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Make Promises You Can Keep If people can't take you at your word, you've got serious problems. Here are 4 simple ways to straighten up and fly right.

By Rod Walsh

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Politicians are famous for asking us to trust them; as they liketo say, "My word is my bond." And, of course, manybusinesspeople just love to seal a deal with a handshake. Yet, asone infamous American president once said, "it depends on themeaning of the word 'is.' "

If we in business are to be taken at our word, everyone has tobe on the same page as to what our words actually mean. So it'scritical that there be no ambiguity in what we say. I guess this iswhere the lawyers enter the picture. They are great at creatingdocuments that close the door on ambiguity. The only problem is, wemere mortals don't seem to understand the fine print. And so,it's back to giving your word and exchanging handshakes.

When you give your word, you must mean it. And you must notleave yourself a fistful of ways to break your word. Or, when themoment of truth comes, to have the excuse, "they should haveseen it coming." Let me provide an example. I once worked fora company that was on the verge of bankruptcy 400 days a year. Oneday the owner apparently had had enough and called a meeting of hertop assistants (there were three of us--it was a small company).She explained the dire straits of the company and said that each ofus would be getting a 20 percent pay cut if things didn'tdramatically improve in 90 days. But we'd all be saved frompoverty if the company started to make a profit immediately.