Home > Contemplations > “I’ll Do What I Can”: What Does It Mean When Someone Says It? My Take.

“I’ll Do What I Can”: What Does It Mean When Someone Says It? My Take.

I was recently, as you all know, extremely busy with #SMDayTO – which was an amazingly massive success – as well as moving. I still tried to maintain a busy social and networking schedule, post here daily – even if they were really short posts – and be as much myself to the general public as I could. I even had to, unfortunately turn down the opportunity to guest blog on my friend Casey’s blog because I just didn’t feel like I had the time to commit to it (and I didn’t).

There are a number of other things going on in my life – not all of which my readers are privy to – and this post is in regard to one of them. I told the person in charge of that project that while I had given months of dedicated service over the past long while, June was an extremely hectic month for me and I would do my utmost to “do what I can” during all the insanity. At one point when I spoke to them, my 30th birthday was less than a week away and I had planned nothing for this milestone event – ya, that’s how busy I was.

To me, when I say “I’ll do what I can” I mean I will do what I can and it is not a promise that something will actually be done. To say it is a promise that something will actually be done is just silly in my mind. If I were to say, “I’ll do it,” that would be a promise of me doing it. “I’ll do what I can,” however, is a promise that if I have the time to do anything for the project, I will and if I don’t, I won’t.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, I had a long discussion with the person I said “I’ll do what I can,” to and apparently in their mind that sentence raised expectations to me being consistently available to them to be able to fully participate in their project. They said that I did not clearly communicate my availability or lack thereof.

Apparently, in their world view, when someone says “I am extremely busy but I’ll do what I can,” it means that person is actually completely available and should be relied upon completely to give all their attention to the whatever project the recipient of that comment feels is most important to them.

In this person’s world view it is necessary for someone to say, “I am very busy and can’t guarantee anything for the next little while,” in order for their lack of availability to be clearly communicated. I, as of the writing of this post, fail to see the difference between the two ways to communicate a lack of availability.

I am basically writing this post because I am trying to get other people’s opinions on this communication. I know that I sometimes march to the beat of a different drummer in my outlook on life, the universe and everything. I know that often I don’t see things the same way as others – sometimes to hilarious results!

This post is me just trying to ascertain whether:

  • This is one of those times and the person in question’s expectations were completely reasonable based on my promise to do what I can.
  • If there is a difference between the way he wanted me to phrase my notification of my lack of availability during this period and the way I actually did in terms of meaning and expectations that should have resulted.

Let me know your thoughts.

  1. Danah Ashcroft
    July 4, 2011 at 8:25 am

    Humm that is a tough one. The words say you are not available but often when people say this they mean that they will some how make it work. I think that you are right in the use of the words but society has twisted the meaning of the words to mean I will get it done some how some way.

    • July 4, 2011 at 12:25 pm

      I will get what done? Everything as if I wasn’t uber busy? Or get something done – sporadically and unreliably but something will be done. That was how I meant it. I didn’t mean I was going to be completely unavailable but just that I was going to be very unreliable during the busy times.

  2. Danah Ashcroft
    July 4, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    When I hear people say “I will do what I can” I get confused because like superheros they end up completing what ever it was in the timely fashion. I feel the phrase is abused. I am not sure what your what was but some people would say that then do it.

    I am not sure how to handle the situation other than maybe not use a cliche sentance that has lost its true meaning. Clear communication is always best.

  3. Danah Ashcroft
    July 4, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    (by like superhero I mean they manage to get it all done)

    I believe I would understand what you meant. I think it is a fault of the phrase. you were clear the person made an assumption based on their own definition of the phrase.

    Sorry for two messages I just realized my reply wasnt that clear.

    • July 4, 2011 at 4:56 pm

      Exactly! Their own assumptions are not my problem. If I use a phrase and am using it correctly I don’t really care what other people have said it to mean. Also, remember I am not being paid for doing work on this project and it is not my project. When I am busy with my own projects (paid or not) I’ll do what I can but I am very busy means that very literally. If they have trouble understanding what I meant that is their problem not mine. (As far as I am concerned). ESPECIALLY given how much of my time I have already volunteered in the past WHILE for said project.

  4. patrick
    October 8, 2016 at 11:51 am

    sometimes every words have their own meaning because when someone say i will do what i can my mind tells me that. he or she will make effort to do something and more over.. some people also speak their own meaning English…

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