There are certain things you just don’t want to hear, especially when starting off a conversation. Now I’m not talking about the obvious ones, such as:
“I hope you’re sitting down.”
This usually indicates that you’re about to hear bad news, perhaps news about a sickness, accident, or in the worst cases, death.
Depending on what you’re asking for, this can range from trivial (asking for another piece of cake) to tragic (asking someone to marry you).
What I’m talking about here are a few discussion starters, or more accurately, things someone might say to you when he (or she…but I’ll just stick to one pronoun for now on to make it easier to read) has something to say. For instance:
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but…”
I can’t recall one single instance where someone said this to me, and I DIDN’T take whatever was said the wrong way, or at least in a negative way. This type of statement puts the listener in a very uncomfortable situation, as you only get about 1 or 2 seconds to brace yourself for what’s coming. You just know that “somebody bout to get hurt real bad” when you hear this. I’d rather the speaker just say whatever he wants to say without the pre-amble. In other words, cut to the chase and let me have it!
Very similar to this is this gem:
“No offense but…”
You can truly just copy my paragraph above about “Don’t take this the wrong way, but…” and paste it here. When you hear that, you know it’s going to be something you don’t want to hear. Your knees start to feel weak and you get a funny feeling in your stomach (or is that just me…haha). And again, I can’t recall one single time where I DIDN’T take offense to what was said. Otherwise, the speaker wouldn’t have started with those 3 words, right? I’d take less offense is he just said what he had to say without the set-up!
Then there’s this one:
“If you want my honest opinion…”
This is usually yet another set-up for a crushing blow. In volleyball terms, it’s the quick back-set to the middle blocker before getting six-packed off the top of your head. There are a couple of fundamental flaws with this statement. Firstly, of course I want an honest opinion: why on earth would I want a dishonest opinion? Secondly, if this statement is unsolicited, then technically I could answer “No, I don’t want or need your opinion” but that just makes me look really really bad. But this is assuming that I even get a chance to interject. Usually the speaker will just continue on, giving me no choice but to listen.
And finally, this one from my good friend Andrea:
“We need to talk.”
Speaking from personal experience, what this really means is: “You’re going to listen. And you’re probably not going to like what you’re going to hear.”
When I hear this, I know I’m in trouble, especially when the speaker is my lovely wife Gail. Inevitably and invariably, these conversations end off with me uttering 2 words that I’m certainly not to proud to proclaim: