“Don’t take it personally.”
- One guy too many
“…ay, there’s the rub.”
- Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act III, Scene 1
If one more business guy tells me one more time, “Don’t take it personally"...
What do you mean, “Don’t take it personally”?! It is personal. I am a person, I am doing business personally, therefore I take business personally.
I define “taking things personally” as being the instrument of my fate, responsible for my choices, and responsible for the consequences of my choices. If I see myself as the leader of my life and my company, then, you bet, what happens is about me personally. Telling me “Don’t take it personally” is telling me to extinguish myself.
That said, I can’t say I’ve found taking business personally a particularly gratifying process. Starting a company is so risky, and building a business so onerous, I have found myself often personally strained, frayed and depleted by the sheer enormity of the task. Business is hard on a person.
I’ve been given the “Don’t take things personally” advice often enough, though, and have found it well-meaning but so unhelpful, that it merited a step back and a look for a pattern at setting and circumstances. It could still happen, but I can’t remember this being uttered to me by a woman. In any case, in each instance when the advice was given to me by a man, I was personally upset. In each case, the subtext of “Don’t take it personally” was “You’re so personally upset that you’re professionally absent.”
People do business with people. If I’m personally upset, I’m unavailable for business. Light on, shop door closed.
Yet, I treasure taking my life personally. I cherish beyond price the depth and breadth and richness of my personal life.
So what do I with my premise: “I am a person, therefore I do business personally”? What do I do with the advice, “Don’t take business personally?”
I think the premise is flawed and the advice is flawed.
It's not how to “take” business. It’s how to “do” business.
There’s the rub.
New advice to self:
“Don’t do business personally. Do business strategically.”
If I do business strategically, rather than personally, I take business results and business relationships into consideration with regard to my strategy. I don’t take them personally. I’m free to “take it personally” in my personal life as intensely and as acutely as I choose. My business life becomes excitingly, fascinatingly, engagingly about strategically achieving a vision.
My experience is that an either-or dichotomy like this doesn’t always hold true. In an age of transparency, where the personal-professional divide is as clear as broken lines on a road in a rain storm, I’m still going to tweet pics of my cats to my company’s Twitter feed.
My guess is that if I can operate more generally within the context of this new insight - doing business strategically rather than personally - the number of times I hear “Don’t take it personally” will decrease. That’s because I’ll be fully and professionally present to do business.