Have you ever heard the old saying “promises are meant to be broken?” Well, I say they’re not. I think promises are gifts you can give to others that are not meant to be broken.
When my kids were younger I learned very quickly not to make a promise unless it was for something I was certain I would do. Otherwise I would inevitably hear the bitter accusation, “But Mommy – you promised!”
So instead I would say, “We’ll see.” This was easier to back out of if I needed to. For instance:
“Mommy can we go to Kings Island next week?” they would ask. *
“We have a lot to do and it’s expensive, but we’ll see,” I would answer.
Then they would crow, “We’ll see! She said we’ll see! That always means yes!”
“No that means we’ll see if we have time and if we have the money.”
Often times “we’ll see” did turn into yes. But sometimes it turned into no. So what’s the point?
The point is about not losing trust. That’s Psychology 101 – do what you say you are going to do. If you don’t you will lose people’s trust and they will stop believing your words. If I make a promise to them that we are going to the movies tomorrow then we better be going to the movies tomorrow. Maybe it’s not such a big deal when you are talking about going to the movies.
In the United States we are in an election year. The stakes are high. Politicians of all people should be aware of Psychology 101. Don’t make big promises if you don’t intend to keep them.
So how then would it be if instead of making promises I always say “we’ll see.” I’m not certain, but I don’t think that would pan out well either. If you can’t ever make a promise you would get the effect of appearing to always be wishy-washy. People would feel they couldn’t count on me for anything. Thinking of the aforementioned politicians they would appear as if they didn’t stand for anything.
So instead promises should be made when they are called for. Not only will the task at hand be accomplished, but also trust will be built. If I tell my manager I’ll do the presentation at the meeting and I deliver it as promised. Voila! I’ve taken care of the work that needed to be done and I’ve built a little trust with my manager that she can count on me.
If you don’t like the phrase “we’ll see” maybe you could try “barring unforeseen circumstances.” That is what my aunt always said. Added bonus: if you are using it with the kids it is also a vocabulary lesson. If you are using it at the office it sounds more intelligent than “we’ll see.”
Ack! There was something else on my mind I was going to add about this, but now I can’t remember what it was. Maybe you can think of what it was? Add a comment and let me know what you think. Otherwise, when I remember I’ll add it later.
*(Kings Island is a nearby amusement park. I’ll tell you more about that another time.)