Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


Word Choice Etiquette: I Think You Should Avoid “I Think”

How would you answer your boss if she asked, “What time is the meeting on Monday?” Would you say: “The meeting is at 3 p.m.” or “I think the meeting is at 3 p.m.”

If you picked the first sentence as your response, you know the information and have answered with certainty. Yet if you chose the second sentence, you appear unsure about your answer because you said “I think.” You really are telling your boss that you don’t know.

And, why would you tell someone that you don’t know something when you do?

A woman in one of my seminars told me that she had just done this. Even though she knew that the time for her meeting had changed, she answered her boss using “I think…” After hearing her response, he immediately walked over to the phone and called someone else to get the information.

Using “I think” can also make you appear wishy-washy. My son asked to go somewhere and I responded, “I think it will be okay.” He responded, “Mom, do you think so or do you know so?” (He’s been a seminar participant his whole life!)

People tell me that they use “I think” because they don’t want to appear too strong or opinionated, especially with a higher-level person.

I respond to these comments with, “I think there are alternatives…”

No, I don’t say that! I respond without the “I think” and say, “There are alternatives that will allow them to appear confident without being too authoritative.” These suggestions include:

1. Eliminate the “I think” and just state the information. “I think another thing I want to say is…”or “Another thing I want to say is…” Make sure there is no harsh tone in your voice.

2. Use “I believe” instead of “I think.” I believe means that I believe it to be true at this moment in time, though ultimately I may be wrong.

3. Use “I suggest” or “I recommend” when asked to give your opinion about which product, service or person to choose. Instead of “I think product x” say “I suggest product x” or “After my research, I recommend product x.”

Your word choices are important. How you express yourself to others will influence how they view you.

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