In an earlier post Words that Work, I discussed the idea from political
consultant and polster Frank Luntz that “It’s not what you say, it’s what
people hear.” This blog has also discussed in detail how talking to one’s
family about dysfunctional patterns requires just the right type of wording and
tone of voice.
Disclaimers can be used to alter listeners’ perceptions
about what another person is saying. They can be very helpful in making
something that otherwise might be perceived as an attack or accusation much
It is also true that disclaimers can be used in for more
nefarious purposes, such as in deceptive propaganda. I wrote about this latter
purpose in two previous posts on plausible deniability - 8/31/11 and 6/19/12.
The odious purpose is summed up very well in the cartoon
In this post I will focus on the use of disclaimers for doing good– their advantageous employment in discussions that aim to achieve solutions to ongoing problems within a family. As a psychotherapist, I find them to be very useful with my patients, and I also coach my patients on how to use then when they attempt metacommunication with family members.
Second, in situations where the Other has a hard time discussing a certain topic, one might say, “I know this is hard to talk about, but it sounds like it is really important.”
Of course, disclaimers do not always have the desired effect, but they do often enough that employing them is an excellent strategy.