Why Promises Matter

We often think about our language as representational; words represent things. When we say things like I paid, I ate, we signed, we went, and so on, we are depending on the words we say to convey the actions that we took. However, there is another way that we use language that is probably even more important.

In some cases, we use our words to convey intentions rather than actions. And in fact, when we actually get around to doing, the words themselves don’t really matter very much. Language usage like that is the most important kind to us as coaches.

What I am talking about are “speech acts” which are a way of using of language in which the saying is the doing. When we say certain things, we are convey an intention of future behavior.  For example, when I say, “I promise to meet you at 3:00” those words convey a commitment that only exists until something happens. At 3:00, the meaning of those words change. Whether I met with you doesn’t matter. What becomes important is whether I fulfilled my intention.  Did I keep my promise or not?  When the deadline is reached, the act of promising is more important than the promise itself.  My promise becomes a direct insight into my integrity and trustworthiness.

When we fulfill our pledges, then our credibility rises.  So as coaches, we have a real opportunity to do what we ask our clients to do.  When I tell a client that “I will send you an article,” my speech act is an important reminder that I need to keep my promise if I expect my client to keep his commitments.

How else are speech acts important as a coach?  Feel free to comment and share your thoughts.