26 Oct 2016

Commitment and Understanding

The final frontier that has to be breached by all business communication, is the commitment of the other party to your proposition. The other party of course is a person (or group) that has their own agenda, interests and distractions and may be resistant or ambivalent to your ideas.

How often have you left a conversation or meeting having managed to escape without overtly committing yourself to all that was ‘agreed’?

Yes I thought so, me too! This describes, perfectly, the challenge that faces all communication – commitment.

Since the purpose of all business communication is, ultimately, to create action the communicator will fail in their purpose if there is not commitment given.

Next time you are closing the debate or the conversation make sure you ask for commitment, look the people in the eye and ask them:

“Are you in agreement and will you commit yourself?”.

In this transaction, ‘Yes’ is as valuable as ‘No’. Far better to know someone is uncommitted than to assume that they are committed, with knowledge you can re-negotiate or act accordingly.

The second part of this idea is to do with a lack of understanding leading to commitment to the wrong idea, should you doubt the levels of understanding then best to check this before your leave the encounter. Try these:

“What do you understand from our agreement?”

“Let me know your thoughts on this and how you plan to implement the proposal.”

“What have you understood to be the core idea?”


“The relationship between commitment and doubt is by no means an antagonistic one.

Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt, but in spite of doubt”.

Rollo May, Philosopher 1909-1994


For more on this, consider enrolling on our Governing Change programme which equips senior managers with the skills, attitudes and disciplines needed to take their careers to the highest possible levels.