Break Through Your Threshold: The 5 A’s of Restoring Integrity
By Jai Maa
Imagine a time when you made an agreement and kept it. How did it feel? Now imagine a time when you made an agreement and did not follow through. How did that feel? How does it feel when others follow through on their agreements with you? How does it feel when they do not?
There is an automatic reward for keeping agreements. Our self esteem goes up, our trust in ourselves and others deepens, and we develop the courage to give our word for bigger, more important things in life.
Similarly, there is an automatic price we pay for breaking agreements. Our trust for ourselves goes down, the trust and respect others had for us begins to weaken, our self esteem begins to erode, and we begin to take ourselves less seriously.
The simple definition of integrity is to mean what you say. If you have broken an agreement, clean it up immediately. Saying “I’m sorry” is not enough, and can be used as a way to maintain your image while continuing the same behavior. Having a story to excuse why you have broken your agreement does not necessarily restore the trust that may be affected.
Sure, there are times when a traffic jam made you late, or an emergency required your attention and was more important than your agreement. Rarely this is the case, and more often than not a story is used as an attempt to save face and avoid responsibility for the broken agreement.
Try restoring your integrity with the 5 A’s instead:
2. Accept Responsibility
Acknowledge – Acknowledge that you have a broken agreement. For example, “I said I would meet you at 5pm, and it’s 5:15.” You may also want to acknowledge the impact your broken agreement may have on the other person such as, “I can imagine your trust for me has been affected.”
Accept Responsibility – Accepting responsibility can be as simple as saying, “I’m responsible” and can also be demonstrated by how you are communicating. Are you communicating sincerely, or is there a twinge of victim-like neediness in your voice? Also, avoid saying “I take responsibility,” since there is nothing for you to take. You are responsible for your word, period.
Account – Now share what happened. Keep the story honest and short. Perhaps the story is, “I stopped on the side of the road and saved someone’s life.” Often, the story is less attractive like, “I was watching the game on T.V. and lost track of time.”
Apologize – Now apologize. You have created the space for an apology to be sincerely felt and received.
Amend – State what you plan to correct within yourself. It could be something like, “Next time, I’ll set an alarm so I don’t lose track of time.” If it feels appropriate, you can engage the other person like, “Is there something I can do to make it up to you?”
To prevent breaking your agreements, make sure you are only agreeing to what truly feels right for you. If you find yourself saying “yes” to others to make them like or approve of you, STOP. If you need to say, “let me think about it and get back to you” to give yourself time to decide whether you want to give your word, then do so.
Mastering integrity opens doors to bigger opportunities, so play with it. Your word is powerful. The more you mean what you say, the more power you have to offer the world.
Enlightenment Invitation: Try the 5 A’s right now with the last agreement you broke with someone. Try the 5 A’s in the mirror with the last agreement you broke with yourself.