The 5 Magic Words That Will Save Your Life

The first time I was promoted into a management position, I had virtually no idea what I was doing.  I didn’t even know the 5 magic words.

I remember walking into one of our retail stores when I first joined the company.  It was a family run business and the manager was there with her husband.  Here was my first impression opener to her:

“So, do you two run the store by yourselves?”

They exchanged glances, and then she said, “Ah no, we have over 20 employees.”


How do you recover from that?  Do you admit that you work at head office but obviously have less knowledge about the business than their newest 15 year old summer hire?  I knew nothing.

I become a manager

When my boss (and the company owner) told me a few months later that I was going to be overseeing the accounts of a number of corporate-owned stores as well as independent retailers who carried our products, I protested.

“But I have no clue what I’m doing!  I’ve never done anything like this before!”

To which he responded,

“They know this much (he held his thumb and forefinger an inch apart) so all you have to know is this much! (now he held them about two inches apart)  He was an optimist.

From then on I spent long chunks of time with him on the phone as he berated me, lectured me, greeted some of my questions with alternating bursts of profanity and shocked silence; stunned by my ignorance and stupidity.  He also trained, coached, advised, and even occasionally encouraged me.  In the meantime, I learned a lot.  A. Lot.

So here’s one invaluable lesson I learned that I’ll pass on to you, minus the abuse 😊

I had constant requests.  Requests from store managers for special treatment.  Requests (demands) for quick decisions about weighty matters.

  • Would the company pay for this or that expensive warranty claim?
  • If they ran this ad program, would it count for corporate funding?
  • Could I make an exception this once because I had treated them with outrageous unfairness in the past and plus, they were our most valuable retailer? Would I?  WOULD I?!
  • And so on.

Like dogs, they could smell my fear and knew I was a rube and an easy target.

These requests were always urgent, and always caught me off guard.  What should I say?  I knew from watching war movies that quick decisions from the leader is a vital component in building respect.  So one day I asked my boss about it.

The 5 Magic Words

He smiled and shook his head, and then taught me the 5 magic words that will save your life in situations where an urgent decision is required.  Here they are:

Let me think about it.

One more time:


“You see,” he taught me, “it’s very rare to come across a life or death situation that requres an immediate decision.  They may think it’s urgent, or they may want it to be urgent, but it can always wait a day or two.  Or a week.  Almost nothing is actually urgent in this business.”

So, buy yourself some time.  Listen carefully and thoughtfully.  Take some notes if the situation is complicated, and then use the 5 magic words that will save your life:  Let me think about it.


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Trevor Throness is a speaker, consultant, and author of “The Power of People Skills.”  He is also co-founder and senior instructor at

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