DIY projects, cooking, baking, makeup tutorials, decor, design, writing articles, and technology reviews. My mission statement: Sharing The Best Of Everything! Instagram: sassytownhouseliving

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Leisa Hammett

Saturday 1st of August 2015

I have mixed feelings about this post, but this I'm clear on. Don't give advice unless it's asked for. If one has just gotta give it, first ask if the other person is open to hearing your thoughts on an issue. I've learned in Nonviolent (aka: compassionate) Communication that it's not compassionate to offer unsolicited advice. We can wait for the other person to open the door and then proceed gently, again asking to clear the way. A lot of this seems like it is the other people who have a need to tell you what to do. Also I generally refrain from telling someone they "need" to do something. That's a judgment and few things in life are true needs.


Saturday 1st of August 2015

Leisa, you raised an excellent point here - I haven't given much thought to what you said about offering advice unsolicited. I think we tend to do that automatically out of empathy for the other person - or I would hope that's the reason. I think you are correct in stating one should wait for an open door to offer it. I think what I mean more was on the lines of the actual phrase "don't take this personally". It rings with sarcasm and I think folks need to be careful when using that phrase. Thanks much for sharing your thoughts on this. I really picked up on a key factor to think about.

Carol Graham

Thursday 23rd of July 2015

I don't recall anyone saying that for a very long time but what I do get all the time from my daughter and my husband is: "You have to stop taking everything so personally" when people say hurtful things. I always say "I know!" but then the next time I get a less-than-five-star review, I take it personally! Go figure.


Friday 24th of July 2015

I can't handle having anyone say that to me and make sure I open my mouth about it now that's for sure!


Thursday 23rd of July 2015

I agree too. I hate it when someone starts a sentence with this line. Thanks for speaking up about it Carolann.


Friday 24th of July 2015

Thanks sue it's funny how some people just don't get how hurtful that is

Karen McDonough

Thursday 23rd of July 2015

It's funny how people need to excuse what they're going to say to you before they say it...if they need to do that, they shouldn't say it all. I wonder when people do this, though, if they're trying to tell you how something makes them feel...but they need to be the dominant one in the conversation to protect their feelings. I know when someone starts a conversation with that, I feel my whole body blushing with shame even before they state what they're talking about... so I feel ya.


Friday 24th of July 2015

Lol exactly Karen my blood still boils when someone says that to me

Lee Gaitan

Thursday 23rd of July 2015

Yes, all very good points here--please take that personally! Here's one for you along the same lines--I had an acquaintance who routinely and pretty flippantly made hurtful comments to people. When I approached her about it, she said, "Oh, I'm insensitive, so you just have to accept that about me."



Friday 24th of July 2015

Wow that's not being sensitive that's being rude and nasty! It takes all kinds that's for sure lol

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