It’s basically a throwaway phrase.
Communication is tricky. There’s so much that goes into making your point, and the way you communicate can make or break an interview, a sales presentation, or even a relationship. It’s worth, then, considering how the phrases and words we use make an impression on others, especially when they might affect our credibility.
Sometimes we use phrases without thinking about them, even though they might not communicate what we really want to say. Over time, those phrases become habits, and bad habits at that. We reach for them as a sort of verbal crutch, without realizing how much they might be hurting our reputation.
These four words are the perfect example. For example, two people are discussing something they considered important enough to have a conversation about. They go back and forth until one of them gets to a point where they have nothing left to say. That’s usually when you hear the four words that kill your credibility:
“We’ll see what happens.”
On the surface, it doesn’t sound so bad. Most of us have probably said it a few hundred times in meetings, on Zoom calls, or in conversations. We say it without even thinking–which is part of the problem. It’s basically a throwaway phrase.
People almost never say “we’ll see what happens” because they’re waiting to see what might happen. Yes, I’m sure you can come up with a scenario where those four words are the appropriate end of a conversation, but usually, it’s a form of intellectual laziness.
You don’t really have anything else to say, and those words simply come out as a reflex. In many cases, however, your words communicate something worse–even if it’s not what you intended:
In the best-case scenario, those words communicate that you’re not directly invested, but are simply waiting for something to happen. Sometimes that’s true, but there are better ways to communicate without making it sound like you don’t really care. Why did you waste time on the conversation at all, if that’s the case?
Of course, it also makes you sound like you don’t have an informed opinion. If you’re asked to give your opinion on something that may happen in the future, these words make it sound like you just haven’t given it much thought. A more professional response would be to simply be up front about that.
“I honestly haven’t given that much thought, but I’ll definitely look into it. In the meantime, I’d be interested in hearing what you think.” That response goes a lot further, and gives you an opportunity to continue the conversation by validating the other person’s perspective.
More problematic is that it can make it sound like you’re just ready for the conversation to be over. That’s fair; we all feel that way from time to time. The thing is, you never want to make the person you’re talking to feel like you’re desperate to be no longer talking to them. If you value the relationship, your goal should be to make them feel valued.
If it really is time to move on, try something like this: “It sounds like we’ve covered that topic pretty well. Let’s move on to the next thing we need to talk about.” That helps keep the conversation moving without making it seem like you’d rather be somewhere else.
Finally, it can sound defensive. That’s especially true when two people see a matter differently, and one of them says, “Alright, well, I guess we’ll see what happens.” It sounds like you’re just waiting for the chance to say “I told you so” later.
Instead, simply affirm the other person’s perspective and move on. “You know, that’s a really good point. I hadn’t looked at it that way.” That’s it. There’s no reason to say the next line at all.
Sometimes the less you say, the better you communicate after all. Saying these four words less is a good place to start.