This blog introduces you to my special brand of BIKE. I show you how to find your Best self, access your Inner strength, tune in to your Killer instincts, and use your Expressive voice. It's inspiring, spiritual, quirky, and it's all in your head. It's about ATTITUDE, not exercise, though that might be a side benefit.

Friday, January 30, 2009

One phrase to lose: "I'll try"

Consider the phrase: I'll try. Have you ever said it to someone? Has someone ever said it to you?

When someone asks you to do something, and all you can say is, "I'll try," how committed do you think you really are to doing that task? What do you really mean?

Do you mean: If I have time? If I care enough? If I want to, I'll do it?

Earlier this month, I was speaking with a friend who was telling me how she needed help on a project that she's in charge of. And she was thrilled when, finally, she'd found a partner to help her on the job. She was feeling extremely grateful, she said, because she'd been in need of additional help for quite some time.

But, the person was coming on board at one of the worst times for her; my friend had too many other projects going on (Boy, I can relate to that!). She was concerned she wouldn't have time to train the new person. But she told me that she called and left a message, anyway, thanking her new partner for joining her, asking her to call back so they could at least chat a little before the real work starts.

Sadly, she said, this person did not return her call. She finally did e-mail, however, with updated contact information. So my friend returned the e-mail, telling her that she, in fact, needed her help earlier than expected, that she had to leave town, and only needed a few hour's worth of her time. She asked for what she needed, briefly explained why, asked if it was possible.

The person's response: "I'll try."

"I'll try" is not a response, I was thinking.

And while we were chatting about this, my friend was interrupted and had to go on to do something else. But I kept thinking about her story. Would you have a problem with this person's response? Does it sound like she's a willing partner?

I no longer try to interpret these kinds of responses myself, because I know "I'll try" is not a real response. It's not a yes; it's not a no. It's not a commitment, either way. So had it been me, I would have been tempted to want to take care of the matter myself, because I wouldn't want to have to beg for commitment. You either can or you can't help.

And I certainly wouldn't want to guilt someone into doing something they didn't really want to do. But I don't want to have to decipher it for them. I've been there. I don't think it works very well in the long run.

Here's why I know it's more hurtful than helpful:

When I was a child growing up, my mother was famous for saying, "I guess." Every time you asked a question, she would never give you a straight answer. She'd say, "I guess." Not only that, but she'd say it in the most miserable tone. I was a kid. I wanted what I wanted. So I opened that bottle of Pepsi and took a sip (These were the day when drinking soda all day long, as kids do today, was not an option.), I ate the last cookie in the box, or went to play with my friends across the street, whatever it was that I wanted. But I felt guilty doing it. I never quite knew if I was really supposed to or not. Would I get in trouble for this later? I sometimes wondered. Her wishy-washy responses always left me wondering. And I learned to tiptoe my way around her.

As a parent myself, I was adament about being clear with my answers. Perhaps some people are afraid of letting others down. Maybe that's why they won't say no when they mean no, and yes when they mean yes. But it's worse to be left in the dark and wonder what the real answer is. So when my kids asked for something, it was either a yes or no. I wanted to communicate clearly. They got their answer. No questions. No confusion. No worries.

But there have been times in my life when I've slipped and used similar half-hearted responses I learned from my mother. There have been times when I've been unclear about what I would accept or not accept, about what I would allow or not allow, about what I wanted or did not want. The problem with that is this: it leaves you vulnerable and with an excuse for not taking care of yourself or being fully responsible. It's completely noncomittal.

This is what my friend experienced. I'm not sure how she resolved the situation. We've not yet continued that earlier conversation.

As for me, I make a concerted effort to remove this phrase ("I'll try") from my vocabulary. I know from experience it's annoying, it doesn't really say anything, and it's certainly not helpful--to anyone. And if it were me in my friend's situation, I'd simply ask: Is that a yes or a no?

What about you?


Meagan Francis said...

This is a great reminder, Jackie! When I was younger my stepmother would often respond to requests from my younger stepbrother with "I don't care." So--"Mom, can I have a cookie?" "I don't care." It was her way of giving permission, I suppose without sounding too excited about it? I remember even as a teen thinking that was an odd response--so much so that it bothered me a little. Like, how could a parent NOT CARE about what their kid is doing? Say yes, say no, but just make a choice!

Fast forward 15 years and I've caught myself saying the same thing to my kids! I'm not even sure why I do it since I think it's a strange and kind of dismissive thing to say. I'm working on eliminating it from my parental vocabulary because of course, I really DO care, even if I don't find the decision life-altering (Have a cookie or don't, it's not going to be the end of the world either way!)

Have you seen the show RENO 911? There's an episode where one of the female cops says to a crime victim "I'm going to tell you that I'm going to try." Like she couldn't even say she's GOING to try, just that she's going to TELL you that. We use that line around here all the time when we aren't too excited about doing something. :)

The BIKE Lady said...

Thanks, Meagan.

It's a phrase you really don't think much about...until you think about it.

The "I don't care" phrase. Yes, that's another one. I use it sometimes when I don't want to be the one to choose, for instance, a place to eat dinner. I'll catch myself, and finally just say, "I'm tired. I don't want to choose the place. Whatever you pick is fine."

And then I best keep my mouth shut if I don't like it. LOL

It's a good thing to catch yourself on these things, to say what you really mean. It really makes life a lot easier, and it's honest.

The Reno 911 story. Funny.

Lori at Spinning Yellow said...

I just linked through twitter from Meagan. Great post! My husband does this with me and it drives me crazy. I accuse him of being passive-aggressive when he does the dinner thing, "I don't care" when he really means what you said, "I'm tired and I don't want to have to choose." but he will then shoot down my ideas. argh.

It goes along with the parenting phrase, "would you like to ..." as in "set the table", or "get dressed". No, kids don't want to do these things so you should say, "It is time to set the table." or "please get dressed."

Anyway, I like your perspective.

I'll try to follow your advice. (ha ha, I couldn't resist!)

The BIKE Lady said...

Lori, my daughter experiences the exact same thing with her husband. It can go round and round, can't it?

Thanks for the laugh, and thanks for visiting.

Solomon said...

Good post! I now know what to say to my kid from what Lori said in the comment. I too use that phrase -I'll try, when I'm not sure what to say and too tired to think at that moment.
Thanks for the perspective!