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To deliver on your promise simply means to do what you say you will do. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, a promise is a declaration that one will do, or refrain from doing, something specified. Promises can be large or small. Big promises are easy to detect, while small promises may not be as distinct. Small promises can be as simple as telling someone “the meeting will start at 8:00 am,” or “I will call you this afternoon.”

Whether big or small, a promise is a promise! It is still a commitment made by one person to another. Michelle Gielan wrote in Psychology Today, “When we don’t keep a promise to someone, it communicates to that person that we don’t value him or her. We have chosen to put something else ahead of our commitment. Even when we break small promises, others learn that they cannot count on us. Tiny fissures develop in our relationships marked by broken promises.”

Trust and Relationships

Therefore, when we receive a promise from a trusted source, we can reasonably expect that their commitment will be honored. The key phrase in that last statement is “from a trusted source.” Lee Reams writing for Forbes said, “The more they trust you, the better your relationship. The better the relationship, the better the results for everyone involved.”  Trust is a driving factor in relationships throughout the world, claims Fifo Capital. This company specializes in funding businesses in New Zealand, Australia, and the UK, using trust to build business relationships. These relationships extend past the customer and also include suppliers, employees, and especially investors.

Failing to deliver on your promise is the fastest way to lose trust according to Paula G., a small business consultant.  She wrote an article entitled The 7 Surefire Ways to Lose Someone’s Trust (and Business). In this article, three of the seven ways to lose trust revolved around breaking a promise or not living up to your word.

Developing trust is a process. It can be a long process to develop trust, yet losing trust can happen in a moment. One lie, one broken promise, is all it takes for someone to lose faith in you. Trust is the foundation of all relationships, including business relationships. It can take years to rebuild trust when it’s broken, if it’s possible at all. Countless articles can guide you through the process of restoring a trust that has been lost. However, it’s much easier to maintain a relationship that has already been forged than to re-build one.

What if you can’t keep your commitment?

Let’s get back to the concept of the promise. Most people make promises in good faith, yet some of these commitments will not be achievable. I get it, sometimes there are reasons why you cannot keep your promise and meet the obligation implied in a commitment. There are times  in life when things come up that are outside of your control. What then, can you do if you cannot deliver on your promise? You will need to communicate.

It’s important to let people know as soon as possible that you will not be able to keep the commitment, because they are counting on you. They will have a better chance to make alternative arrangements the sooner you let them know.  This approach works on small obligations to be sure. However, even when more substantial commitments cannot be met, the consequences can be mitigated when you deliver the bad news early with a sincere apology.

Delivering on your promise is as simple as doing what you say you will do, when you say it will be done. Effective business communication is key, and the promise itself is within your control. You will need to use good judgment before making any commitment, even small ones. Mindtools, an online career and management learning system, suggests strategies for being able to keep your obligations.  This system suggests that you be:

  • Organized
  • Motivated
  • Honest
  • Principled

The Bottom Line

Keeping your word, or being able to deliver on your promise, is vital in establishing and maintaining any relationship. As Emily Marks from Wells College stated, “Keeping promises is important in the continuation of happy and healthy relationships. Knowing you can trust someone is one of the key stepping stones to any relationship. That includes your business relationships.

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