Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Make Promises and Keep Them

In a February, 1942 Popular Science magazine I found this article and was intrigued by the first few paragraphs. The writer didn’t say, “J. Edgar Hoover never told us he intended to smash kidnapping rackets or stop murderous gunmen, but that’s what he did.” Instead he uses each promise Hoover made to illustrate the point of his article: J.Edgar Hoover says we’re prepared and you can trust him.

Whatever flaws might have been disclosed about Hoover later, the fact was that he and the FBI made our country more safe at a time when crime sprees by vicious criminals and their gangs were to the level of domestic terrorism. He was respected as well as feared, because he kept his promises.  

J. Edgar Hoover did two things you should do:

1. Make promises. Say what you will do and when. “I’ll have that to you by 8 a.m.” “I’ll get it done the way you want it and have it to you for review before Friday.” “We’ll take care of this for you.” “I’ll take care of that problem.”

2. Keep your promises and remind people that you did. “Attached is that write-up, as promised.” “I said I’d get that to you by Friday but we worked extra hard and have it for you today.” “I knew you were upset about that situation, so I worked on it with Jim and I’m happy to report that it’s been handled and you won’t have to deal with it again.” “I told you I’d get this approved for you by this morning and here it is” 

Say the words, to let people know that you came through not only as promised but because you promised.

Repeated broken promises are usually considered lies

Many people toss out promises they don’t ever intend to keep. “Sure, I’ll get that for you!” “No problemo, it will be done next week.” “I’ll take care of it.” Then, when the requester asks them about it on the due date, there are heavy sighs and excuses for why it isn’t yet done. 

If you remember that a broken promise is viewed by most people as having been a lie to begin with, maybe you’ll get motivated to live up to what you promised.  If you simply can’t fulfill your promise, at least let the person know the reason for your delay and get the work done ASAP. However, make sure your reason is more than, “I got really busy.”  Or,  “Yeah, I know it’s not done yet, but it wasn’t really my fault.”

Look for chances to give your word, then keep your word.

Let people know, through your commitments and the way you live up to them, that you are someone to trust–no matter how they might feel about you otherwise. One day you may not be able to deliver on a promise, but by then you will have a long history of dependability to your credit. What you’re after is to have someone say, “If he promised to have it, you don’t need to worry, it will get done.” Or, “She says it will work out fine, and if she says it you can believe it.”  Sounds good, doesn’t it?

August 7th, 2011 Posted by | Law Enforcement Related, Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 4 comments


  1. Where do you find this stuff? I really like the old magazine items. Thanks again!

    Comment by Meeker | August 8, 2011

  2. I know exactly what you mean about promises just being lies for some people. I like the idea of gently reminding people that I fulfilled my promise. I’ll try it!

    I liked the J.Edgar Hoover information. I guess I don’t know very much about him or how the FBI got started. Do you have the rest of the article? That would be interesting too.

    Comment by denisek | August 8, 2011

  3. In my work I have a lot of deadlines and emergencies (from others) so this is definitely an idea I can use. I haven’t been here very long so I’m trying to build a solid reputation without over-doing it! Thanks for the interesting history too. 🙂

    Comment by K.S. | August 11, 2011

  4. As someone else asked, where do you find this stuff? You’ve got me looking for old magazines now. The idea of making promises so you can keep them isn’t something I had thought about before but it makes sense.

    I’ve waited all Summer for you to come up here with a class. What’s the deal? Wyoming yokels need training too!

    Comment by wiseacre | August 11, 2011

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