Defending Against ‘I’m Just Saying’ and Other Verbal Annoyances
Lately the annoying expression “I’m just saying” — usually tacked to the end of what would be an otherwise thoughtless remark — keeps coming up in everyday conversation. We cannot escape. But we can be onto the hidden dynamics that make this and other such figures of speech so irritating, and we can prepare ourselves for the next time.
Brooke was chatting with her sister Ashley and provocatively remarked, “Don’t you think you should stay longer when you visit your family? You’re so selfish.”
“I’m doing my best. You’re pressuring me,” Ashley replied.
“I’m just saying!” Brooke retorted.
Oh, well. In that case….
Brooke used the expression “I’m just saying” after making an off-putting remark, conveniently absolving herself of responsibility for the affront. This tagline is a handy conversational tool: It serves as a free pass for the speaker to say anything and then negate any ill intent.
Often the remark preceded by “I’m just saying” is unsolicited and provocative. “I’m just saying” creates a confusing interpersonal dynamic. The speaker unconsciously attempts to trick the listener into believing an altered reality in which he or she is blameless, and the listener is implicitly accused of having an unfounded reaction. In this altered reality both are supposed to pretend that:
- The speaker didn’t really say anything upsetting.
- “I’m just saying” magically neutralizes any negative reaction.
- The speaker can say whatever he or she wants as long as it’s followed by “I’m just saying.” Then, no one can hold the speaker accountable.
Still, this phrase may also be used more literally, without any hidden agenda, when someone has an unexpected negative reaction to a truly innocuous remark which leaves the speaker feeling unfairly attacked or exposed. In such cases “I’m just saying” expresses honest frustration and is intended in rightful self-defense, conveying: “That was an innocent comment – so chill!”