Image courtesy of Moira MacMahon
Building trust based relationships, either professional or personal, is a really big thing. It can propel your career or your life if you can do it, and it can sink them if you can’t. I believe that one of the most important ingredients for building these kinds of relationships is keeping your promises.
When you consistently keep you promises, you essentially align what you say you will do with what you truly do, and people know that they can rely on you. This is of course, easier said than done. Here are some of they key points I discovered can help you visibly improve the rate of promises you keep.
1. Acknowledge your slip-ups in this area. Counter-intuitively, most people often break their promises because they believe they are very good at keeping their promises. This inaccurate self-image creates a huge blind spot, which does not allow them to notice the situations when they don’t keep their promises, so they can’t really address them.
This is why a good starting point is to assume that you often break you promises, and to start consciously looking at they way you relate to other people, to notice when this is the case. As you start looking for these slipups, you will start to see them. Getting awareness about when they manifest, with whom, is the first big step in getting rid of them.
2. Think twice before you promise. It’s funny how a lot of people have problems related to lack of self-confidence, but when in comes to making promises, they have the opposite kind: they’re over-confident in what they can do, and they promise too much. Braking promises is usually not the result of bad intent; it is the result of this.
It’s very important that you realize you have limited time, energy, skills and resources, and as much as you would like to, you probably can’t do it all. Keep this in mind every time you’re getting ready to promise something, and ask yourself: “Can I really keep this promise I want to make?” If the answer is not a definite “yes”, then don’t make that promise. Instead, promise something less, something different, or don’t promise at all.
3. Learn to say no. One thing I’ve realized is that often, we sort of trap ourselves into promising more than we can or we want to do, because we have a problem with saying no. Someone asks us for some help, we know they have high expectations of us, and we just can’t make ourselves emotionally to betray those expectations, by saying no.
To get this handled, there is a very important mental leap you must take: to realize that you can’t and you don’t have to please everybody. When you fully embrace this idea, you feel more freedom to not live to everybody’s expectations, and to not be there for everybody. Which makes it easier for you to resist from making promises you can’t or don’t want to fulfill.
4. Make slipups meaningful for you. When people break a promise, even if they do realize this, they often quickly forget about it and as a result, this experience does nothing to enforce their tendency to keep promises. It’s easy to keep saying one thing and doing another, when your mind thinks it’s no problem.
This is the reason why if you want to drastically increase you promise keeping rate, you need to change this thinking. You need to make slipups a visible moral mistake in your head, which you completely acknowledge, to yourself and others involved. And to do this, you make integrity and keeping your promises a top value for yourself. You decide it to be very important for you.
Keeping promises and having integrity sound like things which are easy to master. But they are actually some of the hardest people skills to master. As you consciously and systemically work at improving your promise keeping skills, you will see some impressive changes in the quality of your relationships.
Eduard Ezeanu is a communication coach with an attitude-based approach. He teaches people how to put their best foot forward in communication and get top notch results. He also writes on his blog, People Skills Decoded.
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