Promise Keeping… and why it matters!

Keeping promises is an important part of any relationship, especially those with the people we love. It’s a way of showing care and trust, and it’s also a way of demonstrating our belief in the future.

When we make promises to our family, friends, and partners, we are saying that we will be reliable and trustworthy in all aspects of life. We are also showing that we plan for the future and that we are willing to take steps to ensure safety and security for those we love. Keeping promises with people you love is a sign of true commitment and dedication to them

Promises kept will enhance a relationship….. broken promises hurt

From childhood, we learn to hold our parents to their promises, and as adults, we are accountable for the promises we make to our partners. Promises are a form of social contract that we should consider carefully before making or breaking them. Research conducted at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business shows that people expect promises to be kept, and keeping a promise is more valuable than exceeding it, challenging the business adage of under promise and overdeliver.

According to the leading researcher at the University of Chicago, Nicholas Epley, there are two implications to keep in mind in both our personal and professional lives. First, maintaining good relationships with others does not require a massive effort. Keeping our promises is enough to make people grateful. Second, we do not need to go above and beyond our promises to be appreciated by others. It is unwise to invest additional effort in exceeding our promises because others may not appreciate it.

Epley advises not to get upset if others don’t appreciate our extra effort to exceed promises.The researchers conducted trials with undergraduates, asking them to imagine purchasing tickets to a concert from an online ticketing company for Row 10 in the theatre. Participants were given tickets that were worse, better, or the exact ones promised. The participants who received the tickets they expected were happy. The researchers found that participants did not have a more positive reaction to receiving better tickets than promised. In fact, they were likely to be negative. Those who received worse tickets viewed the experience much more negatively than the other scenarios.

The experiments suggest that it is wise to invest effort in keeping a promise because breaking it can be costly. Keeping a promise is related to trust and reliability. However, it may be unwise to invest additional effort in exceeding our promises. When family and friends keep a promise, their effort is likely to be rewarded. But when they go to extra effort to exceed those promises, their effort appears likely to be overlooked. The researchers’ final comment was….

“….promises can be hard to keep, and promise makers should spend their effort keeping them wisely.”

Check out the article “Asymmetric Consequences of Breaking Promises” by Gneezy and Epley in Social Psychological and Personality Science (2014) at It’s worth a read but don’t go overboard.

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