“I mean, honestly, I love this restaurant.”
“To be honest, I am not a big fan of baseball.”
“It’s not that I don’t want to hang out, I’m just so busy, to be honest with you.”
What it is: Honestly, this is simply a verbal tick, nothing more. As in, “know-what-I-mean?” or “like” or “um.” It means nothing. It fills space. It makes the speaker comfortable. It works as the start of a sentence, intending to gain the attention of a listener, or as a period of a statement to let the listener know you are done speaking. It comes from a discomfort of silence, or lack of creativity on how to start or end a sentence, point, or phrase. It’s an honest mistake.
What it is saying, in reality: I’m not always 100% honest, but right now I am.
What the listener hears: It’s likely one ear and out the other. They don’t actually think you are dishonest at other times, despite the implication of saying it only part of the time. In reality, something subconscious in the listener might question, however, “Why are you telling me this now?” or “What about when you aren’t being honest? How will I know?” In effect, the person doesn’t actually listen up, no matter the intent of the speaker. The phrase “I mean, quite honestly…” doesn’t grab the listener’s attention. It wastes time. It belabors the point. They don’t find what you’re saying more valid, credible, or honest. Honestly, they don’t, I swear.
Why you should stop saying it: It disrupts your authenticity and the genuineness of your real message. It interrupts and dilutes your opinions and true feelings. It makes you less unique, more like the pack. It waters down the words that come before or after. And, to be honest, I just think it sounds kind of silly.