"Be true to your work, your word, and your friend."
Henry David Thoreau
At the core of a person’s integrity is his or her ability to keep their word. Maybe I was raised differently from most, but I was brought up to honor what I’ve committed to someone else.
Have you ever been in a situation where you've been in a conversation with someone and they say they'll be in touch in a few days and you never hear from the person again? I'm sure we all have. Was the person just being polite, or were you really that forgettable?
Today’s society often makes commitments with no real intentions of following through. That kind of behavior leads to weak relationships and bad business. Stephen R. Covey brings up the notion of an emotional bank account in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This idea proposes that we share a bank account with those whom we have relationships. When people honor their word and commitments, they deposit cash into that bank account. When people lie, act dishonestly or in any other way that undermines the relationship, they withdraw from the emotional bank account. You can withdraw enough from your bank account that there ends up being a deficit.
We’ve all felt that sting of withdrawal when we’ve been deceived or had expectations unmet in a relationship. I know I have been promised projects in a position that never came to fruition. I’ve been blown off without any notice. I’ve been promised a gift or something from my parents that never happened in the end. These broken promises can be devastating to relationships with enough repetition and time.
So why would we not want to have a positive balance in our account? In the long run, by not keeping your word won’t make long-term progress in life. It can be really challenging for us to slow down enough to step outside of ourselves for a moment to envision being in the other person’s shoes and imagine how we would like to be treated. That may be what it takes to help us go beyond what feels good right now to take us to a place of understanding of what is best for the other person and our emotional bank account.
I know I’m not perfect, and I’ve become far less eager to keep or make commitments in the first place knowing that this practice is becoming acceptable in modern manners. I’m certainly guilty of backing out of things at the last minute, though I try not to make a habit of it. Things happen in life and we all need to be flexible to change. I just want to encourage each of us to honor our friends and neighbors and keep our word to them or make no promise in the first place.