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Keeping your word and honouring commitments

Published:Friday | September 15, 2017 | 12:00 AMAshish Jhingran

How often have you been in a situation when you have promised something to someone but have not been able to keep your promise?

Promises, in any manifestations, are a by-product of two critical traits that we touched upon in the last article 'Punctuality and Discipline'.

Being late, wherein other people are on time and waiting on you, results in acrimony, distrust and at the end of the day is hugely detrimental to all in the situation.

What do you think would be the other persons' thoughts before walking out because they could not wait on you any longer? Perhaps, something like, "these guys do not value time, if they cannot stick to their timelines, how can they be relied upon for anything else!"

Notice that the thought process has gone to being 'they'. What transpires does not merely tarnish your image, but along with it the credibility and integrity of the organisation that you represent are also compromised.

This holds true for any situation - be it in school, on the job or among friends. We commit something and then decide whether meeting that commitment is important or not, forgetting about the person who we have committed to. Forgetting that something that we feel may not be too important could be an extremely important matter for the other person. Seldom do we keep ourselves in the other person's position and feel the pain.

Consequently, we get branded as being 'unreliable' or in extreme cases 'dishonest'.


Why does it happen?


Other things take precedence:

You promise to finish a proposal and send it to your client by the end of the day, but by the time you start your workday, you are told to "drop everything else and work on the sales presentation for the CEO scheduled to visit the office tomorrow".

Your commitment to your client goes flying out of your mind's window, though you could have taken some steps to delegate some work to honour your first commitment.


You do not recognise your limitations:


Often, in our enthusiasm of being able to solve everybody's problem, you commit to be the messiah for all without realising the limitations of the resources time, money, people, physical and mental faculties available at your disposal.

As a result, while you bite much more than you can chew, most of the things are left half done and you leave people dissatisfied and wary of you.


You cannot say "No":


It could be that you love someone dearly, or you have utmost respect for someone or out of compulsion of saying "yes" for any other reason, you will find that you often pile up commitments which are impossible to be met at the same time. The result, you end up either feeling sorry about everything or looking for divine intervention to help you meet your commitments.


You become a habitual procrastinator:


It is true that many of us leave things to be done at the last minute, habitually... We think that "I have a lot of time to do this, it will not take too long" and spend our time doing unimportant things. Eventually, the eleventh hour comes and goes leaving us and those who depended on us utterly frustrated.


Impact of not keeping your word


The principle of 'My word is my commitment' seems to be falling out of use, especially so when standing by one's commitment is inconvenient in any way. Reminiscing the old times when just a verbal promise, coupled with a handshake, was kept come what may. Nowadays, hundreds of pages go in drafting a contract and some legal minds look out for loopholes to be plugged or exploited, as the case may be.


How does it impact you if you do not keep your commitment?


You lose your integrity when there is no consistency between your words and actions.

Your trustworthiness and reliability becomes questionable.

Respect for you diminishes in others' eyes.

Your self-respect takes a beating as well leading to a loss in self-confidence, too.


What should you do to meet your commitments?


Just a few steps will help you in keeping the commitments you make:

First, start keeping commitments that you make to yourself. "I shall start regular exercises from tomorrow". Make sure that tomorrow is the next day, not the tomorrow that never comes.

Make fewer commitments, be it professionally or socially. Do not commit unless you are absolutely sure of meeting them. Check upon your resources which will be required to meet your commitments before making one.

Write down your commitments. This is now simple with almost everyone having a smart phone which allows to set reminders to keep your deadlines on your radar. Do not let anyone else make commitments for you. This often happens in a workplace when a manager makes commitment to a client on your behalf. You end up being accountable for something you never committed to. Ensure that you are aware of the nature of the commitment and if you feel you cannot deliver, renegotiate. Keep your communication unambiguous. Do not assume anything or leave anything for your manager's assumption.

Avoid overcommitment. Do not make new commitments without completing what you already have on your plate. Overcommitment will pile them up and leave you overwhelmed. Learn to say 'no', politely but firmly. You are not a superhuman that you can do everything at one go, you need to pace out your day and keep time for everything important in your life.

Always remember one thing. People do not measure you on the basis of commitments that you make; they measure you on the commitments you meet.

- Ashish Jhingran is a Jamaica-based management and marcom practitioner and senior consultant with Synapse Communications. He has more than 25 years of experience with some top companies, spanning several countries across the world. Send feedback to