5 ways ditching “I think” changed my life

There are still those moments when I don’t want to commit to an opinion for whatever reason. Sometimes it is to impress upon the current company that there is some process of deliberation preceding my subsequent string of words. Other times it is simply a softer introduction of my opinion, even if I think I am right.

I am a struggling, habitual user of “I think” in written or spoken conversation. It just seems polite and humble, as opposed to being seen as overly assertive, pushy and opinionated. There is nothing wrong with politeness and humility. I grew up in Barbados. I am a Bajan. Politeness and humility are two attributes that feature in the conservative, mannerly approach to life of most people I have engaged with growing up, including my family and friends. However, over the last few weeks, I am becoming a reformed “I thinker”.

Today, instead of saying,

“I think we should consider option B,”

I now say,

“We should consider option B.”

As opposed to,

“I think the way we are working is ineffective,”

I say, sure you guessed it,

“The way we are working is ineffective.”

This seems such a simple change in speech and writing but it is extremely significant and did not come without intentional effort. It started by reviewing my emails and getting rid of any “I thinks” or “probablys” appearing in the text, when there was a clear opportunity to state my opinion. The fact that it is my opinion and comes from me means that at some point in time preceding me stating it, “I thought”. Hence “I think” is actually redundant. Here are the 5 differences I have seen in my life since this awakening:

  1. A more compelling sense of ownership. As a result of stating, “this is the case,” there is no question about the source of the opinion. I can think back to times when said, “I think we should select this option”, only to have someone else more resolute take the credit, simply by agreeing and restating my thought. I made it clear that I was the person responsible for explaining the next steps if my opinion were to be accepted.
  2. Reinforced assertiveness. There is something diminutive about stating “I think”. It gives a sense of being non-committal and actually does the opposite of positioning oneself as a thinker. Since I’ve ditched “I think,” I make it clear that I stand by my opinion and word. I am convinced that my opinion is best suited to be applied.
  3. From wordiness to clarity. As stated above, “I think” and words like “probably” are actually just fillers. They take up paper, airwaves and bandwidth associated with conversation. Stripping them away helps a reader to focus on what is being said, as opposed to being drawn into considering the other options.
  4. Confidence. Here I don’t only refer to self confidence, although this was a clear outcome, I refer to the confidence I perceived people had in me. People with whom I engage with, now “I think less”, seem convinced that I know what I am talking about and that they could subscribe to my way of thinking, even without my upfront claim that I thought what I wrote.
  5. Trust. Similar to the above, people express more trust in my suggestions and statements than before. By stating my position without diminishing my commitment to it, there is an increased expectation that I have internally reasoned prior to expressing my opinion and I will inevitably take responsibility for any consequences.

Don’t think about it. Go ahead and ditch the useless “I think” from your life. You won’t regret it. In fact, I think many of you will return here to thank me for pointing this out. Argh! What I am saying??

“Many of you will return here to thank me.”