Clarifying Misunderstandings

Don’t you also sense some kind of uncertainty when you request something from a friend, a family member, or a subordinate at work, and they say to you “I can try”?

What does “I can try” mean?

What does this phrase really mean? Is it yes or no? To most, it may mean either of the phrases listed below:

  • Yes, I will definitely do it,
  • I will think about it later on and if it suits me I will do it,
  • I hope you forget what you asked me to do, so I don’t have to do it.

Unfortunately, we are still not capable of reading each other’s minds. And no one has any bad intentions when they say “I can try”. They might be indecisive, they might not have the time, they might lack self-confidence. But if we want to get things done, we need clarification and commitment. Therefore, every time the “I can try” phrase is uttered, it makes great sense to follow the below steps to prevent possible miscommunication and arguments in the future (such as “You said you could try but you did not do it!):

  1. If the level of relationship allows, ask the person, “Just to reconfirm, are you willing to do this or not?” The trick here is to get the person to say either yes or no.
  2. Try to get a time commitment from the person by asking “When can you do it? Could you please give me an approximate timeline?”. Make sure to have a pen and a piece of paper with you, and write down the person’s answer in a way that he/she could see. Check with the person around the approximate date and ask if the task is completed.

Remember to pay attention to the person’s behavior and answers. If you notice that you are unable to get a concrete commitment, consider walking away and assigning the task either to yourself or someone else.

What other ways can you think of? Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.

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