Promises should never be made lightly.
Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying,
We must not promise what we ought not, lest we be called on to perform what we cannot.
That seems a remarkable statement to us in this age because Abraham Lincoln was a politician and we are accustomed to hearing politicians around the world making promises that they cannot keep.
Very often, the words, ‘I promise,’ trip of the lips without a second thought, and yet our integrity and reputation may be at stake if we do not keep the promise. Broken promises can destroy relationships and always tell the other person or people involved that we cannot be trusted.
Before we make a promise, we need to know for certain that we are able to keep it. We should ask ourselves the following:-
• Can I make this promise alone or am I dependent on others to help me keep it. Nick Clegg is a good example of how reputation can be lost when keeping a promise that we make is dependent on the agreement or co-operation of other people.
• Ask whether it is necessary to make a promise. It is often possible to answer a request, for example, by saying ‘I’ll let you know by the end of the week,’ or something similar.
• Are we promising to do something simply to please someone else? If so, that is not a good enough reason for doing anything and we may regret making the promise later.
When we don’t keep our promises to someone, it tells them that we don’t value them. The businessman Anthony Hitt once said,
Keep every promise you make, and only make promises you can keep.