Is Your Promise Your Word

May 2007

by Sandra Zimmer

Long have I been frustrated by the fact that some people say one thing and do another thing.  It has often frustrated me when a family member, friend or business associate tells me they will do something and then does not do it as they said they would.  At first I am upset with the other person, then I get angry with myself for being upset and begin to doubt myself.  What could be happening?

And then, I caught it in myself!  It has to do with promising rather than committing.  One day I wanted so much to help a friend, I was so excited to support that I promised I would do something for her.  I so wanted to offer an opportunity to my friend and without thinking it through, I said “Here is what I will do.”  And then, I realized I could not deliver.  The excitement of wanting to share ran away with me.  What I wanted to give was not what I could give.

I have learned to check myself before I make an appointment, offer to help or give a gift.  I now know to make sure I can do what I say I will do before I say it.  Especially when motivated by wanting to please or make someone happy, the red flag goes up in my mind.  Before I offer, before I commit, I check myself because I know that promises not kept are more painful that promises not offered.

When you say “I will do that,” you are making a promise.  It is your word.  But often in your own mind, you were just hoping to be able to do that thing.  Others, however, hear your words as a commitment and then count on it.  When you fail to keep your word, it creates a lack of trust.  Once is not a big deal, but twice and it becomes a pattern.  From then on, that person can’t count on your word.  There will always be a doubt in their mind whether you will do what you said you would do.  No matter how much they love you, they will have to plan for alternate options because your promise is not your commitment.

Communication is the most challenging of human interactions.  Once we understand the importance of becoming a good communicator, one of our first tasks is to be responsible for what we say and what we say we will do.  Being someone that others can count on is a great step towards being a good communicator. 


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