Interpersonal Edge: What to do when integrity is a rare commodity

Dr. Daneen Skube

By Dr. Daneen Skube
Content Agency

Q: I find many people in my workplace make great sounding promises and fail to deliver. I’m starting to not believe people when they make commitments. I don’t want to make the same mistake. How can I demonstrate integrity and how can I deal with so many people that have none?

A: You can demonstrate integrity by aiming to under promise and over deliver. You can deal with people with little integrity by lowering expectations and frequent reminders to them.

A wise teacher in my training told me, “The one person that is always listening when you make promises is you. If you fail to keep promises you’ll fail to believe yourself and that undermines everything.” Thus if I promise myself to eat better, or exercise more but I drop the ball with others I also won’t believe myself.

The origin of the over promise and under deliv- er problem is many adults hate disappointing people. Ironically the more promises we make the more we increase our odds of experiencing what we’re trying to avoid.

What I teach clients is to listen to their gut instincts. If your gut says, “Nope,” then politely decline a commitment. You should only commit if you are certain you can deliver.

Indeed many people will be disappointed on the front end when you make fewer commitments. However, these same people will notice that when you do commit they can count on you like gravity.

As a business owner I listen closely to what clients tell me matters most. I remember a client that moved to Europe. When I asked her what helped her the most her first response was, “Reliability. In a decade you’ve not been late, can- celed, or rescheduled without advance notice.”

I was surprised that of all the tools I offer one of the  most important was simply showing up consistently. My readers may enjoy knowing that what may seem simple like punctuality, or keeping promises is a miracle in a world where integrity is a rare commodity.

If you plan on most peo- ple most of the time not keeping promises you will rarely be disappointed. Also realize most people do not lack integrity out of maliciousness. They lack integrity because they fear conflict.

When you assume low integrity you’ll double, and triple check all commitments people make. You’ll send emails reconfirming meetings days before and the morning of the meeting. You’ll send  emails rechecking timelines, and action plans. You’ll stop assuming anyone will do anything when they told you they would.

Some clients complain it’s not fair that they have to do all this extra work. I point out they will also be the ones luxuriating in delivered promises in  world where promises mean little.

When you double or triple check make your tone friendly. You may explain you had phone or email issues and are circling back as a matter of habit. After a while people will expect you’ll reconfirm and often pay better attention to their responsibilities since they know you’re paying attention.

Just because you live in a world where integrity is rare does not mean your personal world needs to suffer from low integrity. If you make few commitments and treat these promises like gold you’ll always believe promises always believe promises you make to yourself. If bluyou assume no commitment from others, you’ll remind, reconfirm, and double check and others will have a chance to remember their promises.

We all have the power to live in a world that’s better than “normal” if we’re willing to be better than “normal.” Enjoy living in your new high-integrity world.

The last word(s)

Q: Is there a reason people get so depressed during the holidays and the beginning of the New Year?

A: Yes, holiday expectations including transforming ourselves in Jan. are unrealistic. Any time our expectations and achievable reality are vastly different we have two choices; either get depressed or forgive ourselves for being human.

Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. She’s the author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006).