Friday, July 9, 2010

Promises, Promises

"Don't make promises you don't intend to keep" is pretty basic stuff, right? It's not cool to make yourself available for someone to trust and count on, if you don't intend to follow through.

But what about promises that you didn't intend to make? It's easy to verbally make a promise: "Sure, I'll be there at 1 pm" or "Yes, I will make dinner." By themselves, they're no big deal. But added up, these little promises say to someone else, "You can trust me." Since you're going out of your way to make these promises, it's easy to avoid making them, too. Simply don't say anything.

Without realizing it, you make promises through your actions, too. If you make yourself available, and act a certain way, you are sending a message to others that this is what they should expect from you (intended or not). If you always show up 15 minutes late, people will come to think of that as "on time" for you. If you always give someone a hug when you say good-bye, they will wonder what's wrong that one time you don't.

Is that fair? Maybe not. It seems like we should have the option to change our patterns or our routines. But at the same time, if we've started to build that trust with another person, we have to be sure we're ready to test it. It's a delicate balance. Trust is a fragile thing, especially in a new relationship. Often, once broken, it can't ever be put back the same way again.

Maybe the answer is simply to be honest. Do and say what you can, and will, keep up with. You may think that by saying and doing all the right things, you're getting the relationship off on the right foot. But really, unless you intend to keep it up - those "right things" are just promises waiting to be broken.

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