When It's Time To Stop Trying
April 14, 2015

When It's Time To Stop Trying

by Brian de Haaff

On Sunday, I wrote about the The One Word Confident People Always Say. The word “no” may be small but it packs a lot of power. When we learn to turn down requests by co-workers that do not line up with our goals, we actively take control of the minutes that make up our day.

Almost 15,000 people read that article, and 200 of you shared your thoughts by commenting on LinkedIn. Here are a few of the ones that stood out to me:

By me saying ‘no,’ it sets boundaries; both on a personal and professional level… It clearly lets others know I am not a doormat or a dump. There are enough ‘yes’ people around already. Dare to be different.
Far too many stressed out, overcommitted people don’t hold themselves accountable for their own ‘misfortune.’ If you can help, great, say ‘yes.’ Otherwise, do yourself and your colleagues a favour and say ‘no’.

It’s true — saying “no” helps us to establish boundaries with co-workers and helps us to keep from becoming overcommitted. But this last comment really started me thinking.

If I am working on an interesting project and I really enjoying doing it and she comes and says, “Could you finish this for me?” and it is a boring job, then my answer would be “No, sorry dear, I am working on something really urgent. If have time, I’ll try.”

How often do we say “I’ll try” in response to a request by a colleague that we really do not want to do? Perhaps you think it’s something you ought to be doing — or you are afraid you might let your boss down if you say no. What’s so wrong with saying “I’ll try?”

“I’ll try” is a guaranteed loser.

It is neither yes nor no. “I’ll try” inhabits the squishy middle-ground of maybe. If “no” is the one word that confident people always say, “I’ll try” is something that confident people never say.

This is what I suggest — stop trying. Stop halfway committing to things you don’t really want to do in an effort to please or appease.

Here are three reasons why saying “I’ll try” will do your career more harm than good. When you say this you:

Lose credibility You may think you are being nice. However, when you say, “I’ll try” instead of “yes” or “no,” you are not answering honestly. You are not being clear about your intentions, and dishonesty is a sure way to lose the respect of your peers.

Create confusion When you are assigned a project, answering with “I’ll try” removes responsibility. If a deadline or milestone is missed, it is not clear whose fault it was. Now the blame game begins. This lack of conviction leads your team further away from their goals and down a path toward dysfunction.

Handicap others When you answer “I’ll try,” it means that you really will not. But instead the person requesting something from you is counting on your full effort. When you fail to deliver, your decision negatively impacts others who have now missed their goals as well.

At Aha!, we operate differently, and “I’ll try” is not part of our vocabulary. We do not keep people waiting for an answer, and make our decisions quickly. This enables us to respect other people’s time and honor our commitments.

There’s nothing wrong with saying “yes” or “no” when that’s what you really want to say. You can be kind and give an honest answer from a position of strength, not weakness. Banish “I’ll try” from your vocabulary, and see what happens.

What will you stop trying to do today?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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