Stop saying "I don't mind"
Have you ever felt frustrated by this seemingly innocuous phrase?
You're out with friends, trying to choose a restaurant and when you make a suggestion, they say “I don’t mind”. You all end up walking around for ages trying to find something to suit.
You ask your family what they want to do at the weekend and they all say "I don’t mind" or "whatever". You end up having to come up with the ideas and take the decision. Then they all moan they didn't want to do that anyway!
So, the phrase is not quite as innocuous as it seems.
Let’s begin by considering the reasons people say it. What are yours?
- The wish to be accommodating and easy going.
- The wish to be seen not to rock the boat or be regarded as difficult.
- Can’t be bothered.
- Don’t care.
- Worried it will be awkward for the other person.
- Lack of confidence.
- Difficulty making decisions.
- Feeling that you have insufficient information.
- General preference and habit of leaving things to others.
What impact might it have?
Imagine your boss asks you to take on a role that is new to you: “I‘d like you to manage the next project and chair the meetings. How does that sound to you?”
The role involves taking on the task of chairing meetings and reporting back. You haven’t chaired a committee before. You may feel somewhat unconfident or anxious and so you reply: “I don’t mind. Whatever you think best.”
This may sew a seed of doubt in your manager’s mind. You don’t sound sure, perhaps you don’t care. You don’t sound confident, keen or motivated. They may even decide to offer it to a different member of your team. That will further dent your confidence and increase your self-doubt. By using the words “I don’t mind”, you will have brought this outcome upon yourself.
If you say I don’t mind it gives an impression that you:
- Don’t care, lack confidence, interest and motivation.
- Others will end up making decisions for you and this will disempower you further.
- You will become increasingly unable to make decisions.
You hand over the power of decision making to others, and these decisions may affect you adversely!
Restore your personal power
Next time you hear yourself about to say “I don’t mind”, stop, take stock and ask yourself: “What is it I’d really like?” Next time someone says to you that they don’t mind, you may wish to say “I’d find it helpful to know what you prefer so we can do something that suits us both” or in a professional context, "so that we can take an informed decision.”
Same person, different response
Imagine you are the same person, with the same skills. You're rather anxious about taking on this role, but you give a more positive and assertive response, such as:
“I’ve not done this before. I am very interested to take it on and will give it my best. If I have any queries along the way, I’ll check with you of course. Thank you for the opportunity. I really appreciate it.”
“I’m very pleased to be asked. I don’t feel confident to chair meetings at this time and would like to gain some meeting skills before taking it on. I’d welcome attending some training and then would very much like this opportunity for the next project.”
“I’d like to give it some thought as it coincides with other project deadlines. I’d be glad to have a day to review my work and what would be involved. I'll get back to you tomorrow afternoon if that’s OK with you?"
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