Putting the Power Into Promise

by Kris Kile


How do you turn a “normal” promise into a power packed statement for new possibility?


How do you generate a promise that is an efficient direct path towards effective action and results?


The keys to this are disarmingly simple, yet often ignored. As I go through this, you will probably be thinking to yourself “Duh, who doesn’t understand this?” But, in my experience the keys to powerful promises are ignored far more often than they are applied. So, here we go….


Powerful promises include at least the following elements:
  • They are never vague or general. Instead, they are specific. Specificity is king when it comes to putting power into a promise.
  • The content of the promise is not the only element that needs to be specific, but also a powerful promise is time specific. It has a “by when” attached….as in “By when will this be accomplished, or the next task completed?”
  • They are not verbose. Verbosity is the enemy of clarity. If the promise runs on and on with unneeded words and language, the essentials of it can get lost in the excess verbiage. Appropriate brevity increases power and impact.
  • They are as simple as possible. Unneeded complexity reduces clarity, effective application and follow up.


You could summarize the above points by saying that powerful promises include simplicity, clarity and brevity.


Here is an example. Have you ever had someone tell you, (after you express an interest to get together), “Yes, let’s get together sometime. I would like to do that.”


Does that interchange create any effective action or results? No, it does not. It is lacking content specificity and time specificity. What if the response to the request to get together is, “Yes, I would like that. I am available this coming Tuesday in the morning-my schedule is flexible all morning. What time that morning would work for you? If that day is not good, what day and time does work for you?”


That reply can nail down a mutual agreement to agreed upon action in one reply. It predisposes the conversation to be action generating.


It never ceases to amaze me as to how mushy conversations around promises and commitments often tend to be. And that is no accident, in my view.


There several payoffs to indistinct and mushy promises. Here are a few:
  • They give back doors to not actually creating action. I can always say, “Hey, I reached out to get together. Sorry it didn’t work out.”
  • They establish plausible deniability to not being intentional. I can always say, “Hey, I tried to get this scheduled. It just didn’t happen.”
  • They allow us to not be nailed down to a specific action, thus enabling us to maintain flexibility. But, this in turn ends up unnecessarily complicating establishing an agreement and getting to effective action.
  • Vagueness and generality are the path of least resistance. While they cause more effort in the long run, they are less effort in the moment.


Look at the way in which you express promise and engage promises with others. Keep them tuned up with an orientation that predisposes them to be powerful, efficient and action oriented. This will increase your rate of motion and results produced with effort expended.


Question: Share on Facebook what annoys you the most about imprecise and indistinct language in establishing promises with others.

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