I think I’ll write a note.

Spilled Coffee

This article appeared on Medium first: https://medium.com/@johannmg/i-think-ill-write-a-note-114edae13f7a

As I’ve been definitely writing my self-reviews at work and not procrastinating, I have also been helping friends out of work re-write their resumes and cover letters. Doing this editing I noticed a pattern of over-using the phrase “I think.” They don’t do it on purpose but — especially right now — we’re all trying our best to express our opinions are subject to change on new information, to acknowledge we’re mindful that we cannot know all the facts.

So, you’ll start typing a sentence but briefly unsure about yourself for an instant you prepend your wonderful statement with “I Think”. Adding these two words turns “Our manager is the best in the org,” a bold pronouncement that excites the team into “I think our manager is the best in the org,” a washed-out, doubt-filled, soggy opinion. That’s a mistake.

Despite the strong case comments sections make against it, in general when I’m reading I am giving you my time because I’m assuming you thought about what you wrote and then thoughtfully edited that draft. Plainly, if someone makes it past the first paragraph of your essay, they have some confidence in you. You don’t have to prove that you were thinking when you wrote it — if you weren’t it would be clear.

What to write otherwise then?

Lacking confidence.

The most common use of the two words is because the writer is worried of sounding haughty or overconfident. I’ve seen the behavior on resume writing and reviews, but you should know when it comes to you and your work you’re the foremost expert.

On that introduction message or cover letter, instead of saying “I think I would make a great addition to your team,” remove that self-doubting statement. Don’t think twice about yourself: even if they don’t hire you or pull you onto the project confidently propose: “I would be a great addition to your team.”

You know the position, you know the great work you’ve done, you know you’ve survived most of 2020 now. You can do this.

Hedging for new information.

“I think” is a terrible way to show that you’re waiting for new information. It’s even worse for expression you know plans can change later.

“I think I’ll work on optimization this half” is weak. Is that your full-time project? I sure can’t tell. I thought about buying a small sailboat last year, I definitely didn’t do it.

If you know you can accomplish your goal trim your sentence down to “I’ll work on optimization this half”. If you’re waiting on new information, be explicit. Say why it may change and acknowledge the unknowns, “I’ll work on optimization this half if the data in August shows that it hinders DAP.” That’s a lot of good thinking. You didn’t even have to tell me you thought about it.

New or (possibly) overly-cautious opinions.

These are tricky. The gang often looks like “I think we should use React”, “I think this TV is what our living room needs”, “I think I should go to the ER”. The latter was a very poor choice of words last year when I knew needed to go to the ER.

More presently important, all these “thinks” are unnecessary if you only expanded to include your justification and what could change it. “I Think” doesn’t express that you’re open to change or new information it just makes you sound unsure.

Revisiting those first lines I would write:

“We should use React if we’re going to write this for both platforms on this deadline.” Look we gave our opinion and opened the conversation for discussion too. “I want this TV”. I can clearly tell you have a preference for it now! “I should I go to the ER before I pass out.” This phrasing would have explained my situation clearly and saved me a discussion when I felt I was going to pass out.

Expressions opinions can be intimidating, especially in new or large groups. Take a bit of confidence for yourself by removing “I think “and adding your reasoning. Or, even add “I’m open for discussion”, or “what are your thoughts?” to indicate you’re open to constructive feedback.

There’s a lot more times this phrase is used incorrectly, but I wanted to highlight my most recent experiences with deleting these two words from half a dozen resumes and my own PSCs which — again — I certainly started writing before this deadline week.

You’re great. Be open. Be more confident in yourself.

I think I should edit my self-review now.

PS: PLEASE if you’re the overconfident type of speaker don’t end your sentences with “think about it.” I hate that you assumed I don’t think unless you remind me to. And second, perhaps your grandiose assertion (possibly just grabbed from a headline) doesn’t take that much brain power to parse.

PPS: Self-review procrastinating means I didn’t edit this thoroughly.

Photos: Mine. I spilled coffee for a photo. That’s a thing I did on purpose. Cheers.