A few months ago I wrote a post called 7 Simple Ways to Make a Great Impression. People seemed to like it and it was well-received, but one thing about it stood out to me.
Those who commented mentioned the first point – do what you say you will – far more than any of the others.
It seems that people consider this a huge problem.
To be honest, I made this the first point for a reason – I consider it a huge problem too.
We’ve reached a point where people don’t take each other at their word. When someone says they will do something, we are skeptical. We weigh the likelihood that they will do it and usually decide that they won’t.
When I was in Nicaragua a few years ago, I was on a boat touring the islands of Lake Nicaragua. The captain told us that we were going to a place called Monkey Island. As its name implies, it’s an island full of monkeys.
The boat pulled up just close enough so that we could reach out and feed them. I grabbed some crackers and handed them to the monkeys who gladly ate them.
My wife videotaped it with her camera, but it didn’t turn out well. Fortunately a couple of fellow travelers we were riding with taped it and offered to email it to me. I thanked them for their offer and gave them my email.
As we parted ways, the couple reassured me that they would email it to me that night.
I never got the email or the recording. I never heard from them again.
That’s not what I consider the bad part. The bad part is that I never trusted them to actually follow through. I even remember telling my wife that I didn’t expect to ever hear from them.
I hate that people’s word doesn’t mean anything.
Moreover, I hate that I don’t trust people to do what they say anymore.
But it’s come after years and years of people saying they’ll do something and never following through with it.
Years ago a girl I worked with found out I was moving to another city. She told me her brother lived there and offered to get in contact with him for me to see if he knew of a job.
Even though I never asked her to do it, I accepted.
As soon as I gave her my information, she told me of a few caveats.
She said she didn’t know if her brother knew of any job openings.
Then she said she didn’t know if she would remember to ask him to look.
Then she said he might not even contact me if he did know anything.
I looked at her dumbfounded. Why even bother offering?
You might as well tell me you want the credit for doing something nice without ever even doing it.
And I think that’s what bothers me the most.
People want the credit for doing something without actually taking the time to do it. This seems to be why people will say they’ll do something without actually doing it.
Building Trust Again
Saying you’ll do something without actually doing it seems to be common. You can see that by the comments in the original post.
Of course, I’ve certainly been guilty of doing this in the past too.
A few months ago, I got an email from a reader about my email subscription. She offered really great ideas on some changes – some I haven’t even thought about before.
In my email reply back I said that I was planning on changing the email format to make it look nicer. It took me several months to follow through with it.
It bothers me that I said I was going to do something and didn’t do it for so long.
That isn’t good enough.
I’m a big proponent of the idea that you need to be the change you want to see in the world.
So I’ve resolved to be much more aware of what I say. I don’t want to be known as someone who says they will do something and never do it.
I want to be better than that.
It’s for this reason that I haven’t made a New Year’s resolution for the past few years. I don’t want to make a resolution to do something simply because it’s that time of year. When I say I want to do something, I actually want to do it.
That’s my biggest problem with New Year’s resolutions. We often make them because we feel we should rather than because that’s what we want. Because we don’t want it bad enough, we’re less likely to actually follow through with them.
Then we make up excuses for why we didn’t follow do what we said we would. It makes us feel okay to say we’ll do something and then not do it.
I’m not saying that I’ll never make another New Year’s resolution. But if I do, it’s because it’s something I fully intend on doing instead of just making one because it’s traditional for the holiday.
The reason I consider doing what you say you will do to be so important is because I want my word to be valuable. I don’t want it to be something people put into doubt.
It’s about integrity. There needs to be more of that going around in the world – and there’s no better place to start than right here – with myself.
photo credit: Erick Loitiere