Perhaps it all began with the poor sweet lady who didn’t understand that her McDonald’s coffee might be a teensy bit warm, but we officially live in a world full of disclaimers. From the “assembly required” label on the side of a 1000-piece puzzle to the extremely helpful “remove cap” warning on a can of Easy Cheese, to the five-page side effect inserts in my Shape magazine, the world refuses to steer us wrong. And so it follows that our friends and family have adopted the same policy – when in doubt, lead with a disclaimer.
We use these lofty intros to build intrigue and momentum to what we believe is an amazing revelation. We say things like “So to be totally honest,” in a hushed tone to ensure we have your full attention and that you’re poised and ready for the killer sentence we have in store for you. While more often than not, the resulting words are anticlimactic at best, we can’t seem to let go of our urge to preface. Here are a few that have become as ingrained in our daily interactions as awkward weather chit-chat:
Honestly/frankly/truthfully: I’m not really sure I even believe what I’m about to tell you, but it would really help me out if you did.
I have to tell you something: Cue the theme song to Days of Our Lives – it’s about to get serious in here. This is where I expect to hear something awful like you’re running away to Bora Bora with my dad’s evil twin, but instead you just tell me you spilled Bloody Mary mix on my favorite sweater.
I don’t mean to be rude, but: If my new hairstyle reminds you of Sally Struthers circa 1986 or my homemade lasagna tastes like it came out of a Lean Cuisine box, just tell me.
We need to talk: This is the verbal equivalent of having a meeting about a meeting.
I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but: We already knew you were listening, just chime on in!
So while I probably shouldn’t tell you this, from my perspective, whether it’s a long-winded intro that has us gasping for air or the brief and seemingly innocuous “to tell you the truth,” disclaimers leave your audience internally screaming for you to get to the point. Put them out of their misery, honestly.