“Be impeccable with your word,” it’s one of Miguel Ruiz’s principles to creating a happy and balanced life, which he illustrates in his best-selling book, the Four Agreements. I had a number of incidents happen over the last little while that really got me thinking about the importance of keeping your word and why some people don’t.

We’re all guilty of it, we make plans and bow out last minute, giving the lamest of excuses. We’ve said yes when we really wanted to say no. My worst offence, I remember vividly, happened about 7 years ago. A friend invited me over to her house for dinner via email. I accepted and when the day came, midway through my work day I felt tired and the idea of a bubble bath had more appeal than an evening of socializing, so I sent her an email three hours before I was to arrive and told her I wasn’t feeling well and that I couldn’t make it.

Later that evening I received an email from her telling me that they waited for me for almost an hour, then she looked at her email and realized I wasn’t coming. I felt lower than low. Not only did I cancel last minute, I also did it via lazy communication – like I was afraid to incur her wrath by communicating live. Six weeks later I emailed about something I thought she’d be interested in – she never responded and I never heard from her again.

As I continued on my path to healing I started to spend time with healthy people and I noticed that if they said they were going to do something you could always depend that it would get done – they were as dependable as time. There was no guess work, no fear or anxiety – just stability and dependability.

Several months ago an acquaintance messaged me on Facebook. She had started reading my blog and said, “I think I need to book a Skype appointment with you.” I said to her that she was a friend and that she didn’t need to pay me and I suggested that we have dinner and talk instead. We made our dinner plans for Monday and over the next couple of days I had turned down several Skype requests from others for that evening.

As the time approached on Monday I messaged her on Facebook and said, “So are we still on for tonight?” Her response was, “Actually no I have a meeting tonight. I forgot.” It was the lamest of excuses and we both knew that it was an excuse. The fact that she hadn’t messaged me all day until I messaged her was telling. The fact that I had turned down other clients to accommodate her and the fact that she initiated this meeting made me pretty upset. I haven’t heard from her since and I realized that when people are shitty and they behave in a disrespectful manner they will disappear because they don’t want to have to own their own behavior.

Had she requested another appointment with me I would have refused and not gone out of my way to help someone that clearly didn’t respect me or my time.

Last weekend I attended the funeral of my 37 year old nephew. His father/my brother was married and moved out of the house before I could remember him ever being there. I was close in age to my nephew, but I had been estranged from them all for a long time. My brother is one of those people whose toxicity is so palpable that I had to cut them all out of my life. I hadn’t spoken to this nephew in seven years and the whole event was very sad. One positive I took away from it was that I got to see my 30 year old niece. Later that evening she sent me a lovely email expressing her hope that we could build a relationship. This young lady has 3 children – her first when she was 16. She spent the next decade hoping her Narcissistic baby daddy would finally stop seeing other women and pick her. He had six children by other women by the time she had her first – that number is probably about 15 or higher. So this young lady would definitely benefit by hearing what I had to say, so I emailed her back, sent her a link to my website and invited her to dinner on the weekend.

It’s Sunday as I write this blog, a week has gone by, my invite ignored and I haven’t heard from her since.

Most of my clients are really good at keeping their appointments, but I do have one who thinks nothing of not following the rules I’ve laid out and canceling on me last minute. In fact she did it again just last week.

All this started me thinking – why do people make commitments and then not follow through? I thought about it for some time and came up with the following reasons:

  • the person is on the spot and doesn’t want to be rude to your face/afraid to say no/dislike confrontation
  • the person is depressed and just wants to hide out in their home under the covers
  • the person starts out meaning to, but as the event grows closer they feel tired and just want to stay home
  • they got a better offer
  • they disrespect you
  • they disrespect the activity
  • they become overwhelmed by their emotions and are unable to function or react normally

Codependents are quite often the perpetrators of not keeping their word and the victims of others not keeping theirs. Depression, isolation, fear and an ineffective communication system often drive good people to act without integrity.

When you don’t keep your word others view you as unstable and as someone they cannot trust and very often that’s all the chances you’ll get. If you burn a healthy person once you very likely won’t get another invite or another opportunity to do it again. Actions always speak louder than words and if your actions indicate that you’re wishy-washy with your commitments, people will view you the same way.

As I’ve continued on my journey I’ve recognized the importance of integrity in all aspects of my life. I’ve tried to become the person that others can count on. A big part of this was learning how to communicate effectively.

  • When I made a commitment to do something, I followed through with it – even if I didn’t feel like it at the time.
  • If I wasn’t sure at the time I was being asked – I made that understood by saying. I’m not sure if I can make it. I’ll let you know.
  • And if I didn’t want to, I said no immediately, without any qualms about how the asker would feel about it.

This may all seem like common sense or common courtesy, but you would be surprised by how many people don’t operate in this manner. When you are a people pleaser you may too often say yes when you really mean no, what ends up happening is you will start to lose people, because healthy people don’t want to spend time with unhealthy people – people they can’t trust or depend on. Saying what you mean and meaning what you say is a practice all codependents should get in the habit of doing. Practice expressing your needs, practice living with integrity and practice self-care.

My big boss came into my office last week. He was pretty upset. He had put his faith in someone and had given them a task to do. The person didn’t do it. He said to me when I ask Mark (his number one guy) to do something I don’t have to worry about it – I know it will be done, but this guy has just proven to me that I can’t trust him. Being someone that can be trusted is huge in the corporate sphere too. It’s something that all employers look for in their rising stars.

The more you practice being stable and responsible the more intolerant you will become of those who don’t keep their word and aren’t trustworthy. When you get in the habit of living with integrity you will no longer be interested in those who make their living off of lying and manipulating – you’ll be too busy getting promoted and enjoying dinner parties with awesome friends that you can trust.

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