Most of us must break promises made occasionally but, hopefully, it is only on the rare occasion that we must do so. Being trustworthy means folks have peace of mind when dealing with us — they trust that we will indeed be true to our word — someone they know they can count on. Trustworthiness — like our values in general — fall smack within the heart and lifeline of our reputations. No one, thank heavens, can take our ethics or values from us without our permission – no one.

For the trustworthy, keeping promises made is not dependent on whether verbally offered or documented in writing. If we make ‘em, we keep ‘em – it’s that simple.

Life, however, throws us the occasional curveball as we all know too well. When it does, we may be legitimately prevented from fulfilling a commitment on time or perhaps at all. When this happens, it’s our responsibility to let all those affected know what’s going on as soon as possible. This, of course, includes giving them a good idea of when we will be able to get things back on track and, most importantly, we need to apologize for the delay even if it was caused by something out of our control to prevent….an old fashioned, genuine apology can make all the difference in the nurturing and caring of our working and personal relationships.

Soooo … why is this latest rambling categorized under the “Gets My Goat” category? Because…it really gets my goat when:

  • You’re not told until the last minute that a deadline or event will not be met even though the information was obviously known before the last minute. Aaarrrggggh!
  • Worse, you’re not told in person when there was an easy opportunity to do so. More sighs and Aaarrrgggghs! Mutually respectful and non-rushed in-person conversations give everyone the chance to understand the situation and to discuss a fair and reasonable “Option B.”
  • When not told in person by the proper person to do so, this means notification is perhaps shared via a text (please don’t!), email or by phone. And remember — it’s always made worse when notification is delayed until the 11th  These conversations can indeed be uncomfortable and awkward, but we can usually reach a positive result if we bring along the right attitudes, empathy, mutual respect, resourcefulness and open minds.  We risk adding a layer of awkwardness or worse, a sense of distrust to personal and business relationships when we choose a remote mode of communication vs. in person when we have that valuable option at hand.
  • When we propose a fair alternative course, but are met with resistance of some kind to keeping the ball rolling.
  • And to top it all, when you suddenly find yourself being put on the defensive about a Plan B being necessary by those who broke the promise in the first place. This is not unlike a politician spinning her or his propaganda to deflect from the real facts of a situation (not that we’ve seen any of that in our country lately —  typed with LOTS of sarcasm dripping from each letter).  Please bear with me for one last loooooong, LOUD Aaarrrggggh!
  • When creating and finalizing Plan B is left hanging for too long. Not good.  A small hiccup in the carrying out of an agreement is like a mole hill in that it really can become a much bigger problem (e.g. mountain).  And…when that happens, it rarely leads to positive outcomes. =(

Bottom line – Our trustworthiness — shown by our actions — is dependent on our faithfully keeping promises and commitments and being sure before making them that we can indeed follow through. When life happens and we just can’t do as promised, the sun will come up tomorrow, but relationships can be damaged if we fail to promptly step up to the plate to get an alternative Plan B rolling (and preferably in person).

Finally (I can hear you cheering!!!) — We must also never forget the healing and constructive power behind the most important part of mending a broken promise — a timely and genuine apology. Done right, broken promises can turn into unexpected positives in life — done sloppily, they can do serious damage to our reputations and relationships.
Life’s just too short to go there.

About the author 

Nancy Byerly Jones

Nancy Byerly Jones and her husband reside on their mountainside ranch (“Little Hee Haw Farm”) with an energetic “family” of horses, donkeys (large and miniature), dogs and cats. Their favorite pastime is sharing the joy and fun of their animals and ranch life with their family, friends and clients.

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