Why Keeping Your Word Is the Best Way to Show Respect

You’re only as good as your word. At least that’s what I was told as a kid. But is it true? President John F. Kennedy certainly thought so when he said, “I would rather be accused of breaking precedents than breaking promises.”

In a world where politicians notably and consistently don’t keep their word, it is easy for the general public to do the same. After all, politicians are often viewed as leaders and moral beacons, so their behavior can become normalized in the public eye. In reality, politicians often aren’t moral authorities and, in my opinion, should be penalized each time they break their word for breaking their constituents’ trust. Where is that type of accountability in our society today? Why do we accept people breaking their word as normal?

Your word can’t just be a figure of speech. If it is, the foundation of any relationship is severely lacking in integrity and is inherently fragile. Most people know someone who claims to keep their word but often doesn’t follow through. These people make promises easily but quickly disregard the notion of keeping their word, either out of malice or because they’re simply too lazy to jot it down. Not keeping your word once in a blue moon is understandable, but if you have a long history of that type of behavior, your honor is at stake. Friends and co-workers quickly learn when someone can’t be trusted to keep their word, which can often lead to rifts or unmendable distrust.

Keeping your word is even more important for business relationships, especially in the entertainment industry, which has a reputation for being cutthroat. Though some might take the “easy” way to get ahead by being dishonest and manipulative, I’ve found that my greatest successes and accomplishments have come from being straightforward. As the adage goes, what comes around goes around. Word travels fast, but even faster in Hollywood. It is disrespectful to tell someone you are going to do something and not do it. After breaking your word in this small town, not only is your reputation at risk, but every single professional relationship you’ve ever made can disappear in the blink of an eye.

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Building trust is much harder than breaking it. The trust you earn consists of promises kept, both big and small, over time and is never set in stone. My advice? Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Keep the promises you make, and always overdeliver.

Keeping your word is about more than just doing what you say you will. It is about showing you have someone’s back. It doesn’t matter if the task is menial; if you say you will get it done, do it because that builds credibility, trust and self-accountability. Acting in an honorable and trustworthy way will help you stand out in any company or friendship group. While it should be the norm, it often isn’t.

Keeping your word is not only about respecting others; it is also about respecting yourself and leading by example. Almost everyone has a personal history of breaking promises they’ve made to themselves — whether it’s about quitting smoking, losing weight or going to the gym. We should not only keep the promises we make to others but also the promises we make ourselves. Your word is golden — don’t break it. After all, if we don’t follow our own word, why should someone else trust it?

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