Sara is a fifty-something female whose second marriage was in danger of becoming as difficult as her first marriage. She and Jon keep arguing about little things. As I listened to Sara describe their latest blow-up, I heard something all too familiar in life: Her spouse had said he would follow through on a task but he hadn’t done it.
Sara’s problem began several months ago when Gus, the owner of some property that adjoins their land, offered to work out an arrangement to sell them the land in which they had expressed some interest. Both Sara and Jon wanted to buy the land while it was still available, but there was a catch: the neighbor was a “Good ‘ol boy” who asked Sara to have her husband call him directly about the deal.
Sara had worked in commercial real estate and she felt she understood (but did not like) the direction the neighbor was taking. She was willing to play along with Gus and she asked Jon to call him that week. Jon agreed to make the call but two weeks passed and he had not done so. Sara was beyond frustrated. First, she wanted Jon to do what he had agreed to do. Second, she was developing a full head of steam because Jon was letting her down again and he didn’t seem to care at all. Sara’s mind ran through all the times he had agreed to do something but had never followed up. Here is the troubling path her thoughts traveled:
- Was he saying “Yes” just to appease her while never intending to keep his word?
- If he didn’t keep his word, could she even trust him?
- If she couldn’t trust him, was the marriage over?
If you are like Jon, you might be met at the door by an angry, accusatory person like Sara. You might have these thoughts:
- Gosh, what is she so upset about?
- Why does she go from 0 to 100 on her anger scale?
- Can’t she understand how busy I am?
- Doesn’t she know that I was just about to do what she had asked me to do?
What to Say:
To Jon and the millions of others who are like him, I’d offer this simple advice: Let your “Yes” mean “Yes.” If you won’t do something, do not say “Yes.” I know it can be hard to handle the conflict that might arise but I promise it will not be as great as the conflict that arises when you repeatedly let others down. If you will follow through, say “Yes.” Then do this: agree on a time frame and set reminders so you will deliver what you promised.
What has become of Sara and Jon? They are still at an impasse. Jon has not called Gus but he has not told Sara that he won’t do it, either. Sara no longer trusts Jon to do what he says he will do. They are drifting, both frustrated with the position in which they find themselves. This situation could be resolved in several ways, not all of which require Jon to call Gus. However, this pattern is bigger than the land deal with Gus. It is about being as good as your word. To say you will do something is to make a promise. If you make promises you don’t keep, you drain the life out of your relationships.
If you want others to trust you, it’s critical that you be as good as your word. If you won’t meet a deadline, you must be the one to raise the topic and ask for an extension. Let others know that you remember what you’ve committed to do and you are working on it. When your “Yes” really means “Yes”, you will prevent fights, create happiness, and enjoy unwavering trust.
Share Your Thoughts:
Do you know what to say when you don’t want to agree to something?
What home or work situations damage your trust?
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