Does a Broken Promise Mean a Broken Relationship?

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“I’m disappointed by the lack of honesty in the world today. Recently I’ve had one promise after another broken by various individuals. Does anyone value honesty any more?” ~ Stephen, San Diego, CA

Dear Stephen,

Feeling that others are dishonest is a sign that your expectations are not aligned. It’s important to clearly communicate what you expect to happen and what you’re willing to do to help make it happen.

You have two choices:

1. You can be right. That means that the other person must be wrong if they can’t or won’t meet your preferences. Your inflexibility will drive people away from you.

2. You can honor the relationship. That means that you understand that different people have different needs, priorities, capabilities, preferences, and expectations – and you seek ways to collaborate for a mutually-beneficial experience.

Whatever you want to receive is something you must first give. Instead of approaching an exchange from the perspective of “What’s in it for me?” – find out about the other person’s needs, desires and expectations first.

Try to help them meet their needs and yours at the same time. Explain where your expectations overlap and where there are differences. Seek agreement on the best way to move forward and how you’ll both handle any challenges that arise over the course of your relationship.

Assume that things are going well and you just aren’t seeing it yet. Give them encouragement by acknowledging what’s working and asking for clarification on one aspect that seems out of whack.

Listen with an open heart. Ask what came up that prevented them from sticking with the agreed expectations. Regain their commitment to honor your agreement.

Other people really do want you to be happy and for you to enjoy working with them. Not everyone will meet your high standards – and sometimes your expectations are not realistic. Every situation is an opportunity to collaborate. Both parties have the opportunity to re-set expectations (honor the relationship) or refuse to work together (be right).

Elaine Starling

Elaine Starling

Elaine founded Promise Power because she believes that each person is endowed with a passion and a unique reason for being. As we harness that passion, we can achieve great success—however we choose to define it—and use our talent to help others find the light within themselves. Elaine was inspired to create Promise Power in 2006 when she saw the need for unique tools that help people pay attention to their dreams so they will take action that makes them come true. Her determination to inspire millions of women to fulfill their promises drives Elaine to share her experiences and learning. With over 23 years of international advertising experience, Elaine started Starling Media Services, Inc. to support clients who need strategically integrated media and marketing plans. She brings a strong customer focus to her work and delights in engaging stakeholders to create innovative solutions that address specific challenges. Her clients range from high tech to consumer goods, video games, and business-to-business firms. Elaine has served as President and Board Member of Women In Consulting and is actively involved in the American Marketing Association. An engaging public speaker and prolific author, Elaine has written numerous articles and is currently working on her book, Maximize Your Promise Power. To fulfill her own promise, Elaine and her husband moved to the Sierra foothills where she hikes, cares for her vineyard and orchard, and makes wine.

For more information, please visit why5percentsucceed.com.

View all posts by Elaine Starling.

  1. Amruta
    Amruta says:

    With all due respect, Ms.elaine ‘s idea sounds too ideal, Whatever she suggests when tried, does not work. Most times people act from their subconscious mind and are not very aware; self-preservation seems to be the modus operandi. which is ok but to promise is to make a commitment and when it is broken, commitment becomes an expectation from the other end. Self-repsect is challenged. It is not about being right. It is about reminding the other person that this is not in the best interests for both.

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