Fixing Broken Agreements

What Broken Agreements May Be Costing You

When we promise to deliver something and then don’t do it, we weaken our connections with others and we increase the shame and guilt that we carry.   We make promises all the time.  Everyday.  To pick up the kids after school.  To help a co-worker with a project on a tight deadline.  To call our Mom.  Sometimes we say “Yes” to things because we feel obligated to do them or because we think we will be judged if we say “No”.  So we start a running list of things to do.

That. NEVER. Get. Done.

And when we think about this growing list of things that we’ve agreed to do for other people, we sometimes try to rationalize to ourselves with “I’ll do it tomorrow”, knowing that “tomorrow” may not happen until next week…if at all! This leads to broken agreements which can cause you to carry increased stress, shame and guilt — but also start to deteriorate your relationship with and connection to the person that you’ve made the agreement with.

Fixing this is easy.  It will just take a few minutes of your time and a piece of paper to jot down some notes.  On your paper, note the following:


WHO have you promised something to that you have not delivered?

WHAT did you promise?

WHEN was it due?

Do you want to RENEGOTIATE the agreement OR admit that you CAN’T DELIVER what you promised originally?


Once you have documented this, approach the contacts that you have broken promises with and work on either renegotiating the agreement or making it clear that you can’t deliver what you promised (for whatever reason).  By doing so, you will strengthen your relationship to the person because you will be creating integrity around the situation — even if you end up NOT being able to fulfill your agreement.


You’ll find that this will also help to decrease your stress levels by resetting realistic expectations around what you can deliver and by when you will do it.

If you’re able to renegotiate the agreement in a way that works for you and the other person, make sure you make it a priority to get it done and checked off your list.  Most people will be forgiving and willing to renegotiate with you, but if you continue to ask for extensions or modifications to things you’ve promised to do, you will find that you inevitably will start doing damage to your reputation.

Lastly, remember that most people want to help you succeed and are willing to renegotiate agreements when possible, but you have to ASK!

So, get out there and either RENEGOTIATE or REMOVE any broken agreements from your to-do list!