I’d like to share a powerful phrase that will help you set clearer priorities in your life and permanently improve your interactions with the people around you. It will make you a better a better friend, a better father or mother, a better sister or brother, a better son or daughter. It will make you a better employee.

It goes like this:

Hmm, interesting idea. We’ll take it into consideration when we make our decision.

The exact wording isn’t critical. It’s what it communicates that’s important.

A Little Background

When my wife and I first got married we discovered, as everyone does, that coordinating two independent schedules can be very tricky. There seemed to be an undending barrage of conflicting demands:

Can you come for dinner on Sunday?
Could you work some extra hours this weekend?
This seminar is required for your major.
Are you coming for Thanksgiving dinner?
Will you be here on Christmas morning?
You should come trick-or-treating with us!
You shouldn’t let your kids eat…
You shouldn’t let you kids watch TV.
You should deliver you kids at home.
You shouldn’t vaccinate.
And on, and on.

Learning to manage all of these requests wasn’t easy. It still isn’t. We’ve been married for over 11 years now and the number of requests has only grown. We’ve stumbled many times (sorry again everyone) and we’re still not perfect at it. But we feel that this powerful philosophy has made our marriage much happier. It’s our little “secret weapon”.

Here how we usually say it.

Thanks for your suggestion. We’ll consider it when we make our decision.

How It Works

When you say this to someone, it communicates a few things:

  1. “Interesting idea” or “Thanks for your suggestion” Your idea is simply that, an idea. A suggestion. It’s not a requirement. We’re not obligated to just comply. It’s an idea. It’s interesting. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just an opinion. No matter how strongly worded the original statement, it’s just another idea.
  2. “We will take it into consideration…” We genuinely appreciate your opinion and hope you keep sharing it with us. Although we’re not ready to make a decision right now, we value your thoughts and will consider them.
  3. “… when we make our decision.” This is the most important one. It emphasizes that it’s our decision, nobody else’s. No one else fully understands the varied demands for our time and attention, our interests, or our priorities. We’ll make the decision together. I don’t commit to anything important until I’ve had a chance to sync with my wife first.

This means that often end up saying, “Thank you but not this time.” Maybe it’s because we have another commitment. Maybe we have something that’s a higher priority. But at the end of the day, we don’t owe anyone else an explanation. We work together and make the best decision we can with the information available to us.

How It Helps with Product Management

About 5 years ago, I began to make a career change to Product Management. And while I believe that this phrase is valuable in any profession, it’s been particularly useful for me as a Product Manager.

A Product Manager’s entire job consists of receiving ideas/suggestions/feedback and making prioritization decisions. There’s no end to the number of people who want to chime in and offer their 2¢ about how the product should work, what features it should have, why it should be this way or that way.

Customers want this. Competitors have that. Coworkers need something else. And that’s just fine. When you’re developing a product, everyone is welcome to his or her opinion and I’m happy to collect them all.

But at the end of the day, I’m the one responsible for making sure the product succeeds. Our customers don’t fully understand our long term vision. Our competitors don’t share out business model. My coworkers aren’t intimately familiar with our technical constraints. In the end, a small group of people needs to make the best decision possible with the limited information available.

For everything else? Thanks for your suggestion. We’ll consider it when we make our decision.