What I particularly like in conversation, are those little qualifying sentences that people begin with. You know the ones. They’re never going to end well. You’re standing there with that perfectly masked, pasted on smile belying your complete and utter lack of interest/here we go again face/’ut oh do I really wanna hear this?’ thought/tuning out/nausea.
Firstly, I will give you some examples of my all-time favourites, what they mean and useful strategies to deal with these little gems.
- “If you want my advice…”
- “I’m a straight-shooter…”
- “No offense, but…”
- “I’m not one to gossip, but…”
- “I like to call a spade a spade…”
- “This is not like me, but…”
- “I didn’t want to say anything, but…”
- “It’s not your fault, but…”
- “I know my kids aren’t angels, but…”
- “You know I love you, but…”
- “I’d do anything for you, but…”
- ” I don’t usually lie, but..”
- “I came here to see you, not you’re home…”
- “I am not a violent person, but…”
- In fact any of these… “I am not sexist/racist/homophobic etc, but…”
Most of you who have read a few of my posts know that I believe everything can be dealt with by using a good dose of humour. I am an Aussie. We are known for our laconic wit – ( the drier the better), strong sense of irony and our laid back attitude to most things. “She’ll be right, mate”…”No worries”. If they can’t – don’t deal with it. Just kidding!
With that in mind, let’s look at some of these ‘you beaut’ sentence starters.
“If you want my advice…”. No. I don’t, but you’re going to give it to me anyway,aren’t you? If I really wanted your advice, I would have asked you. Nope, still talking huh? Arghhhh. You can’t stop them, they’re really not out to help you, they just like the sound of their own voice and are like an unwritten self-help book. Tune out. Go to a better place, while nodding and placing the appropriate “ah hah” every now and then.
“I like to call a spade a spade…” Immediately tell them you don’t like card games and then 1. walk away or 2. offer food and drink as a distraction or else you will hear everything they think about you/your neighbour/your husband/your kids/your boss/your dog all in its pure, uncensored glory.
“I’m a straight shooter…” Please refer to “I like to call a spade a spade…” except this time insert “I don’t like guns”. These people are particularly volatile when you first meet them and I would highly advise walking away as the only step. But you didn’t ask for my advice so I won’t.
“It’s not you fault, but…” yes it is. We both know it is. It’s just that you don’t want to say it and I don’t want to think about it. Cry. Cry like there’s no tomorrow. Drama cry. Like that fake cry in ET, when Elliot is trying to cause a distraction for ET to escape. Like that. here’s why: 1. Your talker will go away to get tissues 2. They will think you’re nuts and leave 3. They will excuse themselves saying you need time to be alone. And cry. Because it really is your fault.
“I came here to see you, not your home”. I see. That’s why you’re nervously eying the furniture, dirty dishes, piles of toys, paperwork, odd brown muck on the couch ( it’s a mystery – maybe chocolate, maybe not), ironing basket overflowing, crazy hair, kids screaming, husband screaming. Deal with this in this way: Don’t be a slob. Clean your house and sort your shit out!!! Just kidding. Make coffee, don’t apologise. This is normal. She is not. I mean…who the hell comes to your place at 9am for coffee because they’re ‘bored’ and have finished all their housework on their day off? I’m not buying it. Go home and mess your house up.“I’d do anything for you, but…” Not this. Suck it up, it’s not gonna be good. You have no help here. Cast off this useless baggage immediately or make them a cup of coffee while mentally flipping through your phone book for someone who can help.
“You know I love you, but…” Oh boy. You know this one is going to be a doozy. “Really? I don’t love you!” might be a little harsh or inappropriate if it’s your husband/child/best friend. “Well, if you love me, you’ll stop right now.” might cut to the chase. I usually put my hands over my ears and yell “lalalalalalalala’. It seems to achieve the desired affect because people usually walk away when you do this and never bring the subject up again. For the persistent others in your life, follow up with “I can’t hear you” X 10.
“I don’t usually lie, but…” Just this one time and because it’s you…I will. Do not ever trust this person again because…they lie. Make them a cup of coffee, but do not believe anything they say and do not tell them anything. In fact, don’t speak at all. They will take what ever you say and make things up about you. No. It’s not paranoia. They will. Don’t look at them. Unfriend them. What? So what if it’s your sister?
Are you listening to anything I am saying here???
“I know my kids aren’t angels, but…” Yes you do. You think they are angels and mine are the devil’s spawn. These people are just leading into a rant about how bad your children are compared to theirs and well, while we’re at it…let’s look at the way you’re parenting too. Stop them first. Stop them at “I know my kids…” and say, “That’s good, they’re peeing in my front yard”. Right. Sorted.
“I am not a violent person, but…” You don’t want to hear the rest of this. Immediately stop anyone who says this and say “Oh that’s good, neither am I…biscuit?”
“This is not like me, but…” Who is it like then? Wow, this one gets me every time because you know it’s possibly not about you and you relax…only to hear the most tawdry, inappropriate unveilings or it is about you and the qualifier is a ruse. Your conversation partner has begun their rant under false pretences and should have begun with ” I didn’t want to say anything ,but…” or “I’m not one to gossip, but…” If it
is the first instance, ignore the qualifier and remember you are not a gossip. Be supportive. If it is the latter, you have several ways to go here. Out the window. Out the door. To the kitchen. To the bathroom. If you choose the escape option, you have cemented it in truth. Better to feign total ignorance/incredulity/disgust/nausea/disbelief. Unless your friend has betrayed you and we all know what happens to betrayers.
“No offense, but…” Seriously? You don’t mean to offend me but you’re gonna do it anyway? Thanks. What are good friends for? I would suggest a counteroffer of the same caliber just to make yourself feel better. Then go to the kitchen and make coffee and spit in your guest’s cup. If you have been brought up better than that – silently cry or pound the bench. Or wait until your husband comes home and say ” Do you know what so-and-so
said to me today?” and share the pain.
I do not have any pointers for the sexist, racist, homophobic qualifiers because I tend to go straight for the throat when people unleash those little gems of atrociousness. Yes, I grab my throat and pretend I’m choking, having a coughing fit or going to be violently ill. Works every time. In fact, works for everything.