Our words are of utmost importance for the maintenance of our interpersonal relationships – keeping your word is the most direct and immediate way of cementing credibility. We have all heard someone say they will do something which never gets done – and also been the culprit at some point.
Making too many promises (especially those we can’t keep), letting our feelings step in the way of being sincere, and saying we will do small things we end up not doing – I believe we’ve all been there at some point, and the most frequent excuse to not getting things done is that “they’re only the small things”. Which makes you think… who will trust you with the larger things if even the small don’t get done?
Why do we do that? Is it an attempt to control what others feel about us, of avoiding their disappointment – even if we have no interest in concluding what was asked of us? Do we say yes thinking we can actually do it, then give up halfway through?
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” – Steve Jobs
When someone disappoints us a number of times, our trust in that person is severely undermined – their word becomes something to be questioned rather than taken to heart. Since relationships need trust to flourish and prosper, this type of behavior can be very taxing for those who want to be taken seriously and respected. When we are promised something we don’t get, we can feel manipulated and disappointed; which becomes even more troublesome when it is perceived as the rule, rather than the exception.
What does your word represent? Is it taken lightly? You should treat your word as you wish it to be taken by others: with respect, integrity and seriousness. It should be a bond of trust. People might not always like to hear “no”, but they will respect that you rationalized and calculated that you were either incapable or unwilling to execute a given task. This will lead to a higher valuing of your “yes”, since you’ve demonstrated it isn’t freely given. The act shows not only your strength and conviction in saying no, but also the calculation of your capacity and willingness to say yes.
An incredibly easy way to lose credibility is to say yes to something and not make it happen. The next time you are requested something by the same person, your reply will be taken with less conviction and seriousness. That’s why it’s important to keep up with “the small things”, first – that way, you build a history of credibility with the person to pave your way into being entrusted with larger, more important tasks.
To conquer trust and respect, your “yes” should mean yes, and your “no” should mean no. Any sensation that leads you to reluctantly agree with something that you really don’t should be controlled – it is an obstacle in your path to maintaining yourself a trustworthy, transparent and frank person.