Friday, December 30, 2011

Bertha’s Bakers Dozen ™: Conversation Starters That Don’t Help

     There are as many different conversation styles as there are people in the world, but some elements are universal: the art of exchanging ideas, the transfer of information from one person to another, the tone of voice that indicates mood and intent … these are the elements we can easily identify.  But what about those people who resort to pat sentences meant to ease difficult situations?      

     Well, Letterman has his ten; Bertha has her Bakers Dozen … and this time, it’s the Conversation Starters That Don’t Help list:

13) “We need to talk.”  A classic, but it still sucks.  Don’t scare me like that.  If you need to talk, then start talking.     

12) “You may not like this.”  Thank you for warning me in advance, but I would really prefer to make up my own mind.  

11) This isn’t easy.”  How difficult you perceive the delivery of the message to be is not going to lessen the severity of the bomb you’re about to drop in my lap.  

10) “Before I say anything, just know I love you.”  If what you have to say is so horrible you feel the need to preface it with reassurances of fondness, you are probably wasting your breath.

9) “You know how much I love you, but …”  This one is similar to the last one except worse because it ends in “but”, and in case you weren’t aware, “but” has a tendency to undo everything that came before it.       

8) “Thank you for _______, however …”  This one usually comes in the form of a letter or e-mail from someone too chicken to say it to your face.  “Thank you for the candy you spent $55 and 6 hours making, but I’m allergic.”  “Thank you for your book submission, however we have no intentions of publishing the rants of a quasi-nutty college dropout.”  “Thank you for your brilliant idea to raise money for our church, however we think an octogenarian beefcake calendar would not be in the best interest of our parishioners.”       

7) “OK, here’s the thing.”  Grammatically, linguistically, this means nothing.  But in our culture, it is usually the precursor to excuses bordering on the bizarre. 

6) “I’m not sure how to say this.”  What you have to say is so unpleasant you can barely find the words?  This would be one of the rare times I would rather be surprised.  Just blindside me, I’m begging you.       

5) “I regret to inform you …”  Usually there is very little “regret” involved.  Either you have absolved yourself of all emotional responsibility, or you were sent by someone else and were therefore never emotionally involved to begin with.     

4) “Just hear me out.”   If you have to warn me in advance that what you have to say is so terrible/complex that I might be tempted to interrupt, I seriously doubt you could stop me. 

3) There’s good news and bad news.”  Another classic that still sucks.  The good news is never good enough to outweigh the bad news, so let’s just skip this insipid little preview and move right to the feature, shall we?     

2) “Don’t get mad.”  At this point, you’re probably too late.      

1) “You’re gonna laugh at this.”  Yeah, don’t count on it.   

© Bertha Grizzly 2011.  All Rights Reserved.  No duplication or distribution.

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