We tend not to say ‘I told you so’ because generally it’s a bit of a douchey pedant thing to do. Not that it’s not a rightful position to find yourself in: Having made a prediction, that’s ignored, only to be proven correct. Total right to ‘I told you so-ing’, denied.
Worse still though is not saying I told you so, but knowing the recipient knows that you could: To be thought of as a douchey pedant when all you did was make a prediction, that was ignored, that then turned out to be correct. Tripple fail.
The saddest part is that the intention of most people saying, or in a position to say I told you so, is to try and help. People don’t seek not to be listened to when they are sure about something. They’re just a soul who’s intentions are good…
An example predicament (indulge me for a moment): Someone suggest that you go on holiday (they have a nice idea so +1 point to them). You love the idea (no points for that).
They suggest Greece, because it’s nice AND they’ve found a deal you can afford, in November (another +0.5 points for continuing such a nice idea with such good research and intentions).
You are pretty sure that November is the start of the rainy season in Greece. Really pretty sure.
Option 1: You say you’re sure it’s the rainy season in November (-0.5 points for being a downer on the nice idea). They say ‘it’s Greece! It’s always hot. And even when it rains it’s just heavy and short’. You try again and suggest either saving longer for something better next year or going away for a weekend in you’re own country (-1 point for continuing to be a downer and having not as exciting ideas).
You give in to their optimism because you want to believe it, and sort of fear losing any more points. Total so far: Them +1.5. You -1.5.
You go on the holiday. It rains. A lot. It’s not a good holiday. Not awful but not really memorable and a bit disappointing.
Whether or not you say I told you so, you get -2 points because you could. Or because you did. Or because you didn’t try harder to explain ‘rainy season’ more clearly. They, get another +0.5 for trying. At least they tried to make a good time happen.
Final score: Them +2. You -2.5! You damn douchey pedant. But, backtrack a bit, Sliding Doors style, and you’re still at risk.
Option 2: You think it’s the rainy season but say nothing. Holiday turns out the same. This time they get +1 for trying and because they had no idea it was the rainy season and feel awful for their mistake (hope+guilt scores high).
You get no points at all because you did nothing to help anything. All you get is the crappy holiday and worthless secret guilt, yuck, which is worth -3 points, at least. Final score: Them +2.5. You -3!
Damned if you do and dammed if you don’t. How to get around it then? This occasional Cassandra Cures. How can we more successfully express our predictions and recommendations?
In my reckoning there are three possibilities of never being in the position of having to say I told you so:
1. Building so much trust that everyone just listens to you and your predictions. Realistically though, this route is either a road to falling from a very high place or full blown megalomania.
2. Finding a super-NLP-like way to get everyone to do what you think is right, while believing it’s their own idea. You risk never getting credit for anything, but at least you’re in a world where everything is just as you think it should be. This is the ’these aren’t the droids you’re looking for’ method so sadly only really useful for Jedi and those with slight delusions of grandeur (come on, you actually think you’re right all the time? ALL the time?).
3. Finally, and genuinely, there is preemptive empathy and regret. Or in other words, being conscious enough in advance that your prediction would result in a less than ideal outcome and expressing therefore that you hope you’re going to be wrong. This technique can even produce an odd sort of win-win situation:
If you’re wrong, then your fear was luckily just overcautiousness. Phew. Thanks for caring and being concerned.
If you’re right, you’re no douchey pedant, you’re just another party that wishes you weren’t right and you’re able to share compassion in the misfortune of your comrade.
A genuine hate to say I told you so.
But, being genuine is the crux here. This ‘technique’ is about being a mensch. That douche potential will shine through if you don’t actually care and if schadenfreude is not just in your dictionary but also on the list of traits that you keep off your dating profile. ‘Long walks, meals with friends, red win,
being right and laughing at the misfortune of others.’
Haters say I told you so. If you find yourself in a position of having to say it or wishing you could, then you didn’t try hard enough to help in the first place.