Have you done this? I said “Yes” to someone who needed my help but I failed to follow through. I’m very forgetful so that is often the reason I don’t follow through but it’s no excuse for my mistake. I fail to set reminders for myself. I trust my memory but my memory fails me time and again.
I believe that following through on my promises builds trust. Since this is a core principle for me, my pain is palpable when I’ve let someone else down.
Last year, we hired a lawn care service because both my husband and I were under deadlines and we needed help. One morning, J.T. (my husband) was leaving for work and he asked me to call to get our lawn mowed ASAP. I agreed to do this but I got busy and I never thought about it again. That is, until J.T. asked me about it the next day.
I felt terrible and I rushed to apologize for my mistake. There was no one to blame but myself. I felt so bad about my blunder that it made me wonder why I had a pit in my stomach. What I realized is this: When your “Yes” means “Yes,” you know that others trust your word. Earning the trust of others feels good and disappointing others feels rotten.
Being a man or woman of your word is like having a hand stamp from Chuck E Cheese. When they wave the black light over your hand, your number stands out clearly. In the restaurant, this serves to protect kids from being taken by the wrong adults. When I say “Yes” but fail to follow through, my mistake lights up before my eyes as if a black light is shining on it. There is not a doubt in my mind about what I want to do: Apologize and try to make things right again.
What to Say:
How can you apologize in a way that will show others how sincere you are? Use part or all of this simple framework from When Sorry Isn’t Enough, a book I co-authored with Gary Chapman:
- Say, “I’m Sorry”: Express Regret
- Say, “I Was Wrong”: Accept Responsibility
- Ask, “How Can I Make It Right?”: Make Amends
- Say, “I Want to Change”: Genuinely Repent
- Ask, “Can You Find It in Your Heart to Forgive Me?”: Request Forgiveness
How did things turn out when I dropped the ball with my husband? Everything was fine. He accepted my apology and I made amends by calling our lawn care company. Although my situation was not serious, these principles hold true even when the stakes are much higher:
- Try hard to follow through on what you say you will do.
- When you drop the ball, take it seriously.
- When you mess up, apologize.
If you will follow these steps, you’ll notice significant benefits. First, issues that would have led to heated arguments should cool down quickly. Second, important relationships at home and at work will grow more trusting. Finally, you’ll have greater openness and joy in your relationships.