“When all is said and done, more is said than done.”
– Aesop, Greek storyteller and author, Aesop’s Fables
Reliable people have a high say/do ratio. That’s the ratio of things you say you will do to the things you follow through on and do. In a perfect world, your say/do ratio is 1:1, meaning you have done everything that you said you would do. The reliable person has a rhythm of say, do, say, do, say, do. Keeping your word or simply doing the right thing is rarely convenient, but reliable people let their actions rise above their excuses.
Simply being aware of your say/do ratio can help change your behavior – improving your follow-through and more cautiously making promises.
Common, harmless statements we all often hear include: “I’ll call you later,” “I’ll bring that article in for you,” “Let’s have lunch sometime,” “I’ll see if I can find that email and forward it to you,” or “I’ll follow up next week.” They too often are just that – statements with no sense of personal promise behind them.
Reliable people do what they say. It seems so simple and at such a low bar to be reliable. You might ask whether people even remember all those little promises. They might not, but be assured they do notice when you deliver on them. When someone always follows through, it is impressive. It is the quickest way to build credibility and trust with others.
If you want to have a high say/do ratio, really think about your words. When you are about to say something that you will do, stop and ask yourself, “Do I really intend to act on this?” If the answer is “no,” then just don’t say it. Talk is cheap, but actions are like gold.
Being reliable does not mean saying “yes” to everyone. On the contrary, reliable people use discretion when they make commitments because they consider their commitments as personal promises to others.
However, most people tend to slip on their commitments because they overestimate their available free time, want to please others, have unclear priorities and lack guiding principles for when to say “yes” or “no” to requests.
Natural barriers to negotiating achievable expectations include common human needs to please others, be accepted by them, be viewed as competent, be liked and to avoid conflict. Unfortunately, these needs are short-term versus long-term, revolve around my needs versus team needs and reflect insecurity versus confidence.