If someone tells you that “It doesn’t make a big difference to me, but …” there’s a fairly strong chance something does make a big difference to them. Statements like this are dubbed “but-heads,” and you should read deeper into them.
Image via popofatticus.
They’re not always a lie, but the way statements are constructed, with promise, then but, then bad news often betrays the very sentiment the “but” is intended to disguise.
Once you start looking for these but-heads, you see them everywhere, and you see how much they reveal about the speaker. When someone says “It’s not about the money, but…”, it’s almost always about the money. If you hear “It really doesn’t matter to me, but…”, odds are it does matter, and quite a bit. Someone who begins a sentence with “Confidentially” is nearly always betraying a confidence; someone who starts out “Frankly,” or “Honestly,” “To be (completely) honest with you,” or “Let me give it to you straight” brings to mind Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quip: “The louder he talked of his honour, the faster we counted our spoons.”
The Boston Globe provides a deeper read on misleading statements and the word crimes they cover up. While you’re on the lookout, Watch for “well,” as well.
I hate to tell you [The Boston Globe]