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Blog Short #59: How to Keep Your Word and Build Trust

Welcome to Monday Blog Shorts – ideas to make even Monday a good day! Every Monday, I share a short article with you about a strategy you can use, or new facts or info that informs you, or a new idea that inspires you. My wish is to give you something to think about in the week ahead. Let’s dig in!

Photo by yamasan, Courtesy of iStock Photo

Let’s start today with a question:

Are you someone who follows through with what you say you will do?

If you promise to call someone back, do you do it? Or if you say you’ll catch up next week to make dinner plans, do you follow through? If you sign on to help someone with a project, are you there when they need you?

In other words, can people count on you, and do you keep your word once you’ve made a commitment?

If you’ve already got this down pat, then you’re good to go, and this blog may not pertain to you, but read on anyway to make sure.

It’s an important issue, and this is why:

Following through on what you promise means you care enough about the person or persons involved to ensure you don’t let them down. And that means you’re someone who can be relied upon, is considerate of others’ feelings, and feels a responsibility to do what you say you’ll do.

If you struggle with this and want to improve, the place to start is to identify what gets in your way.

What Gets in the Way

Any or all of these may apply to you.

  • You’re a people pleaser, and your natural tendency is to say yes to whatever someone asks of you.
  • You tend to say yes before thinking through whether you have the time or energy to do what you just promised.
  • You haven’t established a method for remembering things you quickly promise. You say yes, and then it leaves your mind until someone reminds you again or nags you about it.
  • You have a general tendency toward procrastination.

You might have something to add to this list, and if so, jot it down.

Now let’s talk about some things you can do with your new knowledge.

Get it in perspective.

Just because you struggle with this issue doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person, or you don’t care, or you don’t have good intentions. Most likely, you have great intentions, but unless you fix the problem, your intentions don’t matter. You have to recognize that it’s not okay, and do something about it.

You have to get very serious about it and come up with a well-thought-out plan.

Here’s what’s worked for me, and hopefully, it will work for you too.

1) Redefine people-pleasing.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to please others. What is problematic is the “why.” If you simply enjoy helping, giving, and making others happy, that’s great! Those are tendencies you don’t need to squash.

On the other hand, if you feel compelled to help because you don’t want someone to be mad or upset with you, that’s not so great. Guilt is not the right motivator.

Oldest or only children are more primed to have this issue because they were the go-to person in the family growing up when parents needed help with things.

As a child and adolescent, you may not have had the choice when it came to care-taking or helping, and you learned to people-please because it was expected of you.

What you need to realize is that as an adult you have choices about what you want to take on. There’s a lot you have to do, but promising things or agreeing to do things for family, friends, and even co-workers is something you have control over.

Make sure that what you promise is something you want to promise. Not only should it please someone else, but it should please you too.

2) Carefully choose your yeses.

It’s easy to say “yes” and often gratifying at the moment. It feels good to be a helper or pleaser – that is until later when you consider how much time or energy it will take to follow through.

To avoid this problem, use my 24-hour rule. For things that may take more effort or time, give yourself 24 hours to think through it before you say yes. Here’s what you can say when you’re asked or approached:

“I’d love to help you with that, but I need to make sure I can swing it. Let me get back to you tomorrow after I’ve gone over my calendar (or workload, or whatever you want to say), and let you know. I don’t want to make a promise I can’t keep.”

And then make a note wherever you will see it to get back to that person at a specific time the next day.

If you know for certain it’s a “no,” then say so right up front. And don’t feel bad about it.

The guideline here is:

Don’t take on things you don’t have time for and then resent having to do them or having people remind and nag you about them until they finally give up and decide you aren’t reliable.

And by all means, don’t say yes to things you really don’t want to do unless you feel it’s a necessity.

3) Create a system.

This is the one people most often leave out, and without it, you can’t get on top of the problem. I learned this the hard way.

When you say yes, it’s easy to forget what you’ve agreed to if you don’t have a way to track it. My go-to is to keep a daily to-do list in my “Notes” on my iPhone. I look at it every day multiple times, so whatever’s written there, I will see. When something’s finished, I delete it.

When you say yes to anything, even it’s just “I’ll call you tomorrow,” put it on your tracking list. If you don’t, you set yourself up to forget.

If it’s a more extended item like helping someone move three weekends away, still put it on that tracking list you have, and keep it there until you do it. You can also put it on a calendar if you use that.

However you do it, make sure you have a tracking system that you’ll see every day and that you’ll use. In short, the system is this:

  1. Write it down.
  2. Check it daily.
  3. Assign a date and time to do it based on what you said you would do.
  4. Follow through and do it.

That’s all there is to it. However, it won’t happen unless you’re serious about it and have decided you need to address it now.

The Benefits

The benefits of becoming a reliable person are awesome!

  • People respect you.
  • They see you as trustworthy and honorable.
  • You feel better about yourself and see yourself as someone who keeps their word.
  • You reduce your anxiety.
  • Your attention is freed up for things you want to pursue because your mind is less cluttered.

And the best part is that it’s not that hard to do once you set up a system.

That’s all for today!

I hope you have a great week!

All my best,


PS – If you’d like to read a longer, more comprehensive article on this subject, click here!

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