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Its Not Business, Its Personal

By Marc Freeman

“Listen, I like you. This isn’t personal, it’s just business.” Has anyone ever given you that line? Did you believe it? Did you feel that it was in fact personal? Did your opinion of the person who gave you this line change for the worse, or did you expect it because you knew this person’s reputation wasn’t very good? If you answered yes to all of these questions, as I would, then you understand why “It’s Not Business, It’s Personal.”

It’s time for business people to consider the human element in dealing with each other — the personal effect of our actions on others, in both our professional and personal relationships. We have to start taking full responsibility for ourselves, for all of our actions and their effects. Why? Because our behavior counts.
Many believe you can’t use this approach in business because people will take advantage of you, but that’s not true. It is possible—and it is necessary—to maintain personal integrity, character, and a good reputation while doing business. And when we develop these attributes in our personal lives, we are rewarded many times over. 

You can’t just tell someone that “it’s not just business,” you have to demonstrate this through your actions. Here are some ways to show the people you’re dealing with that you really mean it:
1. Remember that all of our interactions are with people.

Relationships of every kind and in every situation — even between large corporations or countries — are conducted person-to-person. When we recognize this fact (and pay attention to it), we’re already on the right track.

2.  Your reputation is based on how you treat others.

If reputation is important (and it should be), then your reputation is personal to you. When people want to make themselves feel ok about cheating you or just behaving improperly, that’s when they give you the line, “I like you; it’s not personal, it’s just business.”
What they don’t understand is that our actions reflect who we are, and what we are. Our actions create our reputation. It’s very personal. Ironically, that’s why so many people spin the truth—to justify their actions to those around them and to the world, but especially to themselves. Simply because our actions and behavior affect those we are dealing with, then by definition it’s personal. The statement, “It’s not personal, it’s just business,” is a mantra for bad behavior.

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September 2006