Stop Saying "I Told You So"

The phrase “I told you so” is the equivalent of kicking a person when they’re down, or pouring salt on a wound. So why say it? Modern Manners Guy explains why you should stop. 

Richie Frieman
3-minute read

Call me crazy, but in the history of conversations, has the phrase “I told you so” ever really generated a positive response? I'd say no, it has not.  “I told you so” is the equivalent of kicking a person when they’re down, pouring salt on a wound, or getting a group of people together to laugh and point at someone who just slipped and face-planted, like it was the grade-school playground. So yes, in case you’re wondering, saying “I told you so” is highly immature. Earth-shattering, right?

“I told you so” is a negative and counterproductive way of saying, “I’m right and you’re wrong,” that does neither party any good. Even if the person in the wrong has been stubborn and refused constructive advice, that does not give another person the authority to rub their face in it.

What’s even worse is when that person adds "I hate to say it, but..." before saying, “I told you so.”  Let’s be honest, this all-knowing corrector really doesn’t hate anything about saying it. In fact, unmannerly people love telling others when they’re right. So, is there an alternative? Yes, my mannerly friends, there is.

For starters, the best alternative is to not say, “I told you so,” at all.  Saying “I told you so” only makes things worse. So don’t say it!  No one is going to respond with “You know what? You’re right. And you DID tell me. You’re so smart and so brilliant that the mayor should build a statue in the town square in your honor.” It's just not going to happen.

If you must say something, please do so the properly way. That is, be a friend and not a bully. Instead of saying, “I told you so,” look to your sensibility and maturity for guidance. Try to offer a positive spin on the situation that will make your friend feel better. Don’t kick them while they're down; be the bigger person, even if you know you’re right and even if you so badly want to express it. Don’t. Simply listen and offer your support.

Try the following approaches for example:

  • The Educational Response: “I know this stinks, but next time we know that this is not the best way to go about things. Look at this as a learning experience. Chalk it up, and let's move on.”
  • The Humor Response: “Man, that surely did not go as planned. Hey, at least I wasn’t filming you with my camera phone... Okay, okay, just kidding. Come on, we'll figure it out together.”
  • The Parental Response: “Hey, if this is the worst thing that happens to you, consider yourself a very lucky person.”
  • The Been-There-Done That Response:Puh-lease, do you think this is bad? You know how many times I’ve done even worse? You’re talking to a pro here, pal.”
  • The Democratic Response: “How about next time you want to do something like this, we take a vote? But my vote counts as two, and you can only vote once, and you and I are the only ones voting.” Okay, so a little snarky but the humor masks your frustration.

In the end, saying, “I told you so,” makes you look like a jerk. What, too harsh? Okay fine, I meant to say a big jerk. Huge jerk. If you don’t believe me, then keep at it. See how that works for you. When you have no more friends and no one is there to lift you up in a time of need, don’t come crying to me. Why? Because “I told you so.”

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