If keeping your word is a value or standard for you, it will lead to better life experiences.
Even though it sounds like a simple idea, it’s an area we can easily let ourselves down in. It’s an area I’ve failed in many times, therefore I’m always evaluating how I can improve.
What Does Keeping Your Word Mean?
Keeping your word means doing what you say you’ll do. It’s agreeing to follow through on a commitment.
We can think of it as a verbal contract between two people. If we give our word the same level of importance as a written contract, it will be easier to do what we’ve agreed to.
Why Do We Struggle to Keep Our Word?
We often forget how powerful our words are and not follow through on something we’ve committed to. Reasons we struggle to keep our word include:
- We’re not intentional about the words we use.
- We forget what we’ve said or agreed to.
- We’re unaware we’ve agreed to something.
- We’re unwilling to renegotiate what we’ve committed to.
- We don’t want to do what we said we would do.
- We over-commit ourselves and not allow enough time to do what we said we would.
- We shift our attention to something else without understanding the implications of our commitments.
When we pay more attention to the words we use and what we’re committing to, keeping our word will not be an issue.
The Costs of Not Keeping Your Word
Not keeping our word will affect our relationships, with ourselves and others.
A few years ago, my friend and colleague, Kathy Sparrow, and I led a collaborative book project titled, Ignite Your Leadership. As we discussed who to invite to take part in the project, we defined a few criterias to be eligible.
Kathy mentioned one colleague who had not kept his word with me twice. When it happened the first time, I thought he forgot about it and didn’t give it further thought. The second time he didn’t follow through on something he said he would do, it made me cautious.
When his name came up as a potential collaborator, it was an easy decision to rule him out. That was an example of a cost of not keeping your word.
When we don’t keep our word, costs can include:
- Missed opportunities.
- Damaged relationships.
- Having a reputation as an unreliable person.
- Conflict with others.
- Experiencing guilt or remorse.
Knowing these costs should make us more aware of what we’re saying or agreeing to.
5 Reasons Keeping Your Word Will Improve Your Life
When we become a person who keeps their word, we’ll create new experiences. Here are five reasons you should always keep your word.
- You will develop a higher level of self-trust. A higher level of self-trust means greater self-respect, self-worth and self-integrity. If we trust ourselves more, others are more likely to trust us, and we’re more likely to trust others.
- You will deepen your relationships with others. The relationships we have with others reflects the relationship we have with ourselves. As we improve the relationship we have with ourselves, we’ll also create stronger relationships with others.
- You will not have to deal with regret or guilt. If we follow through on what we say we’ll do, we don’t have to worry about feeling guilt or regret. That will help our mental state and lead to an improved attitude.
- You will be more thoughtful about the words you use. When we’re more intentional about the words we use, there will not be misinterpretations or misunderstandings. It will also help us be more explicit with our communication.
- You will be more selective about what you agree to do. When we have an identity of a person who keeps their word, making decisions will become easier. We’ll know what to say yes or no to.
Ways to Get Better at Keeping Your Word
Most times, keeping our word comes down to our priorities or what we consider important. Things we can do to keep our word include:
- Ask intelligent questions. This means we must clarify something if we’re unclear about something.
- Know the reasons why we want to agree to something. This means understanding the payoffs and costs of doing or not doing it.
- Manage our priorities well. This means having a system or method to track what we have to do.
Failing to keep our word communicates our values and standards. It also communicates if we value others. Every time we don’t keep our word, it affects us and also affects how others perceive us.
If we want to improve our self-image and self-esteem, becoming a person who keeps their word is essential. Not keeping our word is a demonstration of disrespecting ourselves.
Action Step: If you’ve experienced regret or guilt for not keeping your word with someone, take the necessary steps to correct the situation. Make a promise to yourself that you’re a person who will always keep their word.
Question: What are other reasons keeping your word will make your life better?