There is probably no better demonstration of character than that of giving and keeping your word. First comes the setting of the expectation, and then comes the action in alignment with the set expectation. You establish trust by being willing to commit to a course of action and then following through on your commitment.
Most people don’t intentionally create mistrust. They sometimes say yes too easily, and they create expectations that are unrealistically high. It’s not that they don’t want to do whatever they said they would do – their yes wasn’t really a commitment, but rather a statement of positive intention.
It’s not only the big yeses, the big commitments like “till death parts us” that create mistrust when broken. The small commitments reveal your trustworthiness too. Did you say you’d be there promptly at 8:00 and arrive at 8:30? Did you say you’d stop for bread and milk on the way home and instead drove right past the store? Maybe you received a phone call at an inopportune time, but maybe your failure to stop for bread and milk was related to something else. Maybe you didn’t want the conflict involved with saying no and chose instead to say yes but not to follow through. Your lack of followthrough served as your no after the fact. But no is still no.
Are you too slow to give your word? Do you attempt to stay noncommittal so you have enough wiggle room to accommodate shifting conditions? Refusing to commit can be a sign that you aspire to be a person who keeps his or her word, that you take commitments seriously. Or perhaps you don’t commit because you don’t want to be held accountable for your actions.
What “counts” as a commitment to you? Is your word your bond? Do you establish a gentleman’s agreement, whereby there is no formal documentation necessary but the commitments on both sides are agreed upon at the outset? Do you prefer to pinky swear? Or do you prefer that everything is laid out on paper and signed by all involved parties so there is no room for dispute later?
You build trust and credibility when you help people understand up front what they can expect from you, and then you fulfill the established expectations. When you give your word you create the potential for self-leadership, and when you keep your word you fulfill the potential. Some people are more likely than others to trust without prior evidence of performance. The others who require more documentation often do so because somewhere along the way someone has let them down. Someone has not kept their word, and that let-down has affected their overall assumptions about the world and the people that inhabit it.
How different would your life, your world, be if you could be certain that you and everyone around you would give – and keep – their word?