This morning I got an email and the subject was “Friendly Reminder.” I immediately knew this was not an email I really wanted to open. Did you ever notice how certain expressions are inherently followed by something annoying or negative?
Really, giving a friendly reminder is not so bad. But it still rubs me wrong, because I know it means the sender is about to nag me to do something I obviously haven’t done yet or don’t feel like doing. Pay a bill maybe, or go to an appointment I would rather have forgotten. I know the intentions are good, but I think I’d prefer it if the sender would just be honest in the subject line…I’m going to tell you this again in case you forgot, or are just plain ignoring me.
My daughter recently picked up the phrase, No offense, but… This one is much worse. Obviously, anything following that is not going to be complimentary. We had a long discussion about how these three words are always followed by an insult. If your sentence starts with that phrase, you probably shouldn’t finish the sentence. What was interesting to me was that she hadn’t even considered that before. It was just a phrase she’d heard and, without thinking, started using herself.
Then she asked, “So I guess that’s the same as when a person says something really nasty, shrugs, and goes, Just saying. Right?” Exactly. Why do we think it’s okay to say anything we want, as long as we attach a disclaimer to it? As if the disclaimer offsets the rest of the comment.
When we write, or read, a character’s words have such definite purpose. When the character is being cutting, we can feel it in his language. There’s no question of whether or not he knows he’s being obnoxious. His intent is clear. But when we speak the same words in day to day conversations, I think we sometimes forget that our words carry the same power as those we read in the books we love.
I know I’m guilty of it. I’ll ramble on and on to my kids and I’m sure not every word I’m saying is exemplary. And then when I hear some of those same expressions come out of my children, it makes me cringe. Since I had that conversation with my daughter, I’ve been trying to be more conscious of the expressions I use. I laughed the other day, because as I was about to tell her something, I asked myself how it would sound coming out of the mouth one of my characters. I stopped myself.
So I’m trying. Trying to give myself friendly reminders not to say something if I wouldn’t like how it sounds when repeated. I think if we all do that a little more often, our children will have fewer comments that follow the words “no offense.”