Actions Speak Louder than Words

Copyright (c) 2006 Bill Pullen

“If you want to know what people are committed to, pay attention to what they do, not to what they say.”

I wish I could claim authorship of that line. I do not know who wrote it, but it is worth repeating:

“If you want to know what people are committed to, pay attention to what they do, not to what they say.”

It happens to all of us. We say one thing, and then take actions that directly contradict what we say. During a speaking engagement last week a woman in my audience said that she wanted to lose weight and to live a healthy lifestyle. When I asked her what actions she was taking in that direction, she said none. She confessed that she goes home from work and watches television for hours each day. How committed do you think she is to getting what she wants? In some cases, we ourselves are the only ones who suffer from our failure to live up to our words. In many other cases, our failure affects the people around us.

John, a gregarious middle-aged man, had an extensive social network. Many people liked him and considered him a close friend. His friends were comfortable confiding in him because they believed he would treat their confidences with discretion. John felt good knowing that his friends trusted him so much.

Unfortunately, though, John often broke his promises of discretion. While he said he would keep friends’ confidences to himself, he did not always do so. He developed the reputation of a gossip. His cherished friends no longer trust him. They stopped sharing personal matters with him because what he said was inconsistent with the way he acted. John taught his friends to doubt his integrity. As they learned this lesson, he began to question his own trustworthiness.

I see repeated examples of such breaches of integrity. Clients tell me about similar situations causing conflicts in families, in church groups and in organizations. Almost all of us can recall having had this kind of experience. A breakdown of integrity causes loss of trust. Loss of trust causes reticence, unwillingness to communicate, which in turn undermines relationships. We naturally want to avoid this kind of threat to our friendships and professional associations. We have to “walk the walk” rather than simply “talking the talk.” As we take more care to “practice what we preach”, we become that much more trustworthy.

• In what ways do your actions contradict your words?
• How do these contradictions affect you?
• How do they affect others?
• What steps can you take to rebuild your personal and inter-personal integrity?

Remember, we are all human. We all make mistakes. Our goal is to become aware of our mistakes. Once aware, we must act quickly to correct any negative effects our behavior has caused.

I am interested in your thoughts and comments about this article. Is it helpful? Why? Why not? Go to the blog posted on my website and let me know your thoughts.