A Word About Your Word

I’m a firm believer in the idea that if you give your word you will do something – you should do it.

Telling someone that you’ll do something is no different than making a promise to the same effect. “I will do this,” leads the other person to make a choice between two decisions: Either they will believe you or they won’t.

If they don’t believe you, it’s either because what you promise is impossible or because you’re a liar and they know it. In the former instance, you shouldn’t be making the promise in the first place. In the latter, well that’s just sad, because obviously you have already broken your word many times and they’re on to you.

However, if they do believe you, then they have placed their trust in you. And that’s an incredibly powerful and responsible position to be in.

When my daughter gets a cut on her finger and I tell her it is going to heal, it’s very important that she believe me. If she believes me, then her fear will ebb and in my experience, fear is the worst part of pain. Once it’s gone, the pain often becomes bearable. Obviously, I don’t want my daughter to be in pain, so I need to foster a trust in her in order to ensure that she believe me when I tell her everything is going to be all right. If I tell her I am going to do something, I do it. Otherwise, the next time I make a promise to her, my highly intelligent daughter will dramatically roll her eyes and mumble, “Right, of course you will,” before she walks away shaking her head.

To have a person’s trust is to have power. Abuse the power and you lose the power. And then you’re nothing but a mistrusted liar in a world full of people who know you for what you are. That’s neither a powerful nor a responsible position to be in. It’s just a lonely one.

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