Today, I would like to talk about promise. Our word to agree and take action. In Chinese, there are quite a couple of phrases that teach us the right way of making a promise, or how words cannot be taken lightly. Yi Yan Giu Ding (one word, 9 vessel), Yi Nuo Zi Chian Jing (a promise is worth a thousand gold), Yi Yan Ji Cu Si Ma Nan Zhui (A quick promise will never be overtaken, even by 4 horses).

Yi Yan Giu Ding brings out the meaning that words are heavy and should not be taken as lightly. “Ding” is a type of 3 legged Chinese vessel that only emperor use, in the past. We can easily see it in any Chinese temple these days. To say that one word is equivalent to the weight of 9 of such vessel really mean that no one should take their own word lightly. An honorable man should always be careful of what they say/promise. Anything that is let out should be considered a promise and must be done. Yi Nuo Zi Chian Jing (a promise is worth a thousand gold) should be pretty direct so surely you can guess the meaning it is trying to bring out. The value of a promise is so great that it is equivalent to one thousand gold pieces. Now with that, a promise should also not be taken lightly. Since it is that many pieces of gold, do you think we should hand it over easily? This also teaches us that we should not promise others easily. Why do u think the Chinese created this phrase? Which one is easier? To promise others & break it later or to decline the guy in his face? This is very much dependent on your culture & upbringing. Well, if you are an American, I should say, likely you will be comfortable with rejecting others. However, in the Asian part of the world, it is harder to do so. Especially so, in Japan or Indonesia. Indonesian culture is not to decline others. I find many of my Indonesian friends are struggling to learn this (decline others). U too, W. Rejecting or declining others requires a certain amount of bravery and strength.

Yet, if u think about it, which is worse? To simply say yes (promise) and later mess something up (because u are not able to do it) or to decline immediately causing temporary stress to the rejected party? If you simply promise something, without thinking over it thoroughly and estimating your own time & ability, you are still liable for the task. And worse, you are taking away the only opportunity of finding someone much more suitable to do the task. Would I look for a second person to do the task if u have agreed to it? Will I know that you do not know how to do the task, if you simply agree to it without much discussion? No. The fact is, before you agree to anything, please please….think through the circumstances and ask questions before you even say “maybe I can”. Always put in effort to understand the whole situation first before u commit to something. If there is a communication barrier (english etc), ask the other party to be accommodating (or slower) in helping you understand the task/problem. Hey, if the party do not even have the patience to explain thoroughly to you the problem, why should you agree to help him?

Also, who do you think we hate more? Someone who agrees and later did a bad job (because he didn’t understand or had no time) or someone who disagrees and never took up the job? Definitely the guy who screw up our task. One who disagrees and decline the task has no impact whatsoever. In fact, we normally still maintain good friendship with the one who decline. This is because subconsciously we know he rejects it for our own good. So, please W, do not promise and later deliver a bad job. Just don’t promise in the first place, until u fully understand the issue at hand. Rejecting someone is not a bad gesture. It is no problem.

Lastly, Yi Yan Ji Cu Si Ma Nan Zhui (A quick promise will never be overtaken, even by 4 horses) means that, once a promise is made, it should be made a priority and nothing else should overtake this priority. Well, to be in front of 4 horses shows that it should always comes first in our daily considerations for work/task. Only by making the promise a priority, we will have a high chance of being able to finish it. We do not make promises, only to be hindered by unimportant stuff like “accompany my wife”, “buying toys”, “having tea with friend”, “watch tv”, etc etc.