Nfld. & Labrador·Point of View

Here's why 'I told you so' may be the least helpful thing you can say 

They may only be four words, but put together, their smugness could harm your relationships, writes contributor Wanita Bates. 
They may only be four words, but put together, their smugness could harm your relationships, writes contributor Wanita Bates.  (Submitted by Wanita Bates)

I'll admit, I've made bad decisions. 

I wish I had not made them, but hey, that's life — or at least how you learn. Here's a tip, so you don't make a bad decision: don't dish out an "I told you so."

Never in the history of conversation has anyone felt better from hearing those four words. 

Those are "kick me when I'm down" words. They remind me of that childhood verse: "Na-na, na-na, boo-boo, stick your head in doo-doo, I'm better than you-you!" 

Be honest with yourself. "I told you so" really just means this: "I am right, and you are wrong. You should have listened to me. You ignored my advice? You didn't realize my powerful intelligence and ability to always be right?"

You are serving a slice of ego pie, with a side of superiority, and a cup of smug to go.

The last thing I want to hear are your judgmental words of wisdom. That will be enough salt in my wounds, thanks!

Today on What's Cooking, I am going to teach you how to dish it back, or at least make it palatable, when someone throws those four unhelpful words at you. You can choose to be grateful. "Thank you so much for the advice."

Or … be immature! "What does it feel like to always be right?" 

Be a challenger. "Yeah — so what?" 

Acquiesce with: "I should have listened to you."

Come back with something funny. "Gee, thanks, Mom!" (This might also fit under the category of snark.) 

(Giphy.com)

Flipping the conversation

Speaking of snarky, what about, "Thanks, Kreskin, for your prediction! Do you know the lotto numbers for Friday?"

There is the middle-finger direct response, using hand gestures at your own peril. You can change direction with, "So, as I was about to say…"

You can have a smile on your face, but murder in your heart, as you say, "When you're right, you're right." If you want to lower your blood pressure, be done and dusted, just use these two tiny words: "You did."

Let's flip the conversation, though. 

If you're thinking about saying "I told you so," the best scenario is really simple. Don't. It is passive-aggressive, and it makes you look like a jerk. To the person hearing it, put yourself in their shoes. Don't you think they've already told themselves, "I told me so!"

You get the idea.

'Least said, the easiest mended'

The last thing I want to hear are your judgmental words of wisdom. That will be enough salt in my wounds, thanks! 

Maybe I'm laying this on too thick, but listen to a famous leader. "Don't ever tell people, 'I told you so,"' Winston Churchill is said to have advised his daughter.

According to the historian  John Lukacs, Churchill could have "rubbed it in," even when he was right, but he chose not to. Churchill's stakes were high; his actions and words could start or end a war. Churchill evidently believed in the old proverb, "Least said, soonest mended." 

Not all famous folks agreed. Gore Vidal, the American writer, quipped, "The four most beautiful words in our common language: 'I told you so.'" At the time, Vidal was speaking about the prospect of American decline. (I wonder if he was related to Kreskin?)

There are only a few other words that can make this worse: "I hate to say this, but…" 

By saying 'I told you so,' you're 'serving a slice of ego pie, with a side of superiority, and a cup of smug to go,' writes Bates. (Submitted by Wanita Bates)

No, no, no! If you have to add, "I hate to say this but," you don't really hate to say it all … because you are about to say it. An alternative: just don't say it!

Lucy van Pelt said, "Everyone is entitled to my opinion."

If you're Charlie Brown's fickle friend, you can get away with being a "know-it-all, I-told-you-so-er." But act like that with your family, friends or co-workers, and see how fast people run to get away from you. 

I'll survive my mistakes. Give me a second to pick myself up, dust myself off and start all over again.

The golden rule is, "Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you." In other words, don't dish it out if you can't take it.

Unless you are Lucy van Pelt, give it up. And remember, love is … never saying I told you so!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Wanita Bates

Contributor

Wanita Bates is a freelance writer, photographer and broadcaster in St. John's. She has won national and international awards for her work.

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