“Don’t take this the wrong way, but…”
There is probably no disclaimer I hate more. How about, “Don’t take this the wrong way but you have inarticulate communication skills?” Or, “Don’t take this the wrong way but using that phrase is indicative of your projecting passive-aggressive behavior onto me?” If you’re trying to absolve yourself of any responsibility that’s attached to anything that comes out of your mouth thereafter, try a more discreet way of doing so.
Or here’s an idea – how about giving the other the benefit of the doubt with a chance to respond?
It’s as if the recipient were to take offense to that which the speaker is disclaiming, then he or she is doomed from the start. It was clearly “taken the wrong way” since the speaker has called it. Now if he were to care less, it doesn’t matter because the verdict was already passed – the speaker has already judged that the other has been “too sensitive” as a pattern and most likely to “take it the wrong way” and so he’s already been judged as defensive. It’s a lose-lose situation. It’s meant to make one win and the other lose.
I’m not saying that everyone should be a most articulate linguistic improvisor all the time. But I think it is a simple thing to ask to try not heaping all of the emotional baggage or responsibility onto the other person. How about other disclaimers like, “I’m not sure how to put this but…?” Or, “I don’t know if this is going to come out the right way but…?”
And then other times, I think the most asinine personalities actually use this phrase willingly and knowingly in hostile manners. Well, perhaps subconsciously, but asinine all-the-same. The phrase makes the responsibility 100% belonging to the other person and 0% to his- or herself. It makes a loophole for the speaker to redact on what he or she actually meant without taking responsibility for hurtful words – because hey, the other person took it the wrong way.
Own up, people. Your words are hurtful and if you don’t take responsibility for them – and be the person behind them – then you’re not just projecting your unreleased anger, you’re also a coward. An apology for hurtful words doesn’t make you any less worthy, it makes you more credible for the words you say. Because a sincere apology isn’t just words – it’s action behind those words. And we all know actions speak louder than words. Own them both.