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Blog Short #144: Do What You Say You Will Do

Photo by Suchat longthara, Courtesy of iStock Photo

How often have you heard the advice: “Do what you say you will do!”?

It’s good advice because your reputation is on the line when you falter. More importantly, you lose people’s trust if it happens a lot.

But it’s not always easy to do. And sometimes you do it without really thinking about it.

Today we’ll go through how and why this happens and what you can do to change it.

Let’s start with why it happens.

Reasons People Default

The People-Pleaser

People pleasers are in the habit of saying yes, sometimes without thinking. They get focused on the immediate request and feel compelled to accommodate. The need to please overrides a careful consideration of what saying yes will mean.

You might follow through and likely mean to, but sometimes forget that you said yes to whatever it was, and when the time comes for you to make good on that promise, you either don’t show up because you forgot or you make an excuse to get out of it and then feel guilty.

The Avoidant

People who tend towards avoidance may say yes just to end the conversation. They don’t want to deal with someone’s disappointment or explain why they can’t do what’s requested. They especially don’t want someone to try and sell them on something and keep having to say no.

A quick yes gets them off the hook for the time being, and they’ll figure out how to get out of it later or simply forget it and never say anything about it again.

The Forgetter

People who forget a lot tend to make commitments quickly, and then it leaves their minds. They don’t remember and don’t have a system in place to compensate for that.

If this is you, on some level, you probably feel guilty about being this way, yet you make excuses for it and pass it off as “being ADD” or “just forgetful.” You might have ADD, but even if you do, you’ve internalized it as a personality characteristic that you accept and expect others to accept, even when your behavior impacts them negatively. You say, “That’s just the way I am. I can’t help it.”

The Enthusiast

You get excited and enthusiastic about new things, ideas, or activities and want to join up right now! You offer up your time quickly and are the first to commit.

People who do this tend to do it a lot and often find themselves overwhelmed, harried, and upset with themselves for not taking a moment to assess whether they had the time and energy to take on the new thing. Either they do what they promised, but not without complaints, or they have to back out at some point and leave the group stranded.

The Worrier

This one’s a bit like the people pleaser, but the reasons differ. You’re afraid that by saying no, there will be negative consequences. Someone will think less of you, be disappointed in you, or pass you over for someone who’s more accessible. You say yes begrudgingly to avoid the negative feelings or outcomes you imagine.

You might follow through more than the others to avoid backlash, but you’ll resent it on some level. Many will find a way to get out of the situation, or worse, start and then pull back, which usually brings more backlash and bad feelings.

The Unskilled

You lack the skills necessary to complete the task. You commit before evaluating whether you have the know-how to do what you’re promising.

This happens more in work situations where an employee doesn’t want to confess they don’t know how to do what’s being asked of them or don’t want their employer to be upset or give them a bad evaluation. It can also happen in personal situations when you’re afraid to own up to not knowing how to do something because somebody will judge you for it.

The Procrastinator

You say yes to all kinds of things, both to others and yourself, but don’t follow through. Instead, you do everything else but.

Here’s my example: I set out to write a blog and end up cleaning the house, doing the laundry, and calling a friend. Next day, I concoct a revised writing list including yesterday’s tasks, but again, I do other things. A week goes by, and there’s not a single word written.

In this case, I’m disappointing myself. We all do this, and although it doesn’t directly impact someone else, it has an indirect impact that eventually can come back to bite us. If I never got around to writing that blog, you wouldn’t have it on Monday morning when you’re expecting it to be in your inbox.

How You Can Change It

Regardless of which category fits you, everyone can use these basic things to help avoid promising what you either can’t or don’t want to deliver.

1. Use the 24-hour rule before saying yes.

The 24-hour rule means taking a whole day to decide before giving your answer. You’re far more likely to follow through if you still want to sign on after 24 hours of deliberation. That also gives you time to set up reminders, schedule the event on your calendar, and ensure it won’t interfere with other responsibilities. You don’t have to use this rule if it’s a quick decision you can fulfill right now, but anything that will take longer or is in the future applies.

2. Do a cost/benefit assessment.

This is your basic pro/con list to help you make an informed decision before committing. This exercise is especially helpful for the enthusiast who often sees only the benefits at the moment without weighing out what’s actually entailed in terms of time, effort, and energy. It’s also necessary when the commitment will have far-reaching effects.

3. Write it down in a place you will see it.

Even if it’s a small commitment, you need a method set up where you can document the “yes” the moment it comes out of your mouth. I use Notes on my iPhone and write down everything I commit to as soon as I say it. I check it daily, so I don’t miss it. I usually transfer it to my calendar the first time I check it if I haven’t done that yet.

If you’re ADD-prone, you must have a system established to capture your yeses immediately, or they’ll leave your mind until someone reminds you when they get upset because you didn’t follow through.

4. Accept the discomfort of saying “no.”

You can’t get out of things you don’t want to commit to if you don’t get used to dealing with your discomfort in saying no. That might include dealing with someone’s disappointment as well.

Think of it this way:

It’s much worse to make an excuse later on when someone’s already counting on you than to say “no” upfront.

5. Get serious about following through on what you promise.

Isn’t that what we’ve been talking about this whole time? Yes, it is, but you must make it a priority. That means:

  • Seeing yourself as worthy of commitments you make to yourself.
  • Seeing others as worthy of your commitments and promises.
  • Paying close attention to what you say yes or no to.
  • Dealing with emotional discomfort.
  • Researching and practicing how to get over procrastination.
  • Valuing your word.

All right! That’s plenty to work on, yes? We’ll stop here today.

As always, have a great week!

All my best,


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