The word ‘consistency’ is defined as ‘the quality of always behaving or performing in a similar way’. In the context of relationships, it refers to the predictable patterns and actions that enable us to build a sense of confidence in our connections.
Consistency relates to being dependable, reliable and true to your word. It shows others that you hold yourself accountable; helps build your credibility; fosters mutual respect; and encourages honest, open communication.
So, why is consistency important?
Relationship experts agree that consistency is key to building trust – be that in your professional or personal relationships. This trust, in turn, leads to long-term stability, which is characterised by both parties feeling valued, supported, secure and/or loved.
However, human beings find it difficult to be naturally consistent. With so many distractions in our daily lives, we tend to gravitate towards intensity, allowing us to do something once and be done with it.
Best-selling author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek says there’s no single act or event that can make people trust you; rather, it’s the accumulation of the mundane, little things you do every day (i.e., do consistently) that makes others begin to trust you, leading them to enjoy working or being with you, or (in personal relationships) to love you.
When you are perceived as being inconsistent, or found not to follow through on your promises, others will think you don’t care – even if that isn’t true. They’ll see you as being unreliable or, worse, untrustworthy; and they may feel unrecognised, inadequate, confused, vulnerable, sad or angry, or even unloved. This can fracture your connection or erode intimacy and, over time, threaten the future of the relationship.
5 common inconsistency red flags
1. Your words don’t match your actions
You say you can’t wait to see someone again, yet you’re ‘too busy’ to make plans.
You make lofty promises without any real ability or intention to deliver.
You agree to deadlines at work but often miss them.
You say you love someone but steer clear of displays of affection.
You threaten your child with discipline but give in when they whine.
2. You blow hot and cold
Your moods are generally unpredictable.
You flip from being warm and attentive to being cold and distant in your personal relationships.
You tell your kids they can ask you anything; when they do, you tell them you’re busy.
When the going gets tough, you get going – you withdraw your attention or your affection, or you physically move on.
3. You change or cancel plans
You arrange a romantic date with someone but cancel at the last minute.
You frequently turn up late to work meetings or appointments you arranged.
You tell your kids you’ll do something special together over the weekend but change your mind because you’re ‘too tired’.
You often fail to show up at gatherings with friends or family.
4. You show a lack of communication
You fail to stay in touch – your calls or texts are sporadic; you leave others hanging and don’t respond to messages or emails.
You avoid talking about your (or others’) thoughts, feelings or fears.
You often struggle to resolve misunderstandings.
You shut down emotionally during uncomfortable conversations.
You frequently feel the need to be defensive.
5. Your boundaries aren’t clear
You don’t know how to say no.
You’re not open about your needs or desires.
You often feel overwhelmed.
You find it hard to make, and stick with, decisions.
You often feel ‘put out’, hurt or that others are taking advantage of you.
Recognise any of these indicators of inconsistency? It’s important to remember that no relationship is perfect, and that no one can be 100 per cent consistent. The aim of the above exercise is to help you recognise any patterns in your behaviour and to take appropriate action to improve consistency in your relationships.
12 Ways to boost consistency in your relationships
1. Show up as yourself. If you’re the same distinct person in different situations, through your behaviours and your actions, others will see you as highly dependable and trustworthy.
2. Set realistic expectations – know your own limitations; be careful not to promise something you can’t deliver.
3. Be true to your word. Honour your commitments but, on the rare occasion where you can’t deliver, tell the other party as soon as possible, and explain honestly why you’re unable to follow through.
4. Don’t make excuses! Refrain from saying, “I forgot”, or “I didn’t have time to…”. When you make excuses, you’re simply telling others that you refuse to be accountable.
5. Communicate consistently – it eliminates confusion or misunderstandings, and avoids hurt feelings. Don’t avoid difficult conversations, don’t ignore calls or messages, and always reply to texts and emails promptly.
6. Stop being a ‘people pleaser’. Have the courage to say no. If you can’t follow through, you’ll be seen as unreliable and everyone involved will be worse off.
7. Fight forgetfulness. If you often find yourself forgetting to do things you said you would, use a diary or better still, reminder tools for your computer or smartphone.
8. Only say it if you mean it. Make sure anything you say is something you genuinely believe or feel. Being consistent means being honest and truthful.
9. Express gratitude regularly to show others that you appreciate their efforts to nurture your connection. Chances are they’ll reciprocate in kind, which will help build a mutually rewarding and happy relationship.
10. Focus on non-verbal communication. Make sure your body language matches your verbal communication – be aware of negative cues, always make good eye contact, and listen attentively to others.
11. Commit to the process of building a healthy relationship. Remember, it’s not about intensity or grand gestures; rather, focus on doing those important little things every day: say good morning to your spouse before you reach for your phone; take five minutes before work to catch up with your colleagues; give your kids your undivided attention when they tell you about their school day.
12. Delve a little deeper to understand why you may be struggling with consistency. Do you fear intimacy? Do you have a mental health concern? Do you need to set healthy boundaries or improve your communication skills? Seek professional support to help you overcome any personal challenges you may have in this regard.
Developing consistency in any relationship requires time, effort and patience. Take small steps – and don’t expect too much too soon. Be sensitive to others’ needs and feelings, respect their boundaries, and honour your commitments. Above all, remind yourself that actions often speak louder than words!
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