Integrity Means “No Surprises”

Imagine you made a promise with integrity, but something happens and you now believe that your commitment is at risk. How do you preserve your integrity?

You do it with an apology.

An integrity-preserving apology requires much more than a quick “Sorry.” Expressing regret is a good start, but not nearly enough. To honor your word you must announce the breakdown immediately, explain what happened, accept accountability, and minimize the damage to your creditor–that is, the person to whom you made the promise.

Reverse the situation and put yourself in the shoes of the creditor. If someone who made a promise to you realizes he will probably not deliver, what would he have to do to keep your trust?

If my promisor thought that her commitment was at risk, I would like her to tell me right away. I would like her to come to me and,

1. Explain what changed and why it was unpredictable.

2. Inquire as to what problems this creates for me and what she could do to solve them.

3. Offer a new commitment that preserves efficiency and takes care of me.

If you ask someone else if they have ever received an apology like this, they usually complain “Never! – The deadline comes and goes, I don’t get what I was promised, and the other person doesn’t show up. Worse yet, if I complain, he gets angry and blames me for not understanding that he had a problem—always caused by circumstances outside of his control!”

Righteous indignation feels good, but it blinds you to your own behavior. It is much easier to demand that others honor their word than to do it yourself. If you ask the same people if they have ever given an apology like this, always an embarrassing silence ensues.

Summing-up: Integrity implies a sincere intention to fulfill your promises, but it means much more than that: Integrity requires that you keep your word even when you cannot deliver what you promised.

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