There’s a Right and a Wrong Time to Say, “We’ll See”
Posted January 10, 2019

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Sporting results are outside our control. “We’ll see if the Bears make the playoffs this year.  Unless a coach or player, you really can’t impact NFL results. “We’ll see” makes sense here.

Plane schedules and weather are outside our control. We’ll see if the plane is on time so I can catch my connecting flight.”  “We’ll see” is appropriate in that case. 

Too often we say “we’ll see” when we actually have more control than that suggests. Are you giving up your influence too quickly when you can actually stay more engaged and have an impact on the outcome?

It might feel like trivial word choice, but it does make a difference when you really dial into when and where you say “we’ll see.”

I often hear people say, “I’ve got my resume done and sent it to a few people. We’ll see what happens.” When I hear this I am concerned that there is more action that can be taken – both practically and emotionally by the job-seeker.

Of course you don’t have control over whether they hire you or not, or if they even read your resume. You can avoid passivity and complacency by using a more proactive or assertive mindset. “I’ve got my resume done and sent out. I’m going to follow up with the company and will be continuing to look for other opportunities while it’s under consideration. I’m going to learn from whatever happens and continue to drive my search.”

Much more impactful.

Here’s another example. “I’ve hired a new member to my leadership team. We’ll see how she works out.” Here’s another opportunity to move from passivity to action. Remember that you’ve invested time and money in hiring her. You have high expectations for her. Does she know what success means? Does she know you are there to support her? How are you going to stay engaged with her through the onboarding in order to achieve the outcomes you all want? Are you prepared to step in, listen to her, and figure out corrective measures when there are the inevitable challenges? Are you creating a culture where the rest of the team understands how everyone works together during this transitional time?

Leaders don’t wait and see they look, listen, and take action.

I challenge you to listen carefully when you find yourself saying “we’ll see.” Ask yourself if things really are outside your control or if there are actions you can take to be more engaged in whatever is going on. Similarly, as a leader, when you hear those around you use that phrase, assess how true it is and help others avoid passivity and complacency.

Think of a new phrase to substitute when you realize you don’t have to sit back. How about, “What will I do next?” “How can I make a difference?” “I got this.” Or, my favorite, “What’s the opportunity?”

Avoid saying,“We’ll see” unless it’s truly something outside your control.

Tim Ressmeyer is a professional leadership and life coach. He is also the author of The Impact of Confidence: 7 Secrets of Success for the Human Side of Leadership (2018). Available on Amazon.

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