The Power Of Promises For Effective Communication

May 3, 2015

One of the things that we learn during our lives is that “Promises” are sacrosanct; we can’t break them. By understanding that “promises” are just one of the speech acts that we use in our everyday communication and conversation, we can take control of how we show up to others.

When we actually take hold of this speech act, we can see how we can actually design our life and our conversations…

Transcript follows:

Hi and welcome to this video. In this video we talk about the speech act of promises. Other words to describe promises are:

  • “I commit…”
  • “I agree…”
  • “I accept…”
  • “I consent…”

There are plenty of words to choose from but essentially the function is the same. When we commit to something, we promise to accept either the request or the offer. A promise can also be expressed nonverbally. Examples are a nod of the head, a smile, a handshake or something that indicates a commitment has been made. The structure of a promise is as follows:

  • I promise X by time Y.

Linguistically a promise means that “I am committed given my present understanding of the situation and resources to fulfil the request or offer according to the stated conditions of satisfaction.”

As children, we may have been taught that promises are “unbreakable” or that they are sacrosanct. With an understanding of the speech acts, a promise is a commitment to act based on the given information. Promises are not the same as guarantees.

It is possible and acceptable to renegotiate or revoke promises. This is part of the training that will help you to become an effective communicator. A guarantee is not something that can be renegotiated or revoked after being accepted.

When a product is guaranteed through a warranty for example, it means the manufacturer has a responsibility and obligation to ensure your satisfaction within the time frame of the warranty. No matter what happens during that time period, you will have a gadget that will continue to meet the conditions of satisfaction in the warranty.

An effective promise is a sincere promise. A sincere promise is one made in the emotion of commitment rather than the emotion of compliance. The emotion of compliance occurs when a request (or offer) is made which does not allow the listener to say “No.” Compliance ensures that whatever was being requested (or offered) will not be fulfilled wholeheartedly.

In any case the following formula shows the relationship between requests (or offers) and a promise.

  • Request + Acceptance = Promise
  • Offer + Acceptance = Promise

If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you. Please send me an email or share your thoughts and ideas with the community. Take care and I’ll see you in the next video.

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