Do what you say and only say what you’ll do

Over the past few months I have been watching a friend deal with an unethical business associate. Unfortunately and sadly, my friend is getting shafted.

You see, the guy promises, says he’s going to do certain things, then doesn’t. He claims he’s sending money to pay a debt he owes, and the money doesn’t appear. When he is confronted, he makes excuses, blames the bank, says he’ll do it tomorrow.

“Check’s in the mail.” Right!

He’s burning bridges and doesn’t realize it. He thinks he’s getting away with things, but he’s not, and his lies will bite him some day.

This happens in relationships, too.
You decide to be sneaky and get away with something (like an affair,) and convinces yourself no one else sees through the ruse. However, it does ultimately catch up. When it does, trust is totally eroded, and you have done terrible damage.

Trust breaking happens in your relationship on a different but just as important level when you promise you’ll do things, and you don’t. It can be small (take the garbage out) or larger (put money in savings), but they all boil down to not being reliable. Your partner learns not to trust you, and intimacy is weakened if not lost.

With my friend, a group has decided to confront the guy on his lying and give him an ultimatum. When I heard their intentions, I encouraged them to create limits they will follow through with. My husband said to them, “If you threaten and don’t follow through, he’ll never take you seriously again.” He’s right.

The same holds in your relationship. If you say you are going to react to something in a certain way, and you don’t, then you aren’t going to be taken seriously. If you make empty threats, that’s all they are. Make sure you set real limits.

You see, the whole thing is about only saying what you plan to do (not empty promises) and then actually doing what you said you would do in all situations.

Your courageous work today is to look at what you have said you would do- to your partner, to your kids, to your family, to friends, or at work. Make sure you are following through with those things in a timely and healthy manner.

Unfortunately, the guy who lies has a good chance he’ll end up in jail if the group follows through with what they are considering. Unlike the dude in the picture, he’ll have more than surveillance cameras watching him then.

photo from Flikr by laverrue

3 thoughts on “Do what you say and only say what you’ll do

  1. Thanks for highlighting this. When a partner continually fails to come through on what s/he says s/he will do, it doesn't just breach trust on one side. It creates an environment where the other person starts feeling justified in letting responsibility slip. The way you think about the relationship changes. It's no longer a partnership, and it's much easier for an affair or other major breach to become the climax of the degeneration. It's a fundamental issue of mutual respect to consistently do what you say you will. Making amends is for when following through is simply impossible, not for failing to prioritize it.

  2. Jim,

    Mark Twain once said, "It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare."

    Sometimes it is the "easy way" that draws us. Unfortunately, as we all know in our hearts, the easy way only brings us hardships in the end.

    I've never said I do these things perfectly, myself. Heaven forbid I come across that way. The things I write about I also have to work on daily.

    Root cause? Probably different for each person. For me, often, it is fear or laziness. In many people I see an epidemic of over-promising and then not being able to follow through. Same with making too huge a limit (really a threat.)

    Maybe we need to turn the energy we use to be physically courageous toward our relationships and promises.

    Be well,

  3. Courage. Easy to say but sometimes hides when you most need it. What you write sounds so simple, but I have seen people, me included, take the easy way out even when we know we shouldn't.

    What is the root cause?

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