Sometimes we expect people to fail simply because that’s all we expect from them. Is it fair to automatically assume that someone is going to fail even before they begin because they have a record of failing?
For example, there are things that people will ask me to do and if I don’t do them immediately they will assume that I don’t care enough to get it done when they ask me to do them. Other times, when I do a task immediately after it was assigned and I don’t do the task according to their exact specifications, I’m chastised or declared incompetent even though the result met or exceeded their expectations.
I sometimes find myself doing this as a parent. In fact, I do it a lot! I’ll give the boys a task and before the instructions have even left my mouth, I’ve already made a pre-determination that they will fail because they have failed to do the same or a similar task in the past. In analyzing my own feelings on the subject I wonder if the way that I’m presenting the information is inadequate? Am I speaking in a language that is too complex for them to completely understand? Are my tone and demeanor threatening, impassive or too demanding? Have I provided them with enough of a sense of urgency or have I been too passive or dismissive, opening the door for misunderstanding that may later result in confusion when I explode in what may seem to them to be a spontaneous and unprovoked outburst?
My dad always said, “When you want something done right, do it yourself!” There is wisdom in that phrase. If I do it myself I have only one person to blame if it goes wrong or the results are not what I expected – myself. I can’t get angry at anyone else because I planned it, I put it in motion and I reaped the results. Is this a healthy approach to living a full and productive life? Probably not; but it seems to work for some people and in fact, when it comes to things that I feel are important to me and I can’t rely on anyone else to do it the way that I want it done, I get it done myself and I can keep my relationships (and my sanity) intact.
A few years back, a lot of things were very ‘black and white’ to me. There was no ‘grey area’ or ‘wall-sitting’ for me. It was either pro or anti, for or against and I was very adamant in defending my thoughts, actions and beliefs. I still defend them with vigor today because what’s a man who cannot stand for one thing or another? But I have come to realize that not all things are cut-and-dry and that understanding all sides of an issue makes me more sympathetic, empathetic and accepting of other people, rather than condemning them immediately as ne’er do well’s or utter failures.
Understanding this has helped to make me a better husband and father; it helps me to be a better person. I accept that there are still parts of me that have been harder to change than others, but I am more willing to recognize that failing from time to time is as valuable as a learning tool as always getting it right. Can I be a better man? Every day of my life. Will that ever end? Absolutely not.
I’m getting better at not expecting others to fail by first giving them an opportunity to succeed. And if they don’t do it according to my express specifications, than I have to understand that they must have found some way to do it better than the way I thought it should be handled. But if they do in fact fail at the task, there are learning opportunities on both ends.
“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying” ~ Michael Jordan