Your clever brain knows when you are going to break a promise long before you are even willing to admit it to yourself. So be careful what you promise people. We make commitments to others and ourselves all the time. We have our personal and our organisations promises to observe. You are not just obliging yourself to keep your promises; other people will hold you to account for them as well. The big question is whether we keep them or break them? There is some new neuroscience research that indicates that there is a pattern, and your brain knows in advance that you will break your promise.
A study by Dutch Researcher Manuela Vieth, investigated how the behaviour of other people and one’s own behaviour influences future behaviour. If other people say they trust you, you actually become more trustworthy. If you believe you are trustworthy, you oblige yourself to keep your promises.Just so we are clear, a promise is: a declaration that one will do or refrain from doing something specified; or a legally binding declaration that gives the person to whom it is made a right to expect or to claim the performance or forbearance of a specified act.
When we don’t keep a promise to someone, it communicates to that person that we don’t value him or her. I see it all the time in work and networking situation. They have in fact chosen to place something else ahead of our commitment. Even when we break small promises, others learn that they cannot count on us. This will result (almost always) in an erosion of trust in our relationships (business or personal). More importantly, we are telling ourselves that we don’t value our own word. Researchers in Switzerland discovered that they could predict who would break a promise based on the brain’s reaction during the basic three-stage model of promise making.
Stage 1: The Promise
Let’s use a classic example found everyday in the office. You perhaps have told your coworkers that you would absolutely, definitely, help them finish a project. At this initial stage, you haven’t fully decided whether or not you are going to keep or break the promise to your coworkers. Your brain, however, has already registered an emotional conflict because it knows that you don’t really intend on keeping that promise. Because of this, the brain will activate your negative emotional processing centres.
Stage 2: Anticipation Phase
Now that you’ve told your coworkers of your promise, you have to wait and see whether or not they will trust you to keep that promise. The anticipation of their response causes you increased stress and cortisol, which of course your brain will register. Your brain is already preparing you for possible negative outcomes and future consequences.
Stage 3 Decision Phase
Now you’ve decided to break your promise to your coworkers because you are too busy (or insert any number of excuses). The decision to break a promise promotes a reaction in your brain similar to that of a lie or deception. You will probably feel some guilt and fear over how breaking this promise will affect you. To combat these feelings your brain will remind you of the motivation for breaking the promise by activating your reward-based decision making part of the brain.
It is so easy today with the battleground of social media at our fingertips for someone in the world to rubbish your service or product. Your brand promise can counter any negativity by telling potential clients what your brand stands for and why they should choose you. It is vital you make your personal or business brand consistent, from products and services, strategy and execution, consistency needs to reach all corners of the business. If you are not consistent you will lose credibility, you will look confused and vague to your clients and the impression you will leave them with is that you haven’t been in business very long.
The promises of yesterday are the taxes of today.
-William Lyon MacKenzie
It has never been clearer that we need to embed your brand promise throughout the whole of your organisation. It doesn’t matter whether the promises are personal, or if you are a solopreneur, or an SME: you need to be feel that it is part of everything you deliver and not just a statement that appears on your website.So here is my quick methodology and protocol for what you (or your business) need to do:
1. Make Small Promises You Can Keep: be realistic in your daily commitment. Start small and create a private victory. You can build on this with other small promises and enlarge your victory until you establish healthy habits for your life. Make a promise and keep it.People often dismiss small promises as unimportant, but that is just not true. You don’t call back when you say you will, you don’t repay a loan that’s outstanding, or maybe it just doesn’t seem important to keep a confidence. If you fail to take the minor promises seriously, you destroy trust and damage your reputation. Failing to keep these small promises gives the appearance of being disorganized and irresponsible. You make the other person feel dismissed and unimportant. Conversely, you can build trust by demonstrating that you keep your word even on seemingly inconsequential things.
2. Make it Your Number #1 Priority: don’t let anything get in the way. Following through on a difficult promise not only gives you satisfaction, but also raises the level of respect you receive from others. If you truly want to be successful in life, have better relationships, and advance your career or business, hold promises as sacred agreements, don’t miss deadlines, and make a practice to follow through on your commitments. Don’t make excuses (see Rule 5).
3. Surprise Them and Yourself: make a promise your customers aren’t expecting. Speed and delivery are probably a given for all express transportation companies. Why should your customers work with you rather than someone else? When you are clear about them, wrap your brand promise around these key benefits. Make your brand promises short, simple and direct
4. Write Down Your Promise: keep it somewhere visible at home and at work. Make your promise clear and make them concrete. Make sure that are certain that you will be able to do something before you commit to it. Then be clear on the expectation, action, or result that is agreed to. Then set a firm deadline. Firm promises that are set in stone are more likely to be kept. Never make a promise that you are not sure you can keep.
Every promise fulfilled will help you to associate your name with positivity and trust. Making promises you can keep is instrumental to helping you build and maintain any relationship in life. So, right now make that promise to yourself.
For Every Promise, There is Price to Pay.