I’m Just Saying … Sure You Are …

Just SayingProbably one of the most overused and misinterpreted phrases in our language these days …

One hears this phrase everywhere these days.  At least, it seems so to this one.  I often hear and somewhat less frequently read “I‘m just saying …” in connection with all matter of comments and critiques of individual taste, behavior, decision-making, and so on.

I am particularly unfond of those under a certain age who utter this, along with other oblique references in response to almost every effort to engage in meaningful and civil discourse.
I’m just saying …” is a deceptivly simple phrase, which appears on the surface to be exactly what it says … Someone is just saying something … nothing more, nothing less.

However, a deeper examination reveals some issues.

For example, consider these two sentences:

Straight-forward:  “I’m just saying that your shirt does not match your jacket.”

Passive-Aggressive:  “Your shirt does not match your jacket.  I’m just saying …”

The context changes …

In the first instance, the intent seems to me to be that the speaker is clarifying that they are making an observation about a phenomena.  This is designed to be a declarative sentence indicating an opinion on the part of the sender.

No further discussion will occur and no particular judgment is involved.

In the second case, I perceive a strong desire to tell the the other person how wrong their choice is in a particular situation, but without taking the risk of actually doing so.  I know I have never really finished talking when I end a sentence with “just saying …”. 

Much more remains to be either guessed by the recipient or added at a later time, after emotions have become more volatile.

Note the addition of ellipses at the end of the second sentence, which reflects how one often hears this phrase … as incomplete.  Much has been left unsaid, which I suppose might be a great example of using fewer words to say what you mean, but in these cases, I don’t think so.

My experience is that when someone ends a sentence with “just saying …” to me, they are not just saying.  This is simply the first volley in a struggle of wills.

So, what to do about all this?

I have several suggestions:

1)  Stop saying “Just saying …”

2) Describe what you perceive to be the situation, with the outcomes or effects of the person’s action or behavior.

3)  Add a sentence explaining why you see either the current behavior or possible results as negative.

4)  Offer an alternative to the person, if appropriate.  If not appropriate, resist the impulse or desire to offer one anyway.

5)  Always end with a clarifying question, such as “Is this how you see this?” or “Do you understand why I am asking you to do this?”.

6) After asking your clarifying question, stop talking and listen actively and intently to their response. 

Repeat as needed.

This is a very generic template for moving away from trite or passive-aggressive language toward more effective communication … just saying …

Trying to replace some poor habits with more thoughtful ones in the Heartland ….