“Be Careful” Means I Don’t Trust You


I was 5 years old learning to ride my bike.

We lived in an apartment complex with very little space in which to practice so I would venture out onto the street among cars and pedestrians. I can still hear my mother screaming: “Be careful!”

While I was convinced she was looking out for my welfare, she admitted years later: “If anything happened to you, I would have fallen apart.”

In other words, a major part of her motivation was to protect herself.

While she was sincere in looking out for my safety, she was equally concerned about how she would feel if something were to happen to me – in effect, looking out for her own emotional safety.

At the heart of this self-preservation, apparent when we look even deeper at the proclamation “Be careful,” we can detect mistrust on the part of the speaker.

Any time someone warns you to be careful, or to look out for yourself or to be alert – they are, in fact, telling you: “I don’t have confidence that you know what you are doing.”

In the case of my bike training, my mother’s warnings about being careful made me feel a little unsure of myself (to the point where I would often leave my bike alone).

But what would have happened had she said, “Go out there and do what you know you can do.”

Rather than projecting a lack of confidence, this statement does the opposite, showing complete confidence.

In our daily lives, if we encourage, rather than discourage, we release people from the bondage of self-doubt.

For many of us, self-doubt is ingrained already. Warnings from others “to be careful” helps to support that self-doubt and elevate its strength.

Each day around the globe, managers and supervisors show a lack of trust in their employees by saying, “Be sure to double check your work” “I will be back to see if you’ve done any of this correctly” or “I don’t think you can do this but try anyway.”

Our skepticism of what others can do serves to keep them down, slow their progress and in many cases, give up.

If we empower them by saying, “I trust your ingenuity, intelligence and strength”, we can create miracles.

Unfolding before our eyes will be the miracles of confidence, self-reliance and determination.

This is especially important for young people, trying to find their way in the world.

As a parent, mentor, coach and manager – our reservations hidden in “be careful” need to be replaced by our belief in others.

The next time I choose to warn someone that they need to be careful, I will think about why I am saying that. I will question whether I am saying it to protect myself more than the other person, and whether it’s being said out of mistrust.

I will change the narrative to:

“Get out there and show them what you’ve got!”

© 2016 Cory Robert Galbraith, All Rights Reserved.

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