Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

I hear it all the time. It’s a common complaint on a variety of levels. “Why can’t people keep their word?” People are stymied, frustrated, alarmed, disgusted, and generating many other negative emotions because someone they believed didn’t follow through on what they said. When you believe what someone says and they don’t come through, it can be a big let down.

I’ve been one of those let down people many times. Because I did my best to keep my own word, I expected other people to do that too. When I was a DoorMat, I tried to be a perfect friend so I’d jump though hoops to do what I said would, even if it was hard. So how could people so easily forget what they promised me? I’d stew often over this confusing issue. These people weren’t bad or mean. They’d often just speak and then forget. And they were surprised at how seriously I’d taken what they said when I questioned them.

Since then I’ve learned it’s best not to take it personally when someone says they’ll do something and it doesn’t materialize.

People have their issues about why they say things they won’t do. Over the years as I’ve interviewed people for my books, I asked for reasons this happens. The most important thing to understand is that other people aren’t you. And their priorities aren’t yours. They usually mean what they say at the time but then their own lives get in the way. Getting very busy can make someone else’s needs less important. It’s easy to forget what’s not important to you.

Needing the contact for something you want is VERY important to you. When someone you’re speaking with says they have a connection and can help you, they probably mean it at the time. You get very excited and make all sorts of plans to use the contact they hook you up with. When it doesn’t happen, you feel bad or angry that now you can’t move forward. Meanwhile, the person who promised the contact can’t relate to how important it was to you. He just doesn’t have the time to pursue it for you. Or she can’t even remember your conversation since it wasn’t important to her.

I’ve learned you can’t just count on what someone says for something important. I keep going until the person follows through.

Sometimes people say what they don’t mean because you’re in their face wanting something and they don’t know what else to say. You may meet a publicist for a celebrity you want to contact and put them on the spot to connect you. They don’t want to say yes but find it awkward to say no. So they’re agreeable, which gets you hyped up, and then they don’t take your calls. It really makes sense, since dealing with someone who wants something from you can be uncomfortable. It’s logical to tell you what you want to hear at that moment.

This is also true in the complaint of many women—“Why dos he say he’ll call and then doesn’t?”

I’ve asked this question and interviewed many men about it. They tell me that when a woman they’re out with is looking at them with that “please say you’ll call” look in their eyes, it’s hard to know what to say or not say. Many admit to being cowards and find it more comfortable to say they’ll call and not have to tell her he’s not interested. They figure she’ll realize that when he doesn’t call. It’s not right but I know how I used to be when I dated and how I’d be waiting to hear those words when we said good night. While in the long run I’d rather he be honest, it feels lousy to have a guy say he doesn’t plan to call.

It’s hard to find a “good” way to be honest when what you feel isn’t what the person wants to hear.

Next time someone doesn’t keep their word, think about what you might have said or done to put them on the spot to agree to what they said. Did you push for them to say they’d help or did you have an attitude that begged them to say yes? I know I’ve done that to people who later disappear. While it’s wrong to not keep your word, sometimes our pushing or asking too much makes people give lip service to get away in a peaceful way.

People mean well most of the time (I’d still like to think so), but get distracted by various things in their lives. Since they usually put themselves first, promises to you may get lost in the clutter of their lives. Unless it’s someone close to you, don’t put too much into wonderful promises. People will go on talking off the tops of their heads, meaning everything at the time, but forgetting their words not long after they’re spoken. They’re not bad people but they don’t prove themselves as friends. Know the difference!

People have to earn your trust and if they haven’t, take what they say with a box of salt. No matter what, make sure you keep your own word.

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