Strong People Don’t Say “I Told You So”

Just like strong people don’t defend themselves, or make excuses, they also don’t say “I told you so.”

It is a constant temptation (especially in the workplace), but pointing out in the wake of a mishap that you warned against that mishap is a weak thing to do.

To rely on someone else’s catastrophe to prove your point is weak. Why can’t you make more convincing arguments without exploiting someone’s low point? It’s not fun to be ignored when you have an important warning to give, but it’s no solution to gloat when failure proves you right.

An “I told you so” may seem like a clever way to make yourself look good (and cover your ass) after something goes wrong for someone else. It’s not. It is transparent when you try to pull an “I told you so” that:

  1. You are a sore loser. You’re still holding on to a past ego wound you had when someone disagreed with you. This looks pathetic.
  2. You are not a trustworthy comrade. If your first (or early) reaction to a problem is to point out that you warned against it and someone else did wrong by not listening, you’re going to burn trust with the person you’re blaming. This is true even if you aren’t intentionally casting blame.
  3. You are not going to be much of a problem-solver. An “I told you so” – like any excuse – signals more of a concern with protecting yourself or making yourself look good than fixing the problem at hand.

If, on the other hand, you choose to keep your “I told you so” to yourself, people will tend to learn their own lessons. Reality is a good teacher and doesn’t often need your help.

People who do learn will trust the lesson much more if it’s one they learn, not one you shove down their throats. They’ll be much more likely to like you and trust you (and therefore like and trust your opinion) in future matters if you abstain from a gloating “I told you so” now. This takes strength.

Intellectual Influence: Extreme Ownership and other work by Jocko Willink

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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