I'm not quite sure how to say what's on my mind. I realize this is awkward, and I apologize in advance if what I'm about to say hurts your feelings. I certainly value our friendship too much to jeopardize it over something that I fear might sound terribly petty.
I can assure you I've gone back and forth on this question for weeks now, trying to look at it from every angle and turning it over in my mind in search of the tactful approach. I think --I hope-- that you know me well enough to recognize that I would never say anything to deliberately hurt you, and I have always been a man willing to bite my tongue if I thought it would in any way advance the cause of civility.
I've no doubt, in fact, that you are well aware of the perception of me as a man of no small reserve; that, at any rate, is how I believe the world sees me, and not without reason. I have rarely felt myself compelled or qualified to address another man's shortcomings or pry into his personal business, even when, as now, other people have been talking and I've been concerned for a friend's well-being.
I just thought perhaps...honestly, it’s not a big deal at all, but...well, I was wondering if maybe....
Oh, heavens, I'm sorry; I can see I've already alarmed you.
It's nothing, really.
Please forget I ever mentioned it.