Don't Take This The Wrong Way But...
Don’t take this the wrong way, but I think you need a new deodorant.
Don’t take this the wrong way, but do you have a clue about what you are doing?
Don’t take this the wrong way, but I can’t stand your friends.
Well, don’t take this the wrong way, but if you don’t know why you shouldn’t use this phrase, you’re an idiot.
How does that make you feel? Pretty angry, I’d bet, but why do these phrases anger people? Because it’s dressing up an attack in an attempt to avoid the heat. It’s a cowardly way to communicate, and it never works.
As soon as someone hears, “don’t take this the wrong way”, they KNOW they are going to hear something they don’t want to hear, and that the person speaking is trying to avoid any responsibility for being insulting or offensive.
Apart from that, there’s a presupposition operating here. For this phrase to make sense, one has to presuppose that there is a “wrong” way, and a “right” way, and the person speaking is the one who decides which is which. Thank you very much, but if you want to insult me, I will decide what’s wrong and what’s right!
Make It Better:
First, if you feel you need to talk about a sensitive issue, don’t tell the person not to take it the “wrong” way. Be upfront. There is no wrong or right way.
Second if you feel someone will be hurt, react defensively, or angrily about what you have to say, consider not saying it, unless it's really important. After all, if you know you will hurt someone’s feelings, then you should have a good reason for doing so.
Third, take responsibility, if you decide to say something that might offend. Here are some examples:
It’s hard for me to say this to you, and I hope you won’t be upset.
I’m not sure how to say this, but here’s something that I think you might want to know.
Just wanted to do a buddy check with you. I noticed that sometimes you forget to zip up your fly, and you probably aren’t noticing.
Since you already know the other person might be embarrassed or hurt from what you “need” to say, make sure you phrase the actual issue in as sensitive a way as possible.