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"You can do better"

How often have you heard the assessment from a parent, boss, manager or coach, “You can do better?”

And how often have you interpreted that to mean, “You’re not good enough,” “You’re crap,” “This is not good enough,” “This is crap,” etc.?

Now it is quite possible that that is exactly what that person meant.

However there is another possibility.  If you’re dealing with a highly analytical and largely unemotional person (with a low EQ), it may be that they are just being literal and when they see what you have done and it isn’t 100% perfect, they might just be giving you their unemotional assessment of the reality that you actually can do better.

They may be totally unaware of the importance of those intangible factors called enthusiasm, encouragement and empowerment.

Instead of stewing in your hurt and resentment because of your possibly carrying over wounds from your childhood where you wanted or needed to feel unconditional love, acceptance and appreciation from one or both of your parents (who quite possibly couldn’t give to you what they never received from theirs) there is something you can do to address this situation.

Go up to your boss or manager or coach and say to them, “I need your help with something.  There’s a good chance that I am oversensitive when it come to input and feedback from you.  When you have told me, ‘you can do better,’ are you saying to me that what I’ve done is bad, crap, lousy, etc. or are you saying that it is okay or possibly good, but that I can do even better?”

Then see what they say.  They might say the latter, but there is also the more likely possibility that they do think you’re good or at least ok, because otherwise why would they have you working or playing for them?

If it’s true that you have been oversensitive and taking things the wrong way, it might help to then apologize to them for doing so.  Do that by saying, “I owe you an apology, because I have been feeling and acting as if you been putting me down, when in reality you have just been pointing out ways to improve myself.  And for that I’m sorry and going forward I won’t jump to that conclusion again.”

But, heh, heh, because they are analytic and non-neurotic, don’t be surprised if they are as nonplussed by your apology as they are by you having misread them for so long.

And don’t be “re-offended” by their response if it is along the “accepted, but unnecessary” line and disappointing to you.  That’s because it could be good practice run for you if you have to do the same with one or both of your parents who told you “you could do better” but thought you were great, but that you could do even better.

If that is the case, be prepared to have a breakthrough with your parents that may be long overdue.

Finally, knowing how upsetting it can feel to be told “you can do better” and feel criticized, get in the habit of telling others “you can do even better” so they can feel supported by you. 

Reader Comments (1)

Consistently, your topics challenge me to think differently and recognize new dimensions of understanding. So, for that, thanks, again.

As someone prone to being sensitive to a comment such as "you can do better", I am reminded of the following quote by Maya Angelou:

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

A commitment I intend to make to those, including myself, who have a vested interest in my performance and can successfully determine if it can or cannot be done better:
As soon as I know better, I promise that I will do better.
If you know that my personal best, now, can be improved, empower me with the knowledge to achieve that betterment.

Ground Rules:
Let's both assume the best. You assume that I am always delivering the best I can do. I will assume you have assumed as much before suggesting it could be better.

June 22, 2014 | Registered CommenterEva-Lynne Carlson
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