Do you mean what you say? Do you say you will do something and then not do it?
I experience this often. Someone says they will call and they don't. Someone says they will follow through on a project and they don't. Someone says they will get something important finished by a particular time and they don't.
How do you feel about someone who says they will do something and they don't do it?
Before I get into the importance of keeping your word, let's explore some of the reasons for not doing this. If you are a person who doesn't do what you say you will do, what is behind this behavior? Here are two possibilities:
- When someone asks you to do something, do you say yes to control how they feel about you? Are you afraid of their disappointment? Do you give yourself up by saying yes so they won't get mad, even though you don't really want to do it?
- Do you say yes, thinking you will do it, but then a part of you that hates to be controlled takes over and you go into resistance? Is it more important to you to not be controlled than to be true to your word?
Lydia, a client of mine, operates from both of these reasons. Her husband, Jackson, often asks her for help with something. She always says yes because she experiences his request as a demand and is afraid of his reaction if she says no. But then a resistant, wounded part of her that was very controlled as a child takes over, and she ends up not doing what she said she would. She always has an excuse: "I forgot." "I haven't had the time." "I don't know how." "I'm afraid of not doing it right." Jackson feels frustrated and gets angry, which serves to create more fear and resistance. Lydia ends up feeling badly about herself and Jackson feels as though he is unimportant to her. Their power struggle has gone on for many years and will not shift until one of them starts to take responsibility for themselves, rather than trying to control the other or resist being controlled.
Five Reasons to Do What You Say You Are Going to Do
For me, doing what I say I will do is a matter of integrity. I wouldn't feel good about myself if I didn't keep my word. My word means something to me -- I do not take it lightly. If your keeping your word doesn't mean much to you, why is that?
2. Trust and Reliability
I do not trust people who don't keep their word. If someone lets me down a number of times, then I know they are not reliable. I find that this limits my desire to spend time with them, which is sometimes sad, but I have learned to accept that I cannot trust them to follow through on what they say they are going to do. Friendships and deeply connected relationships thrive on trust.
Years ago I had a webmaster who consistently said he would get something done by a certain time and often didn't. Of course, he is no longer my webmaster. While my current webmaster, who I adore, doesn't always get things done right on time, I can feel that it is not due to resistance or a fear of being controlled. He is a man of honor and tries his best to do what he says he will do. His caring and sense of integrity make all the difference to me.
I lose respect for people whose word doesn't mean anything to them. I end up feeling manipulated when someone says they are going to do something and then doesn't do it. Of course, I give them leeway at the beginning. There may be a good reason they didn't do what they said they were going to do. But if it happens over and over, I accept that I can't rely on them and my respect for them goes down.
If you want to feel respected by others, then you need to say yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no, and not allow your fear of rejection or your fear of being controlled to get in the way of being a trustworthy person.
We cannot feel worthy when we let ourselves down by letting others down. People who renege on their word do not value themselves enough to act with integrity. Is resistance to being controlled really more important than your self-worth? Are you kidding yourself that you can feel inwardly worthy when you don't keep your commitments? Self-worth is the result of treating ourselves and others with caring and respect.
5. Personal Power
Personal power is the result of behaving in ways we value. I remember, when I was a young woman, seeing the play A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt. This is the story of Sir Thomas Moore, who refused to endorse King Henry VIII's desire to divorce his wife, Catherine of Aragon, because she could not bear him a son. He wanted to marry Anne Boleyn, the sister of his former mistress. I was so impressed by Moore, whose sense of principle was such that he chose to die rather than lose his integrity. He was a man of great personal power, greatly loved by his family and the people. I recognized that it was his personal power that gave him the strength to die rather than compromise his integrity in order to live. I understood that, in his eyes, his life would not be worth living if he were not true to himself.
Are you being true to yourself by keeping your word? If not, you might want to explore why.
Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a relationship expert, best-selling author, and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® self-healing process, recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette, and featured on Oprah. To begin learning how to love and connect with yourself so that you can connect with others, take advantage of our free Inner Bonding eCourse, receive Free Help, and take our 12-Week eCourse, "The Intimate Relationship Toolbox" - the first two weeks are free! See SelfQuest®, a transformational self-healing/conflict resolution computer program. Phone or Skype sessions with Dr. Margaret Paul.
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