Aren’t we all guilty of making empty promises?


I have come to decipher this empty promise as people’s way of telling me to bugger off and stop bothering them.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Many of us make such pledges because most of the time we find it difficult to say ‘No’

If I earned money for each time someone has assured me that he or she will call me back, only to break that promise, I’d be very rich. I’d be so rich, I’d hire a chef and live in a lavish mansion somewhere with lots of trees and views of a mountain. I wouldn’t have to lift a finger to earn a living, thanks to Kenyans who find it extremely difficult to keep their word.

Over time, the phrase I’ve come to dread most is, “I’ll call you”, because more often than not, this call never comes. As soon as the person on the other end hangs up, he or she immediately forgets the promise, which they probably had no intention of keeping in the first place.

I have come to decipher this empty promise as people’s way of telling me to bugger off and stop bothering them. Nowadays when someone tells me, “I’ll call you back,” I promptly write them off and try the next person.

Recently, I bumped into an acquaintance in these very streets of Nairobi. The last time we had spoken was a year or so ago. I was in urgent need of a certain person’s phone number and since I knew that this person was a close friend of this acquaintance, I decided to give her a call and request for the number.

She answered after the second ring and when I explained what I wanted, she hastily told me that she was in a meeting and that she would call me “later”. Talking of meetings, when most people tell you that they are in a meeting, more often than not they’re lying. But that’s a story for another day.

Anyway, the “later” never came even when I sent her a text reminding her of her promise to call me, two hours later. When I bumped into her the other day, her first reaction was to gasp, “Oh! I was to call you!” And then she had the audacity to ask me whether I had managed to get the number, because she could give it to me if I hadn’t.

I too have been guilty of making promises I didn’t keep or didn’t intend to keep when it would have been easier to just say that I would not be able to provide the information needed.

Thinking about it, I have a feeling many of us make empty promises because we find it difficult to say “No”. Unfortunately, by giving these false promises, we end up giving others false hope when we would have freed them to look elsewhere. As a result, we end up wasting other people’s time and tainting our reputation in the process.

In the past when I made these empty promises, I did it because I found it difficult to say “no”. I felt that by saying “no”, I would be letting someone down, yet deep down, I knew that I either would not be able to fulfil what I had said “yes” too, or that fulfilling what had been asked of me would come at great inconvenience to me and those around me. There is nothing wrong with admitting that you don’t know something or that you don’t have the ability to do something.

Nowadays, the word “No” glides off my tongue more easily and I no longer feel guilty when I say it. I was freed when I understood that I am not obligated to say “yes” to everything. I am not averse to helping though, and I am very generous with my knowledge, skills and information. If I can do it, I readily say “yes” and go out of my way to help.

This year, do yourself and those around you a favour by avoiding these vague phrases: “I will call you”, “I’ll get back” and “We’ll talk.

The writer is editor, Society and Magazines, Daily Nation.   Email: [email protected]


You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.