Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"Bless Her Heart"

Once the kids were safely dropped off at school, this one-time stay-at-home mom had lots of opportunity to coffee klatch.  These gab fests would eventually make their way to a sentence that began with "Bless her heart." Instantly, my antennae would go up because a juicy bit of gossip was about to be revealed. A cheating husband, less-than-stellar children, or the expanding width of a rear end were all fair game if it was preceded by "Bless her heart."

What is the point of "bless her heart" and other "tee-ups"? After all, a blessing is a good thing, right? Wrong, not when it is instantly followed by some snarky comment.

Like the author of "Why Verbal Tee-Ups Often Signal Insincerity" I cringe when someone says to me "Don't take this the wrong way . . . "  I mean you know what's coming.  Professor James Pennebaker asserts these "tee-ups" are preludes to criticism and worse.
"Language experts have textbook names for these phrases—"performatives," or "qualifiers." Essentially, taken alone, they express a simple thought, such as "I am writing to say…" At first, they seem harmless, formal, maybe even polite. But coming before another statement, they often signal that bad news, or even some dishonesty on the part of the speaker, will follow.
"Politeness is another word for deception," says James W. Pennebaker, chair of the psychology department of the University of Texas at Austin, who studies these phrases. "The point is to formalize social relations so you don't have to reveal your true self."
"'In other words, 'if you're going to lie, it's a good way to do it—because you're not really lying. So it softens the blow,' Dr. Pennebaker says.
"Of course, it's generally best not to lie, Dr. Pennebaker notes. But because these sayings so frequently signal untruth, they can be confusing even when used in a neutral context. No wonder they often lead to a breakdown in personal communications."
There is speculation about why we use "tee-ups" or those little phrases that pack a wallop and how they may be leading to some unpleasant conversations and hurt feelings.  

Has someone ever prefaced a comment to you with "I am only telling you this because I love you" or "I thought you should know" or even the dreaded, "I just want to be honest."  Hurt feelings?  You bet.
"'If you are feeling a need to use [tee-ups] a lot, then perhaps you should consider the possibility that you are saying too many unpleasant things to or about other people,' says Ellen Jovin, co-founder of Syntaxis, a communication-skills training firm in New York. She considers some tee-up phrases to be worse than others. 'Don't take this the wrong way…' is 'ungracious,' she says. 'It is a doomed attempt to evade the consequences of a comment.'" 
But I bet there are "tee-ups" this author missed.  After all, he's a college professor, not a college student.  What kind of "tee-ups" make you cringe?

18 comments:

  1. you this...but... I am going to make a conscious effort not to do this!I'm telling you this because you're a friend, I hope I don't regret telling

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  2. I found this post very interesting, I did not know that there was a name for these little phrases. I agree with you when you said that there is not a great outcome when someone starts a conversation with one of these, it usually is not going to be good. One 'tee-up' that makes me cringe is, "I'm not trying to gossip but a little birdy told me..." Its like come on really that is so gossiping.

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  3. What I think about "tee-ups" is that is very true and I see it everyday. Most commonly in elder people you will hear things like what was stated in the article which was "Bless her Heart" sometimes this could mean that they feel sympathetic and other time times they could use it as something to say before a put down is said. However I think in the younger generation, it is similar but not completely because today people have become more expressive through gestures and less with words. This does not mean that they (younger generation) don't use words because they do but I believe that when a so called "tee-up" is used they also use gestures so that the message is fully transmitted to the listener.


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  4. People using "tee-ups" is a daily thing. I see people use it almost everyday. Come to really think of it, I probably used "tee-ups" many times myself. I tend to use " Don't take this the wrong way...." a lot. One that makes me cringe when someone saying it to me is when they use, "I need to tell you something because you deserve the truth." Once someone says that, a million of things run through my mind as in is it a good thing? A bad thing? What's she or he going to say? "Tee-ups" aren't really such a bad thing to use. At least people are considerate enough of your feelings to try to filter out a little bit of the harshness they are going to reveal.

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  5. I use "tee-ups" all the time. I think this is because I don't like to hurt people's feelings. I tend to use "to be honest with you" and "I'm just saying..." I mostly use these when talking to a significant other in order to lessen the blow of what I am about to say. The type of "tee-ups" I hate to hear are "I'm not going to lie to you but..." and also "honestly". Those two "tee-ups" mean to me that what the other person is about to say is coming straight from the heart and there is no "filter" on what comes out. Every time i hear those words about to come out i stop them and tell them to not sugar coat it. That way in my mind I am prepared for the worst thing they could possibly say.

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  6. This post was very interesting. Its funny that i never knew the little phrases we use before we are going to share some bad news, or an opinion that others may not agree with, had a name. I can relate to a lot that was said in this; whether it's being used toward me or I'm using it when talking to someone else. The "tee-up" I can say i use often is " I'm not trying to be rude, just telling how i feel about it but…", which I use when talking to my friends about people they associate with or activities they like to take part in. I dislike when someone starts our conversation off with " don't take this the wrong way but…" simply because now I'm going to take it the wrong way because you told me not to. Some things just happen and some things are better left unsaid, but some aren't.

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  7. Reading this was so crazy because those little phrases always come before someone tells you something you really do not want to hear. As I was growing up my mom always said if you don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything at all. I've always tried to carry that on with me but I am a very blunt person and I tend to say things that are better left unsaid at times, I don't know why. I know I really hate the tee-up "Just thought I should keep it real with you and say" because I know whatever is said after that phrase is going to really piss me off. I know how it feels to be on both side of the phrase when in conversation that's why me being blunt as am I makes a lot of things worse in conversation when I'm trying to tell someone bad. And then I'm sensitive so I really do get offensive when someone uses a "tee-up" on me.

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  8. This article has a point “tee-ups” are often used before someone is about to say something that isn’t very nice. However I don’t think that people use “tee-ups” just to justify saying mean things to one another, although in some cases maybe they are. I think “tee-ups” are used negatively when talking about someone behind their back, but when you’re using them to talk to someone face to face it is because you want to be honest with them without hurting their feelings. These phrases do make you cringe whenever you hear them, but we are just so use to saying and hearing them that it is just instinct to use them. I don’t like it when people say “Don’t take this the wrong way…” “No offense but…” and “Not to be rude… ” when I hear these phrase it makes me feel like that person doesn’t respect me enough to just tell me what they want to say. I get why people use “tee-ups” especially to tell someone something you know they will not like but I think it’s wrong to use them to justify talking bad about someone behind their back .

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  9. Politeness is another form of deception. People get hurt by the truth and sometimes can not even handle it. Ii, myself have a problem taking in the brutal harsh truth. It hurts! You want positivity in your life not the negative. I do not use "tee-ups" because I do not want to hurt other people and then try to put it off as by trying to be nice. I have heard "tee-ups" like "Don't take it the wrong way but..." or "You know I'm sorry that I have to be the one to tell you this but...". It seems like the negative part of what the person is trying to tell you always comes after the "but". We should all be honest to each other and not sugar coat things so much. Then when we hear the truth it won't be as hard to take.

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  10. After reading this article, I realized that people try to do this to me a lot. I've realized that people only say this because they think they have to be super nice to me. I think it's funny when people say, "Don't get mad but..." This makes me literally laugh out loud because I'm thinking, "Don't tell me something that's going to make me mad and tell me not to get mad." How am I not supposed to get mad at the fact that you've just told me that you're going to tell me something that makes me mad, but I can't get mad because you told me not to? That's ridiculous and honestly, the tee-up itself makes me mad.

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  11. One tee-up that bugs me is always "Not that it's any of my business.." When that is EXACTLY what you're doing. Sticking your big ol' nose right into someone else's business. It's just silly to say when that is precisely what's happening.
    "Not that it's any of my business but I cannot believe she slept with him." "Not that it's any of my business but I don't think her pants are fitting quite like last year."
    This tactic, or tee-up, is a way of placing judgment on a person. Phrasing it like this is you placing yourself higher than the person being talked about. It's none of your business but you're going to talk about it anyways. This type of phrasing makes the person talking feel better about them selves. They are trying to push themselves away from the situation as if they'd never do something so "awful." They also say it to seem to the other person like they don't' care when in all reality they do. The life of another person is just rubbing them the wrong way, so they make it seem like they aren't actually being bugged by it. Tee-ups in any from are petty and rude but this specific version is extremely ignorant.
    Just be honest.."I'm being nosy, she looks fat." The brutal honesty makes you less petty. So instead of being judgmental and petty you're just being judgmental. Which is better than both, in my opinion.

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  12. Using a tee-up before a sentence seems like a way of using politeness as deception. People use them to get personal information out of people that otherwise wouldn't be shared, or reving up to tell someone something they rude or that they don't wanna hear. I think tee-ups make what someone is about to say even worse than it has to be. I think the one that bothers me the most is "I'm just saying..", that one really irks me because if feel like it always has a snarky undertone that ends with a shrug an attitude face. If i wanted to know what you were saying I would have asked.

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  13. Many times I have noticed that i will use a "Tee-Up", and then what I say isn't good at all. One that makes me cringe is lets be honest because you are about to receive bad news and its like being asked to do the same to the other person. I try not to use tee-ups and I don't appreciate them either but its difficult because you don't want to hurt the other person's feeling but when in reality getting things out in the open before they become worse is really the best thing to do. Using a tee-up though is most likely not the best way to do it

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  14. As a matter of fact, I have two seemingly polite ways to break bad news and they make me absolutely cringe.Reason being my mother and my quote friend unquote use them on me all the damn time. My mother uses "I don't mean to be funny but" to my ears all hear is I am actually being funny and I'm laughing in your face ha ha. That is know way of breaking news to someone you love.Its real mean in my opinion. With my quote friend unquote, Its even more irritating his favorite one is "Lets not put labels on it" all I hear in this one is I want to do things people do in relationships with me but he doesn't want people to know we're in a relationship (cheater)yes I have to agree tee-ups are the worst, even I kind of started this warm-up with one.Not nice but so true.

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  15. "Tee-Up" are hideous and uncalled for. Everyone had made use of them unfortunately. Think of the phrase "if you don't have something nice to say, don't say it at all." People ignore this phrase because they feel when using a "tee-up" It isn't being rude. It seems to me that using "tee-ups" is more uncalled for than just saying how it is that you feel about something. Why not keep the news to yourself? I have noticed people who do this end up being judged themselves and they are using Tee-Ups in effort to feel stronger and higher up than the people they are discussing. It is unfortunate that people are so insecure and feel the need to talk down about people. Theres no need for it. For example, if a person sees an obviously beautiful person walking by, they may decide to make a uncalled for remark about it. Not because there is actually something wrong with the person walking by, but because this person is insecure and feels the need to put other down in order to feel better. This method in fact not going to work. It will make things worse for that person.

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  16. There are a couple of common phrases that I have a tendency to hear at home often. These homely tee-ups include, "not to get in your business, but . . . ", along with "alright, you know what?", and of course my personal favorite, "no offense, but . . .".
    I found this post to be altogether interesting, as I have learned the names of what these little insult installers are called. In my opinion, the whole concept of politeness is structured on a multitude of social normalities. I'll say there is a speaker that is presented with the challenge of keeping up with a conversation with someone important to the speaker. This speaker will then convince themselves to engage their words with utter, forced politeness. This is because the speaker knows the individual they are speaking to, and therefore chooses not to hurt them with words.

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  17. Some “tee-ups” that make me cringe are: “no offense”, “I love her but...”, and “I hear what you’re saying”. I am guilty of using “tee-ups” and I know that they are impolite and rude but I think that they are used so often that the harsh after effect is fading. Thinking back to when someone has used a “tee-up” I can remember being annoyed but I don’t ever remember being personally offended. However after reading this blog post I am going to try to eliminate the use of “tee-ups” from my vocabulary because I am not a fan of them when someone I am speaking to prefaces a conversation with one.

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  18. "Tee-Ups" are used everyday by people. Of course no one like to be told those typed of words, but people feel free to say them. The two "tee-ups" that make me cringe is "we need to talk ?" and " To be honest..". The reason the make me cringe is because they make me feel like if am in some kind of trouble or something terribly wrong will happen. But, my thing is there are reasons as to why these "tee-ups" make a person cringe ( there is always a back story). In my experiences I have been through break ups that always started the same, either the guy said or I did. "Tee-Ups" are like an icebreaker for people because you have to think about what news you will be getting and how will you react to it. In order to get rid of them you have to be a blunt person and just get it out there, even if the news will affect the other person. Think before you use "tee-ups" next time !

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