Killing with Kindness

Here in the land of positive thinking, I have come across many things that SOUND positive, but darkness lurks beneath. So, today’s post is about Phrases That Sound Nice, But Just Aren’t. Most of these phrases are learned early on and we say them without even thinking. I am sure I have used them, so it’s not like I am putting myself on an ethical or ettiquette-driven pedestal.

“I hate to tell you but ______” I’ve heard this introduction to a comment MORE often when the comment was something that the speaker didn’t mind in the least sharing with the person to whom he or she was speaking. A boy in my 2nd grade class tried to use this phrase on me, and as I listened to his intent paired with the words he spoke, I said, “then just don’t tell me.” Stopped him in his tracks. I have no idea what this serious conversation in 2nd grade would have been about, but clearly this interaction had a lasting impression on me! The phrase pops out at me whenever I hear it.

“Could you do me a favor?” (After I’ve nodded my head, the asker usually asks me to do something that is either completely out of my way OR something I have already taken care to do.) The asker assumes that 1. She can ask for a favor 2. By asking for a favor in this manner and the person HAS to say yes, and 3. The person will say yes, no questions asked, and 4. The person will be bound by obligation to complete whatever the asker wants. Examples:“Could you do me a favor (pause for the expected answer of YES) and take an hour out of your day to run and errand for me that I suddenly don’t have time to do? Thanks so much!” “Could you do me a favor? (pause for the expected answer of YES) Could you give my dog a bath? Or loan me $1,000? Or dye my hair? Or let me crash on your couch long enough for you to want to start collecting rent from me?” Usually, the initial intent is good, but the eventual request is usually a pain in the butt for the person being asked. Add to that, that if the person using this phrase has had too much success asking for favors, the use of the phrase can extend to anything, however frivolous or trivial.

“Bless her heart.” – The southern way of gossiping about someone and quickly asking forgiveness for having said such a thing. Examples: “That dress is just waaaay to tight on you, bless your heart!” “He’s such a jerk, bless his heart.”

“I love you, but _____.” This is a presentation of something that you’re doing wrong. From someone who supposedly loves you. And it’s usually about trivial things. It is used much like “Bless your heart.” Examples: “I love you, but your hair is ugly.” “I love you, but, you really get on my nerves.” “I love you, but you’ve got to stop dating that jerk. Bless his heart.” What does loving me have to do with things you find wrong with me? Can’t you just say, “hey, I really don’t like the guy you’re dating. He’s a jerk.”

Do you know of other examples like this? Are there times where, for the sake of being polite, people in your life use phrases that, on the surface, seem perfectly good but are actually kind of sinister?

By the way, I am not dating anyone; I am married. And he’s not a jerk. But we can say bless his heart for putting up with me. 🙂


2 thoughts on “Killing with Kindness

  1. One that’s not rude or anything is “Can I ask you a question?” to which I respond, “Looks like you just did!” (talk about sabotaging a conversational flow!)

    And a couple that usually end badly are:

    “Not that it’s any of my business, but…” (stop right there with your but!)

    “If I were you…” (well, lucky for you, you’re not, so just keep on being you and stop trying to fix me!)

  2. Ha ha, those are great examples of what I am talking about! We try so hard to be polite and we wind up saying things that are actually hurtful instead. Are we just not open to criticism? If we’re offering criticism and introduce it with one of these phrases, why do we think we need to establish love, affection, or conditions before offering said criticism? Funny stuff…(not funny ha ha).

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