This post was written by Julia Winston and first appeared on Asmithblog.com
“It’s not personal. It’s just business”
Most are familiar with the line from The Godfather (1972). Many have written praising this movie for its leadership lessons. Many have written denouncing this line as a lie, a farce, and problematic. Regardless of your stance, we want to believe it is true. In this article I’ll tell you why we want to believe it, even though it isn’t true.
In his article on the movie, Ramil John, points out that the “it’s not personal, it’s business” line is akin to the “it’s not you, it’s me” line used in a billion break ups. It is our way of justifying a decision that will personally affect someone else. We say stuff like that to make the other person somehow how feel less offended by what we are saying or doing.
On the topic, Lolly Daskall, asked us to ask Apple Founder, Steve Jobs, and Twitter Founder, Jack Dorsey, if they thought it wasn’t personal when they were ousted as CEO of the companies they founded.
In a piece on career advice, Inspiring Experts, wrote that in economic uncertainty, more people are taking things more personally now than ever before because being laid off or fired personally affects, the spouses and children of the employee.
Those are just three examples from people who don’t agree with that line. Intrinsically we all know the line isn’t true and we still want to believe it, but why?
We want to believe we can handle our jobs or our businesses without taking things personally because we don’t want to be considered WEAK!
Communication in its most basic form is sending, receiving, and interpreting messages. As the sender of the message, we want to be able to control what the receiver interprets.
We want to believe that business isn’t personal because we believe it is a power posture. As communicators, we fall into the trap of always wanting to posture ourselves in the alpha or top position because that is the message we want the receiver to receive.
If everyone positions themselves as top dog, the leader, or in charge, then how will work get done? The Bible says that the eye cannot tell the hand, “I don’t need you”. All parts work together to make the body function. But what we have is everyone clawing to be one part–the head. (Mike Rowe talked about this point and how it related to jobs here.) Imagine, if a body had 3 million heads. It would be utterly useless.
In the Inspiring Experts article, the author points out that most people associate women with the inability to separate business and the personal. In a counter to this argument, the author points out that in the movie, from whence this line is timelessly plucked, no women were in positions of power. In fact, if you notice in the above clip, it is clear that Michael Corleone says the line in defense of himself. He wants to show that he is not weak but powerful enough to take on the task.
But let me be clear…
Personal does not mean weak!
Personal just means personal. By definition, personal is an adjective that means “of, coming from, or pertaining to a particular person.” Your beliefs and emotions attached to the word or phrase determine how you posture yourself in communication with others. Clearly, Michael Corleone ascribed personal to be weakness. So the intent behind his communication was to change the way he was viewed. Thus he delivered the famous line that has forever infiltrated American pop culture.
Points to consider.
Good communicators don’t trespass into the mental space of the receiver [Tweet This] with the goal to manipulate how the receiver interprets their message. The movie, Inception, points out the dangers of trying to make someone think a certain way.
Good communicators respect the receiver enough to let them think for themselves [Tweet This] …even if they don’t like or agree with the results.