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Trust me when I tell you this. You can tear this tower apart brick by brick, but without my help, you will never find your precious satchel without my help.

What does the speaker mean by "Trust me when I tell you this"? I cannot consider it as that the speaker is asking him to trust her. But it's more like the speaker is telling him that it's confirmed and an ironic way to say that she will never change her decision. Can we use this phrase to catch someone off-guard? For example, trust me when I say this to you, they will never owe you money.

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    Good rule of life: whenever someone says "trust me", run. – David Pugh Jun 7 '15 at 11:33
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    Verily, verily, I say unto you... – Andrew Leach Jun 7 '15 at 11:33
  • It's basically just a way to make the following statement more emphatic. The reason for this increased emphasis must be determined from the context, but there's usually an implication that the hearer will not like what he's about to hear. – Hot Licks Jun 7 '15 at 14:20
  • As I know "brick by brick" may imply two things : 1. Very Slow/Time Consuming - one by one -- 2. Detail Oriented. Speaker is trying to discourage/dissuade other person that without his help they could not reach desired objectives. Its more of "forced pursuasion" or covert/coerced way forcing help and hints at underhandedness of speaker ;) . Skip it if you will – alpa Jun 7 '15 at 19:53
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"Trust me, ..."
"Believe you me, ..."
"Let me tell you this: "

These are some ways by which a speaker may add force and persuasion to his or her words. Such a phrase may have an instant appeal to the listener.

There may be numerous situations in life in which such a conversation will occur. One can only know the real intent of what's meant by what follows these expressions, based on the context - whether there's a hidden motive, falsehood, irony, etc.

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As I know - Speaker may imply that he is confident on given context and may have credible information/knowledge hence influence decision for better.

As for off-guard thingie - you may use phrase anyway you feel is good - but usually this may be foundation of future "trust me"

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The important part of the "trust me" statement is "when I tell you this". The speaker is acknowledging that on most things, the listener wouldn't find him trustworthy at all. But in this one regard, the listener should make an exception, and believe him.

I would not know what to make of your example sentence without additional context:

Trust me when I say this to you, they will never owe you money.

If you change "owe you money" to "do business with you", I could imagine a context more easily. There has to be an implicit threat in the "trust me..." In the original example, the threat is that the speaker may withhold his help in finding the "precious satchel".

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When saying:

Trust me when I tell you this...

the speaker is asking you to take their word for it, that is they claim their upcoming statement to be correct, without intention to offer any proof.

As Tim Romano said it is not used to ask you to trust the speaker in general, but to trust them in this particular case.

  • Is it the case that:

the speaker is telling him that it's confirmed and an ironic way to say that she will never change her decision?

The answer is no to the 2nd part. It is mostly not used to deploy irony; and not quite to the 1st part. The speaker might imply that it is confirmed, without actually saying it.

Which brings us to your last question:

Can we use this phrase to catch someone off-guard?

It depends on your intentions. This technique in constructing arguments is known as assuring:

The goal of assuring is to make the audience accept a premise without citing the actual evidence, but saying that there is one. If a reason is not actually given, than the reason cannot be questioned. (How to Reason and Argue wiki)

More specifically it is a form of reflexive assurance where:

you are talking about your self; you're citing about your own mental state

(paraphrased from a lecture in Coursera course: How to Reason and Argue by prof. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong.)

Assuring can be used for both the good and the bad.

  • When is it a good thing?

It is sometimes necessary to avoid skeptical regress, also called a regress argument in which:

any proposition requires a justification. However, any justification itself requires support. This means that any proposition whatsoever can be endlessly (infinitely) questioned. (Wikipedia)

  • When is it a (logically) bad thing?

When this argumentative move is used as a trick to make the listener believe something that you can't or won't provide the evidence for.

  • How to decide is it good or bad (when you hear it)?

There are many approaches to this but pragmatist philosophers (e.g. William James) are most pragmatic about it:

The pragmatist philosopher William James suggests that, ultimately, everyone settles at some level of explanation based on one’s personal preferences that fit the particular individual's psychological needs. People select whatever level of explanation fits their needs, and things other than logic and reason determine those needs. In The Sentiment of Rationality, James compares the philosopher, who insists on a high degree of justification, and the boor, who accepts or rejects ideals without much thought:

The philosopher’s logical tranquillity is thus in essence no other than the boor’s. They differ only as to the point at which each refuses to let further considerations upset the absoluteness of the data he assumes.

(Wikipedia); emphasis mine


Disclaimer: This does include some terms from logic, but the sentence in question is an informal argument, where the matters of logic and the (English) language are intertwined and I found it impossible to separate them.

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Phrases like this are used when someone may have competing self interests in the situation. For example in the original quote, "You can tear this tower apart brick by brick, but without my help, you will never find your precious satchel without my help." on its own may be interpreted as an attempt at misinformation. Maybe the satchel will be easy to find without the speaker!

In situations like these, where two individuals have conflicting interests, there is sometimes a "win-win" solution which meets both of their needs enough to stop them from conflicting and start them working together. It sounds like the speaker in your first quote has a plan to help the other individual (probably in exchange for something which isn't specified in this quote). The idea is to say "You want the satchel, I want something else. We can help eachother."

However, in such conflicting situations it is hard to tell the difference between spreading misinformation and seeking a win-win solution. Thus, in English, we have several phrases that effectively mean, "The next bit I'm about to tell you is intended to provide value to both of us, as a win-win, not just providing value to me."

Thus I would translate:

Trust me when I tell you this. You can tear this tower apart brick by brick, but without my help, you will never find your precious satchel without my help.

as "I believe you clearly want the satchel. Despite my previous actions to keep you away from that satchel, it's a means to my true goal, not an end. If we work together, I can help you get the satchel, you can help me accomplish my goal, and we will both walk away happy."

Such a phrasing can be abused, and is abused. English has a few phrases like this which are usually not used until the situation is dire, so that their sudden use is meaningful. In the case of the satchel, the speaker should not be implicitly trusted, so the idea of tearing the tower apart should remain on the table, but it does suggest the speaker is willing to use one of these dire-circumstances phrases to get a point across. This is often enough to at least open a line of communication where the speaker might have otherwise been ignore.

Such a phrase can be used to catch someone off guard, and it is usually used when they are in a compromised position (such as wanting a satchel, and being ready to tear a tower apart to get it). Usually, however, it is the statement that follows which truly catches people off guard.

Trust me when I say this to you, they will never owe you money.

The phrasing here indicates that the person being spoken to believes "they" owe him or her money. The speaker is arguing that they will not. Context is needed. Perhaps this means the listener has a plan to make money by lending money to "them," and the speaker is trying to tell the listener that "they" never borrow money. Or perhaps he's saying that they will accept the money, but will never "owe" money as in they will never pay it back. Or perhaps the speaker is simply making a confidence play, trying to get the listener to invest with the speaker rather than "them." In any case, the speaker considers this information important enough to invoke a phrase in English to beg for the listener to listen moreso than they usually would.

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