“Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you.” I came across this quote over the weekend and found myself captivated by the bold statement it made. The words ‘commitment’, ‘loyal’ and ‘mood’ in particular stuck out to me as if they were capitalized, jumping off the page, further adding to the importance of the message.
The more I thought about it the more I began to consider a very interesting and unfortunate reality that we’re all faced with in business and our personal lives.
As I continued to think about the meaning I was reminded of an old saying that went something like
“you’re word is your bond and you’re only as good as your word”. Is this still the case today?
I find many of the conversations and spoken words we’re exposed to today are just that, words and nothing more. These words are often times hollow, lacking depth and sincerity. When people speak the personal integrity which used to come right along with their spoken word back in the day now falls flat on its face in 2016.
In the olden days business was done over handshakes and nods of affirmation. When someone said they were going to do something people knew they meant it and there was little thought otherwise on the matter. In the rare moments someone didn’t keep their word their reputation quickly become tarnished as the people they associated with would regard them as someone lacking integrity, having poor character and couldn’t be counted on.
Given today’s social and business environments it’s apparent we’ve drifted from the days when a person’s word was basically the same as currency.
Today, we often use words to fill silence, as a hollow courtesy, small talk where we don’t listen to the answer or as a way to exit the presence of another.
Have you ever done one of these?
When we communicate in this way, making statements of commitment without following through, it negatively impacts our relationships as people begin to bring into question our:
If we’re all mostly good hearted then why do we make verbal commitments and not follow through?
The reason is because we don’t realize the disparity between our intent and the impact of our words.
Case in Point: When we run into an old friend or acquaintance we haven’t seen in a long time inevitably the conversation comes to an end. Often times that end sounds something like, “let’s get together soon and catch up.” I would guess more times than not that reunion never takes place and the second we’ve left the person we were talking too we’re quickly back into our lives, forgetting about the verbal commitment that was just made.
In this case the situation was a social interaction, one which has limited consequences for our hollow commitment.
Perhaps the surest test of an individual's integrity is his refusal to do or say anything that would damage his self-respect. Thomas S. MonsonWhat if we did this same thing in the office? It happens much more than you think it does in the professional setting and it’s negatively impacting our job and we don’t even know it.
Case in Point: We’ve just left the break room and are scuttling back to our lair (office, cube, bean bag, what have you) to jump back into our day’s work. On our way we see a colleague coming towards us in an inevitable collision course which is going to require us to say something. As we begin to pass one another we speak up and say “Hi Bob, how are you” and keep walking.
Major fail! We asked a disingenuous question and then had the nerve to not stick around to hear the answer. We gave Bob a glimpse of humanity then ripped his heart out by showing him we actually didn’t care about what he said.
What if I told you that Bob just found out some really awful and disheartening news? As you were passing by him in the hallway, by the way you and Bob have been colleagues for years, he could have really used someone to talk too. By you asking how he’s doing what if he actually needed someone to talk to and it was more serious than a case of Mondays.
We just asked Bob how he is doing, which we didn’t know in the moment that apparently he is pretty awful, then quickly hurried away without hearing the answer, further making him feel worse as if we don’t care about him or what he has to say.
We would have been better off passing by him and saying nothing (I don’t recommend you stone wall people and not acknowledge their presence as this won’t take you far in your career) than saying something we didn’t mean and didn’t care to hear the answer too.
If you want real enjoyment and prosperity in your life and relationships, whether that be personal or work, take the time to commit to your words. When we speak and follow up on those words with real action we begin to develop a reputation of someone who is dependable, trustworthy and the type of person you would call if you really needed help.
My pledge - I will pay more attention to my words and follow through on my verbal commitments. When I ask someone how they are doing I will wait for the answer, listen intently and respond accordingly.
Are you willing to make this same pledge with me?
About the Author
Travis Smith is the founder and managing director of Square-1 Engineering, a medical device consulting firm, providing end to end engineering and compliance services. He successfully served the life sciences marketplace in SoCal for over 15 years and has been recognized as a ‘40 Under 40’ honoree by the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce as a top leader in Orange County, CA.