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"Benefit of the doubt" is a standard phrase in English and is a very useful one in formal discussions. Is there an equivalent expression to denote the opposite of it, formal or informal?

For example:

Sara: What do you think of our new neighbour?
Sam: I do not know them, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. [they must be good people]

How about an opposite case (I will try to convey it below):

Sara: Will you marry me?
Sam: I do not know you, so I have to __ (I wont risk it, you could be terrible...)

One thing I can think of is possible risk. Is that how the English speaking world go about this?

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I'm new to this community, I must have got the tagging terribly wrong. Can someone correct it? – nawfal Jul 4 '13 at 10:00
skeptical? "Not easily convinced; having doubts or reservations." -- I do not know you, so I am skeptical (I wont risk it, you could be terrible...) – Kris Jul 4 '13 at 10:14
@Kris thats an option too, could you make it an answer? – nawfal Jul 4 '13 at 11:13
How about "doubt?" It isn't always to your benefit. – user867 Jul 5 '13 at 4:34
up vote 12 down vote accepted

"Assume the worst" is the best idiom I can come up with that conveys the opposite of "benefit of the doubt".

Sam: I cannot marry you because since I don't know you, I have to assume the worst."

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Or 'assume a worst-case scenario'. Mind you, if I were Sara, I wouldn't necessarily appreciate these answers! – Edwin Ashworth Jul 4 '13 at 16:40
@EdwinAshworth haha, funny.. :) – nawfal Jul 18 '13 at 7:50

"Assume the worst" sounds perfect to me, but in that specific situation, I would say something more like "I don't know you, I'd rather be safe than sorry." Being rejected will hurt either way, atleast this has an "I want to be safe" sound, rather then "you might be bad."

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a milder form could be to 'err on the side of caution'

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Hi @Jonno, welcome to ELU. This is a good suggestion, but has been automatically flagged as possibly being low quality because it is very short! The answer would be improved (and would have avoided the auto-flag) by the inclusion of a definition of "err on the side of caution", and a link to where that definition came from. You can use the "edit" just below your answer to make this change. – AndyT Jan 20 at 11:50
I would take "err on the side of caution" as a synonym, not the opposite. Please elaborate to clarify. – Chenmunka Jan 20 at 12:13
@Chenmunka while his answer is not an exact opposite of "benefit of the doubt" it is closer to opposite than to being synonym. Benefit of the doubt is when you take no caution and give all benefits to opposite party, to "err on the side of caution" is when you play it safe and dont give the same benefit. – nawfal Jul 5 at 11:01

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