July 19, 2016

What to do when you Break your Word. {Book Excerpt}

angry guy smoking beer

The following is an excerpt from Conscious Men, written by John Gray and Arjuna Ardagh.

*Editor’s Note: Here at elephant, we’re notorious bookworms—we love them, and want you to love them, too. But, recently, we found out books are evil—one of the worst things for the environment. Before you buy your next book, read this and this. Keep reading, but read responsibly.


In order for a man to feel motivated and to achieve and accomplish his soul’s mission, he needs to be able to make promises that he can keep. When a man feels that life is too easy, he does not grow.

The power of keeping your word is that every time you do your very best to follow through on actions, when you do not feel like it but you do it anyway, it realigns you to your deepest openness and clarity: who you were at the time when you made the promise.

Sometimes you may need to change a promise if it no longer serves everyone, but regularly making and keeping promises continuously binds you back to your deepest integrity and to your most open heart.

Sometimes it will happen that you break your word. We are all human despite our best intentions.

If you break your word, there is no need to offer a long explanation of why. It really does not help anybody. If you are late, and you were caught in a terrible traffic jam, and your phone had run out of juice, and…and…and, the only important information needed is that you were late. Offering an elaborate story for why you did not do what you said you would do identifies you as a victim of circumstance. You have to hypnotize yourself with your own stories before you can sell them to other people. So you convince yourself that you live life out of your control.

We have both noticed that women hate men for giving excuses. Men often assume that if they offer a good enough reason, that should be fine for her. But she is much more interested that you understand the effect that it had on her, that you recognize the impact of your actions, and that you do not consider breaking your word to be normal behavior.

Offering an excuse gives a woman the idea that it could easily happen again. When you have broken your word, there is no simple pill and no perfect thing to say. You will need to ride it out. But there are a lot of things that can make it worse, and making excuses is at the very top of the list.

If you break your word, be careful about focusing on the other person’s upset feelings. “I’m really sorry I was late; there was a traffic jam. I’m really sorry that now you are emotionally upset and reactive.” That is a way of pathologizing the other person. You might as well say, “I’m so sorry that you overreacted. I’m so sorry that you are neurotic and insecure.” You get no brownie points for saying that.

At some point, everybody gets caught in traffic, misses a deadline, or commits to too many things within an unrealistic time period. You will almost certainly break your word from time to time, and then you will likely disappoint people and diminish your trust in yourself. There are ways to navigate these difficult times that will minimize the damage, however, and also leave you feeling good about yourself.

As we have suggested already, do not offer excuses. They only reinforce your own entanglement in the story of being a victim of forces beyond your control, and they do no favors to anyone else. Instead, here are some tips on how to be with somebody else when you have broken your word:

I said I would be here, or I said I would do…

I was not. I regret it. I imagine that this has been inconvenient for you.

Tell me about how this has impacted you…

How can I make it up to you?

I do not want to insult you with excuses. What is important here is that I said I would be here/do this thing and I didn’t follow through. I am fully responsible, and I do not want this to happen again.

In the future, I commit to doing…so as to minimize the likelihood that this will happen again.

John says: I was teaching a seminar in San Francisco. I get very inspired and carried away when I am teaching, and I forget about time and also about the rest of the world. So the seminar ran late, and I forgot to call Bonnie to tell her where I was. When I got home, she was angry and hurt. I listened to how this had impacted her (she had cooked a nice dinner for me) and how she was feeling emotionally. I made sure she understood that I was hearing her. I said to her, “I am sorry. I was inconsiderate and insensitive.” She nodded her head. Then I said, “Next time I’m going to ask my organizer to keep an eye on the time. If we are running late, I’m going to ask that person to call you. I do go to a timeless place, and I realize now that it’s unrealistic for me to be responsible for this alone.” Bonnie relaxed and smiled back at me. She was happy in a way that she would never have been if I had spun her a hard-luck story.

For those who choose to run fast in life, they will inevitably sometimes fall down. If you have decided to make a difference to the world through your life, as John and I both have, you will inevitably have triumphs and defeats. When you fail, it is time to pick yourself up and move ahead. You have the right to fall down when you are a man on fire with inspired certainty.



Authors: John Gray & Arjuna Ardagh

Image: TheStoe/Flickr 

Editors: Catherine Monkman; Renée Picard

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