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Keeping promises: that's why it's so important

A promise is a strong verbal agreement. We assure another person - or even ourselves - that we will or will not do something. Most of us give diverse ones almost every day promise from: children vow to tidy up the room; Job seekers still want to write at least two applications today; some people want to finally start exercising ... However, many promises are made carelessly because they are only seemingly minor details. Often the only thing left is the succinct oath. Sometimes, however, we give our word too lightly - and do ourselves tremendously. Affirming something is much easier than one to keep a promise to be able to. But that is precisely what is very important ...

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Keeping promises: a sign of credibility

A promise is quickly thrown out into the world. Sure, I'll take care of it. Promised. or I promise you, that won't happen anymore ... The intentions may still be there in the beginning, but the more hastily they are given, the less often promises are actually kept. The German language has several synonyms for a promise, all of which can be kept or broken equally:

  • Give a word of honor
  • Take an oath
  • swear
  • assure
  • commit
  • to guarantee
  • Put your hand in the fire
  • vouch for
  • assert

Usually not much is thought about. It's not so bad not being able to keep a promise. But again next time. Or after that. It may not seem too bad to you, but others are disappointed with such behavior. And worse: You lose confidence.

If you don't keep your promises, you will have one very quickly bad reputation. Whatever you say or promise in the future has little value. Instead of relying on you, there will always be protection. In a private atmosphere, this is already very annoying and does not feel good to you. At work, however, it becomes a real problem - which can even get in the way of your career.

Your colleagues and, above all, your boss should be able to rely on agreements being kept and promises not simply broken. If confidence is lost in the workplace, you will no longer be able to take on responsibility and that career advancement comes to a standstill. And breaking promises has other disadvantages.

Those who regularly break their promises ...

  • makes himself unbelievable.

    Hardly anyone will work on yours Doubt credibilityif you could not keep a promise, but then credibly explain what made it impossible for you to keep the agreement.

    But it becomes critical when that is habit becomes. After that, nobody relies on your statements and the relationships - whether private or professional - suffer from the promises that have not been kept.

    Unfortunately, credibility and once lost trust can only be achieved difficult to restorewhich primarily requires time, a lot of goodwill and willingness to act.

  • is treated with just as little respect.

    If you fail to keep your promises to others - repeatedly - then don't be surprised if it is done the other way around. Why should anyone keep their word to you?when you break yours on a regular basis?

    A promise is based on Trust and respect. It is an oral agreement that one should be able to rely on for one another. If you show that the necessary respect is lacking, you are jointly responsible if others break their promises too.

  • no longer believes in himself.

    Not only those around you will no longer believe your words, you too will yourself increasingly lieif you don't keep your promises. The certainty of failing again and again and breaking your word also gnaws at one's self-image.

    The result: At some point, those affected assume that they will not be able to do what they have planned and promised anyway. The Self-confidence crumbles with every further setback.

Keeping promises: sayings and quotes

  • Those who say yes quickly rarely keep their word.Laotse
  • The best way to keep your word is not to give it.Napoleon Bonaparte
  • Those who are not content with their words will hardly fulfill what they promised.Confucius
  • A promise made is an unpaid debt.William Shakespeare
  • But how do you recognize your seriousness if the word is not followed by the deed?Friedrich Schiller
  • Neither reason nor Scripture teaches that one must keep every promise made.Baruch de Spinoza
  • If you have promised the child something, you should keep it. Otherwise it will learn to lie.From the Talmud
  • We promise out of hope and we keep out of fear.François de La Rochefoucauld

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Why are promises kept at all?

A promise is not necessarily binding - at least from a purely legal point of view. Still will great emphasis on keeping promises placed. This applies not only to others, but also to ourselves. Those who cannot keep a promise often feel bad or sometimes even regret their behavior. A popular theory sees the reason for this in the disappointed expectations of other people.

If someone expects something from us, we want to be able to fulfill this and therefore stand by our assurances. In an experiment at the Max Planck Institute for Economics, however, it was shown that the role of external expectations is not as great as previously assumed.

The study participants were divided into two groups - one part was for dictator, another to receiver. The dictator had the choice and decision alone: ​​he could take 14 euros himself and let the recipient go empty-handed or decide to share, so that both of them received 10 euros each. If the two sides talked before the roles were assigned, there was usually a promise that the money would be shared, regardless of who was appointed dictator.

Some of the pairings were but then reshuffled. The recipients were placed under the decision of another dictator without their being aware of it. The new decision-makers, however, were informed of the previous agreements and promises. And so they also knew about the expectations of the recipients.

The amazing result: someone else's promises and those too Expectations didn't matter. Instead, the money was put in their own pocket.

The researchers conclude that it is not the expectations of others that lead us to keep promises. Rather, it is a moral worthwho has been trained and strengthened since childhood. It means something to give someone your word and that's why we try not to break it.

You should never make these promises

Granted, whether you can keep a promise or break it doesn't always reveal itself right away. Some promises (such as the promise of marriage or loyalty) are made given over a long period of time, and there is just no telling beforehand whether you will always keep your word. After all: The will to do so is currently there ...

However, you shouldn't handle it carelessly, motto: Nobody remembers that later anyway ... A dangerous fallacy, because long-term promises in particular usually have a deeper background - and are correct the more damage on when they are broken.

So with some promises you should special caution let go and in case of doubt not even give it, at least not like that ...

  1. I promise I will be successful.

    A vow often given to oneself or to the family. On the plus side, this promise can be a real source of motivation. But if the step on the career ladder doesn't work, that's it Frustration all the greater.

    Make a promise to yourself and others that you will love your Will do your best. This resolution also increases motivation if it is meant seriously. At the same time, however, it is up to you to fulfill them. How successful you will be depends on many external factors that you cannot influence - but you can promise your commitment.

  2. I promise to always be there for you.

    A romantic proposition that is usually given with the best of intentions. But what happens when a sudden illness, an accident, the delay of an airplane or even a closed motorway mean that you cannot keep the promise? And let's be honest: What about your needs? What if both claims collide at the same time?

    Of course, it is noble to practice selflessness. But it can also be in the Self-denial and exploitation to lead. The middle ground is actually the better alternative here - but it sometimes makes the promise impossible to keep. Means: We can try to be there for our loved ones - but there is no guarantee for that.

  3. I promise to get better

    No question about it, the wish is a step in the right direction: we take the initiative and work on ourselves and our personal development.

    However, it is important to look closely at who you are making the promise and to who defines what is “better”. Ultimately, you give up control when someone else measures whether you have gotten better or not. This can result in a hamster wheel. But it doesn't have to, as long as you define this noble goal yourself and want to achieve it yourself. But only then.

Reasons to Break a Promise

There can always be times when you cannot keep a promise. However, these should be the exceptions - and you should be one good explanation ready to help others understand why you couldn't keep your word and why you broke a promise.

These reasons are rare, but they do happen:

  • You have asked too much of yourself.

    Promises shouldn't be made too quickly, but in practice this is exactly what happens often. We promise something and only find out afterwards that we don't have the time or capacity to actually accomplish all the tasks that we promised to do. Honesty is the best solutionas soon as this becomes clear to you. Often you will encounter understanding instead of anger.

  • Better if you don't keep the promise.

    What sounds contradicting itself is actually a good reason to break a promise. For example, have you enthusiastically promised a friend that you will re-tile their entire bathroom and renovate the living room, but that you will neither be able to do one nor the other all better servedif you don't keep your promise.

  • The situation has changed.

    If the initial situation has fundamentally changed, this can be a reason for breaking a promise. This may be the case, for example, if you follow the promise receive new information and the facts are presented in a whole new light.

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[Photo credit: nine_far by Shutterstock.com]
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4th August 2020Author: Nils Warkentin

Nils Warkentin studied business administration at the Justus Liebig University in Giessen. In the career bible, he devotes himself to topics related to studying, starting a career and everyday office life.

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