Language is metaphor, the effort to express a concept or emotion through speech or the written word. Not only do the guttural explosions that attempt to represent our feelings often fail miserably to express the Truth beneath their exaltations, they may also serve as subconscious or conscious maskings of True feelings or ideas. When language fails us–when we don’t know what to say about a difficult situation (let alone how to say it)–it may be convenient to resort to a façade of word or phrase that symbolizes the True feeling or thought.
Nothing Personal. These two words belong in the same category as “I was only teasing,” or “I didn’t mean it,” and other so-called harmless euphemisms. Individuals sometimes use such expressions under the guise of benign, good-natured humor, as a way to distance themselves from the harm they’re unleashed.
There’s always something more at work with people who make inappropriate comments–perhaps a subconscious hope that a “put down” will make them appear taller, smarter, or funnier. Bullies do this. When “friends” dismiss a harmful comment (“Just kidding.”), it is likely because they believe the verbal facade nullifies any negative effect. It doesn’t. The meaning behind the metaphor is clear, and so is the veiled attempt to treat the comment as insignificant.