Yoda, the famous character from the Star Wars movie explained to Luke: ““No. Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.“
If you are going to be in a relationship or achieve your life’s goals, it is something you DO. You cannot TRY to do a marriage or TRY to save a marriage or TRY to lose weight or TRY to be a better parent. You either DO it or you don’t do it. You put in place concrete actions and then execute your plan or you don’t.
Many couples get into huge arguments that follow a pattern like this:
Spouse A: Honey, can we talk about X. I really need your help”
Spouse B: Sure honey, what is it.
Spouse A: I really need you do this and this and this with X. Will you DO that please?
Spouse B: Yes, of course honey, I’ll TRY.
2 weeks later a big fight
Spouse A: BABE. Remember our talk 2 weeks ago and you said you would DO this and this and this with X. You haven’t done it. Why not! I’m really upset. You lied to me, I can’t count on you. Grow up!
Spouse B: Hon! Why are you so upset, I said I would TRY. Calm down. Let’s talk about this. I’ll TRY harder next time, give me a chance.
Spouse A: Okay, I really want you to do this…
Spouse B: Yes, I said I’ll TRY!
What do you think will happen in a week or so…probably another huge fight because Spouse A is expecting action, something DONE and Spouse B will still be TRYING.
Notice I do not specify the topic here. It really doesn’t matter what the topic is. People act like its topic is really important. It isn’t. Either you do something or you don’t.
You might read this and think, what is wrong with saying I’ll try! I’m saying I’ll try…The problem with try is it is not clear how hard you’ll try, like 2% or 5% or 90%. Trying is a way of avoiding committing to and be accounting for your actions. This puts the partner in a bind because they are not able to plan on you doing anything but some vague notion of trying with no idea what the “trying” will look like. In the short-term one or two random issues, not a big deal. But if this is a repeated pattern, this does contribute towards destroying a relationship.
So let’s break it down. The fight starts out because one person is asking for another person to commit to DOING something. Not asking them for a level of effort or how hard they’ll try. The person needs to know what they can expect or count on so they can make plans. The person saying “trying” probably doesn’t want to disappoint the requester and more importantly wants to avoid an immediate fight. So as a result the person making a DOING requests hears their partner say DO not TRY.
So then the follow up argument continues and gets worse because the 2 people are not talking about the same thing. Spouse A is talking about what they understood to be was a commitment to DO something that partner B is account for and did not do. Partner A was not wanting their partner’s effort, they wanted their action. Spouse B is advocating about their effort, they technically never committed to doing anything. It’s ugly and it leads to bad relationships in marriage and elsewhere.
Why Do this?
I see this so much in my office. People come in and say they are here to TRY marriage counselling, not DO marriage counselling. I have to ask them how much effort so we can gauge how likely they are to do their homework, calibrate everyone’s expectations about outcomes especially if the person only wants to TRY 5% effort and expects the other people to DO the saving of the marriage.
People say TRY instead of DO when they want to avoid an argument. Paradoxically, they end up getting an even bigger argument and they don’t have the moral high ground to stand on because everyone hears them making a commitment that they didn’t follow through on. Over time this changes how one person views the other. The Try-er gets accused of being a liar, unreliable, not dependable etc.
The point is that when we say we are trying we don’t really have to do anything, commit to anything or be accountable for completing anything. It also provides us with an excuse for why we didn’t accomplish the outcome we say we want., because now we just need to TRY harder…than, what I’m not sure.
What’s the Solution
It starts with being honest to yourself and your partner. It is not uncommon for people in a relationship to not want what their partner wants or the solution the partner wants. If you spend time working together so that you can discuss and negotiate a solution that you both CAN DO everyone will be happy. But this requires honesty to self and partner up front and will require time.
Learning to have effective conflict will be the best way to create win-win solutions. And requires people getting comfortable being honest with their partner about what they can or want to do. Clients will say, “but if I do that s/he’ll get mad and I’ll have a fight.” I say yes, better up front where you can negotiate a realistic solution that you can do. A big drawback of “trying” is that you are consistently teaching your partner that you can’t be counted on. That’s not a good thing.
So if you are TRYer, where are you trying to improve?
Are you trying to get in shape or are you getting in shape.
Are you trying to improve your marriage or are improving your marriage.
Are you trying to make more sales calls or are you making more sales calls.
This may sound like a small distinction, but it has huge ramifications.
Maybe it’s time to quit trying and just do it. Here are three suggestions:
Eliminate the word “try” from your vocabulary. It is a worthless word that accomplishes nothing. It only makes you feel better when you fail.
Decide either to do or not do. If you don’t want to do something fine. Don’t do it. But don’t pretend that trying is the same as doing. They are two completely different postures.
Commit 100 percent to the outcome you want. Like a project manager, if you cannot create failproof plan, re-evaluate if what you want is realistic.
If you need help learning how to negotiate win-win with your partner or with yourself, our therapist can help you. Give us a call at 90307239 or email us here.