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I told you so!

I told you so monkey!

One of the best feelings in the world is being vindicated, standing up for what you believe, being told “it will never work” and then when the final curtain is drawn, being able to say “I was right, I told you so”.

One of the worst feelings in the world is being cut down, standing up for what you believe, being told “it will never work” and when the final curtain is drawn, finding out they were right all along. It didn’t work. Everybody got it right except you.

I find this juxtaposition between “I told you so” and “being told so” fascinating. It is a source of endless conflict between couples, friends and coworkers. It is something we all experience on both sides and we know which side is the right side to be on, yet many of us don’t soften the blow when it’s our turn to be on the better side.

Why is it that the elation of an “I told you so” moment scrubs away all memories of “being told so”?

I think it exists in a temporary suspension of empathy. When we “win” we aren’t thinking of others and what our win means to them. We are feeling self-righteous. We are feeling on top of the world. And the best way to get just a little higher is to point out how someone else missed it.

On the flip side, when we get dunked on, we often aren’t thinking of how sweet it must’ve felt to pull one over on us. It’s not really a great time for self reflection. We aren’t really trying to figure out “how we could do better next time”.

So in each ITYS (I told you so) instance we have a party that is less open to criticism than normal, and one party more likely to gloat than normal.

What are we going to do?

Well, if you just lost, try to remember that sometimes it’s fun to win, and sometimes part of winning is gloating, and maybe next time, you know, try a little harder.

If you just won, remember that it sucks to lose, and you probably shouldn’t be a jerk about it, because next time it will probably be you that should have, you know, tried a little harder.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Just finished reading Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” One if his key points in dealing with people relates pretty well to your post. Carnegie argued that everyone assumes they are doing the right thing. No one thinks they are wrong. Therefore, any attempt at direct criticism will only ruffle feathers and bread resentment, instead of correcting what we perceive is wrong.

    Maybe we shouldn’t be in the business of ever telling anyone “it’ll never work.”

    Perhaps we should try “I’m not sure how that will work. Show me.” If there is error, it will reveal itself indirectly.

    January 20, 2011
  2. I think you are right Brian. Often times engaging with someone to dig deeper into their idea will influence much more effectively than shooting it down outright.

    There is another interesting effect here though, which is the presumption that the other is the one in need of influencing. Often times we serve ourselves better by being open to new and interesting ideas, even if they are wrong, we can likely learn more by engaging the idea instead of dismissing it.

    I’m not always the best at this practice, but I usually feel bad when I am dismissive. So I guess that’s a start.

    January 20, 2011

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