Sunday, October 28, 2012

Under Promise and Over Deliver

A widely accepted axiom in the business world is stated like this:

“Under promise and over deliver”

It is known as a formula for success because it is a strategy most likely to produce a happy repeat customer. There is a risk of course, that under-promising might not lead to closing a sale, whereas hyperbole might extract a commitment. But the risk of over-promising is likely a dissatisfied, one time customer who will steer business away from you when they can.

I use this phrase in counseling couples as well. Often spouses with all the best intentions will over promise in an attempt to please their mate. 

But when they under deliver, they often have a hurt, sad or angry person to deal with.

I remember the early days of building a business when I would work late and Nan would call me at work and ask when I would be home. I would make overly optimistic estimates of when my evening would be finished. I would get home later than I had told her and she would be upset with me. She began to not fully trust me in this area.

I finally learned to emotionally support her (“I would sure rather be home with you.”) but give her very realistic estimates instead. As a matter of fact I would add 15 minutes or so as a time cushion. Often I came home earlier than she expected and I would be a hero (well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration.)

Was she disappointed when I told her that I needed to work late? Yes! But I can assure you that she was far less disappointed than when I would show up later than I had promised. And trust was rebuilt around this issue.

The pleaser personality is the most likely to get on the wrong side of this equation. They are also the most likely to be conflict avoidant. Rather than talk about the hard stuff at the outset, they would rather hope for the best case scenario, which unfortunately rarely materializes. They may then end up feeling like an irresponsible or scolded child.

When trust begins to erode in one aspect of a relationship, it can lead to mistrust in other areas as well. “You didn't pay the bills when you said you would – will you remember to pick up the kids from school on time?”

The solution is to learn to allow your partner to be disappointed. You are not disappointing them on purpose (I hope). It just isn’t always possible to make everything work out perfectly and keep everybody happy. Maturity requires us to accept this as a fact of life. If your relationship is stable, it will survive.

Is this a problem area for you? Are you actually afraid of your spouse? Why? It could be a family of origin issue that needs to be dealt with.

Remember to ask for help if you need it.      

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