Yesterday I was having lunch with a friend. Our conversation wandered through the different subjects we enjoy discussing. Occasionally I noticed how he was adding the remark “this is not to criticize …”
Naturally, he isn’t the only one to do this. It has become a bit of a social norm to add these little phrases. They are meant to reassure oneself as well as the other. At the same time, they are reminding us that well, some critical comment has been made.
It is as if there is a desire to be able to say that “nothing happened” whenever the subject comes back in future conversations.
It leaves the choice of understanding to the listener. But whatever he assumes, he misunderstood.
The probably best way to understand such statements is to notice that for the other this is a hot topic with which he finds it hard to position himself.