Years ago, my husband and I were living in Germany so he could finish school. I was 6 months pregnant, and we had to drive 2 hours away to a little town called Ohlsbach to secure a place to live when my husband’s semester started back.
We found this elderly couple who was renting their entire ground level of their home. It was perfect for a budding family like ours so we scheduled an appointment with them. They gave us a tour of the house, my husband and them exchanged German, they shook hands and we headed to the car.
After we got in the car I asked my husband, “Did we not get the place?’
He said, “Oh no, we did. It’s ours.”
“But we didn’t give them a deposit.”
“A what?” Daniel asked
“We didn’t put any money down. We need to go get them some money to secure our spot here. How do we know they aren’t going to give the house away to someone?”
Daniel said, “Kate, I shook their hand. In this country, when you shake someone’s hand, that is your word and you don’t dare break it.”
Sure enough, we showed up three months later and the house was ours.
I still get goosebumps every time I tell this story. Why? I have been doing business in America for 25 years. I have had thousands of people give me their word or shake my hand, yet never follow through with their word.
A client promises to come through with money by the end of the week – he backs out.
A mother calls asking us to meet her and her kids at the park – she calls moments before departure and bails out.
A friend replies coming to your Christmas party – he sends an email bailing hours before the party.
A company contacts you for two years offering to partner with your company -when it comes down to sending an agreement they are nowhere to be found.
You pay a contract worker a deposit before work is done on your house – they run off with your money.
When you say you are going to do something. Do it. In life. In marriage. In business. In friendship. Follow through with your word.
Can we all commit to getting back to the handshake?