The Art of Change Skills for Life

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How To Get Promises You Can Count On

July 3, 2009 Dealing with Difficult People Persuasion 2

Yes Ever had to deal with washy people who don’t follow through?  Someone makes you a promise, and you, counting on it, make a promise to someone else that depends on that promise made to you.   And then nothing happens.  Nothing except that you wind up looking like a flake.

The promise itself may not seem that big of a deal to the person who gives it and breaks it. But on such small things, the whole world can turn.  For want of a nail, the shoe was lost.  For want of a shoe, the horse was lost.  For want of a horse, the battle was lost.  It’s a big problem.

What causes people to make promises and not keep them?

Two problems, fear and disorganization.   First, they may not have felt comfortable being honest with you.  And second, they may not have thought clearly enough or long enough about the promise before they gave it to you.

Now if you can identify the cause of a problem, and you’re resourceful enough, you ought to be able to develop a strategic approach for solving it.   In today’s post, I’ll tell you just a few of the ways that you can get commitments you can count on.

Here are five simple ways to ensure commitment and follow through.

Ask for their word of honor.

When people give you their word of honor, that’s a deeper commitment than simply telling you yes.  Here’s how to ask.  Look them in the eye and say, “Now do I have your word that you’ll do that, no matter what?”   In that moment, you should know whether it will happen or not.  If you don’t think it will at that point, if the person is lacking in honor, you can plan accordingly.

Ask them to summarize what they’re going to do.

It’s in the saying back that you get a chance to hear, maybe for the first time, what a person thinks they told you they are going to do.   So right after someone makes you a promise, ask them to tell you about it.   “I want to make sure that you and I both understand how this is going to happen. Could you describe to me what you will do and when?”

Get them to write it down.

With some people, a promise is only as good as the paper it isn’t written on.  By getting a person to commit to writing what they’ve committed to by saying, you make it more tangible and real to them.   Just ask them to write down what they plan to do, and encourage them to post a note by the phone, or on the dashboard, or give you a copy or put it on the front page of their daily calendar.  Get them to do this right then and there and it will be more compelling to them.   Most organized people agree that there is something about the physical act of writing down a commitment that makes it easier to remember and more likely to be acted on.

Weird deadlines.

A weird deadline is weird because it doesn’t round off time.  Typically, when people make time commitments, they do do on the hour, or half hour or quarter hour.  By putting an actual minute on it, you make it stand out more in their minds.  I do this in my training sessions.  I say, “I’ll see you back here in 11 minutes and 15 seconds.”  And sure enough, people make it back in time.

Describe negative consequences.

The problem with a broken promise lives in the consequences.  Your description of these consequences will be most effective if you put them in terms of people and relationships. “I want you to know how important it is for you to follow through on what you’ve promised me.  Not only are people counting on this, but you can just imagine how people will feel about you and me if they find out that we didn’t do what we said we’d do!”  or “If this doesn’t happen, the plane may very well crash. It’s up to you to make sure that doesn’t happen!” However, make sure that the consequences you describe are actually possible.  Otherwise, it may come across as an idle threat or meaningless outcome.

I promise to continue blogging.  You can count on me.  Meanwhile, can I count on you to comment?

Be well,
Rick

 

2 Responses

  1. Anette Rocher says:

    A famous french president is reported to have said that promisses engage only the ones who believe in it…

    • Heh. Good one.

      And a less famous friend of mine told me a promise is only as good as the paper it isn’t printed on

      Nevertheless, making and keeping promises is what holds our world of agreement together, and people can only count on people who can count on themselves!

      Thanks for your comment, and best wishes,
      Rick

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