Your Word is Your Bond

Are your word choices hampering your decision-making?

"Your word is your bond" is something we've been hearing a bit about recently - Michelle Obama's speech ...and with an echo! I think this is something that people still feel and still believe, which is why they're reluctant to commit and are careful not to use "bonding words." How often do you hear "I'll try to get it done." Knowing our word is our bond, we avoid expressing anything definite.

This vague indicator seems to let us off the hook - we didn't commit, so there's no real expectation of results. And when someone says that to us, more and more we realise that "I'll try to" denotes a desire to help, but little intent to deliver. If someone says “try,” we lower our expectations significantly. Usually to nothing.

I work with several groups of people on different committees and am finding word choices an interesting predictor of results. When someone says "I'll try to get there" and follows it with "it might not be possible" there is a shift to external events and outside influences. "It" is responsible for what happens. "It" will decide whether they can deliver the goods, attend the meeting or help you out. They are removing the responsibility to some outer force.

When they say "I'll try to get there but I'll have to see how I feel" they are taking responsibility for the decision and accepting that the power lies with them. And here's the interesting part - those are the ones, in my experience, much more likely to turn up!

What words are you using when you respond to requests to do things or attend events? Are you sending a clear message of "I won't be attending because that's a family night?" or do you give a vague indication that "It might not be possible."

I remember talking to someone who, on being asked to help out with a project, looked at his diary and said "Hmmm. OK, there are a few things here... leave it with me, I'll make it work."

What a wonderful impression of responsibility and reliability. And he did make it work.

If you’re “trying” to do things – is it time to get clearer in your own mind and verbalise your situation in those clearer terms?

“I’m going to be at an event; if it finishes by 5pm, I’ll definitely make it to your evening function.”

“I’m going for a training session that morning, if I’m not too tired then I’ll come along in the afternoon. Sometimes I’m just too drained from these sessions, so I may choose to just stay at home.”

Or perhaps it just needs to be: “I’m busy that morning and I don’t want to overload the day. So no, I won’t be attending.”

When people understand your parameters they also know what expectations to place on you. So stop trying. Do or do not – or explain your constraints and take responsibility for those times when you just don’t want to do it! People will respect you so much more for a straight answer.

To quote the great philosopher Yoda… Do or do not do. There is no try.

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