Manners: Is “if” a bad word?

This occurred to me only recently, but it is too true: If you have to use “if” to qualify something, it’s probably bad. IF gets used to cover up an insult or negative feedback instead of just having the spine to stand up to your own comment. Look at these examples:

  • If this had more salt, it would be delicious! (wait, so it’s not good?)
  • If you got contacts, we could see your pretty face. (wait, so glasses somehow “hide” facial features?)
  • If that shirt was just cut a little differently… (so it looks bad. I get it)
  • If we go to that restaurant, we might miss the movie (so the movie is your priority.)
  • If you want the blue one, get the blue one (why won’t you just tell me which one you recommend? I asked you!)

Even when it is referencing something good “If we buy this house, we can start our family” or “If we go on vacation, we can relax” it has this tinge of “If we don’t…”

I’m not saying people can’t use the word “if” – but I think we all know that the qualifier “if” means that the person speaking is trying to avoid hurting feelings or creating a hard stance. It gives wriggle room for the speaker to have a socially acceptable escape for their opinion.

I’ve been trying to come up with “positive” if statements and they elude me. So far, all I’ve found is “If so, you’re not alone” (you know – like every blog that is “you know that thing? Me too!”).  This has led me to try to watch my own use of if. Am I using in a way that I am setting unspoken conditions? Or am I using it as a rhetorical device (the only option I found that I couldn’t make negative)? The former I think I should reconsider; the latter? Well, rhetorical devices have a purpose but I’m not sure they are always a polite choice either.

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