02/21/2011 02:14 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Are You a Man or Woman of Your Word?

Genworth Financial released a survey that looks at how, why and to whom we make, keep and break promises. According to the survey, the number one reason Americans aim to keep a promise is to keep their word. It also appears that people are highly motivated by family priorities. Sixty percent of adults in the U.S. reported they keep promises to satisfy a loved one, and 59 percent to show they care. When it came to delivering on their promises, more than half of those who have ever made a promise, 65 percent, gave themselves an "A" in keeping promises. Overall, the study revealed that Americans have a strong desire to be reliable, but also found a strong commitment to being fiscally conservative in today's socioeconomic environment. Not surprisingly, women and men differ on what promises they chose to make and why they sometimes break promises, even if it's not their intention. Men more often attributed lack of time and forgetfulness as the reasons why they break promises more so than women, and women blamed finances as the culprit more than men. Men and women promised to save more and spend less in 2011; however, there were some differences in how men and women planned to do this. According to the survey, women are more likely to promise to create a budget than men, and men are more likely to save for retirement/children's education and invest than women. By working together and building on each other's strengths, couples can find ways to help each other keep their promises to their loved ones, and together reach their goals of being dependable spouses, family members, parents and friends. Below are five tips for keeping promises to a loved one:
  1. Think team: Use your partner as your "promise coach." Give them permission to remind you about the promise and agree that reminders will be considered "helpful" and not "nagging."
  2. Create a shared need: Develop a promise that you'll be able to keep and value both for yourself and for your partner. It's important to understand what keeping the promise will mean for you both.
  3. Assure success: Be certain that your promise can pass the "3-R test" to assure you can keep it. Promises should be reasonable, realistic and rewarding.
  4. Think dependability and integrity: Make a serious commitment to what it will mean to loved ones -- that you are dependable and that you care about your word.
  5. Be patient but determined: If you slip up momentarily, take an inventory of what's been working well and keep reinforcing those actions. Then take a look at what you'd like to improve and make a plan for doubling up your efforts to succeed.

Disclaimer: Genworth Financial is a consulting client and I worked on this project.