People tend to underestimate one another’s bullshit detectors and overestimate their own. Some of the best evidence of this is how frequently we resort to the following phrases. Don’t use them unless you want to trigger people.
1. “No offense, but …”
You’re about to say something offensive. Either take ownership of it or don’t say it.
Sometimes a situation calls for you to be obnoxiously assertive. Sometimes you should just keep your mouth shut. If you feel that you have to share an opinion that might not be well received, don’t be a wimp about it. Say it without apology. On the other hand, if you feel the need to preface something with “No offense,” maybe you shouldn’t be saying it. Don’t be a jerk.
Whatever the case, saying “no offense” makes you sound like both a sissy and a jerk.
2. “Frankly/To be frank, …”
Just be frank.
3. “Honestly/To be quite honest, …”
Just be honest.
4. “I sincerely hope/believe/feel …”
See a theme here?
If you’re actually a sincere person you don’t need to pepper your language with words like “sincerely,” “honestly” and “frankly.”
5. “With all due respect, …”
If you’re speaking with someone you respect you should treat him/her as an adult and speak directly. If you’re speaking with someone who has compromised your respect then this is insincere.
6. “I’m sorry if …”
The word “if” often negates whatever came before it. If you said or did something you shouldn’t have, own up to it. If you don’t feel you have something to apologize for, don’t apologize.
Using “if” in an apology implies that you didn’t actually do anything wrong and you’re having to apologize because the person you’re speaking to is thin-skinned.
7. “I’m not gonna lie, …”
I knew someone who habitually began sentences this way and let’s just say you wouldn’t want to do business with her.
8. “Like I said, …”
You’re having to repeat yourself and you’re frustrated. Take a deep breath. Then respond in a way that doesn’t make you sound like a tool. The person you’re speaking to either forgot or didn’t hear what you said. Does that make him or her stupid? Probably not, but when you use this snippy opening it sounds like you think so.
A Plea for Sincerity
Genuine tact is a good thing, but in an effort to be tactful people often use confusing or patronizing language. Honesty, sincerity, humility, respect and candor are all conveyed by your behavior, body language and subtext. A well-placed qualifier like “frankly” doesn’t turn bullshit into sterling silver.
Being direct with people conveys respect; false tact is a virulent form of insincerity.