Talk to most people about the key to good, lasting relationships and they’ll say one word:
I don’t disagree.
The assumption, though, with the idea of communication is that it’s verbal communication that’s important. But the older I get the more I realize the importance of actions.
It’s relatively easy for people to lie when they talk. It’s also relatively easy for most people to believe verbal lies. I think most of us want to believe what people tell us.
But with actions, it’s very difficult to lie. You either do something or you don’t. Yet some of us aren’t good listeners when it comes to actions. Heck, some of us aren’t good listeners with verbal communication.
If you’re an owner, manager or really in any professional situation, here are some ways that actions speak louder than words. Whether the actions are yours or whether they’re actions from your superiors, colleagues, customers, etc.
1. Big, General Business Goals
If you’ve been around the business world for some time you’ve probably encountered the person the person that makes big, but general business proclamations. Large goals that sound good on the surface, but that really don’t mean anything.
If you look at the most successful companies in the world, most often they took awhile to reach where they are today. Usually decades. And they kind of did it under the radar.
They didn’t make big, splashy proclamations about their goals. Instead, they worked step by step to get to the next level. Then the next level until they started getting notice for their accomplishments.
That’s action versus talk.
I’m not going to argue that verbally telling someone that you’re sorry isn’t important. It is. It seems to make people feel good in a certain way. Especially in the short-term. You acknowledge that you see what you did wrong and that you’re willing to change your behavior in the future.
But that second part…changing your actions. That’s really where things change. It’s where actions speak louder than words. It’s relatively easy to say you’re sorry and to mean it in the moment. It’s another to actually change actions.
Imagine a sports coach and player relationship. Generally there needs to be mutual respect. It seems that sometimes a coach can get away with not respecting the player. I don’t think it’s a good thing, but there are probably examples where it’s worked.
But when a player doesn’t respect the coach, I would say it rarely works out well for either. And it’s not words that can make it go away. The player may tell the coach and others that there is respect. But if the player rolls their eyes, shakes their head and does similar actions it shows everyone watching that respect is not there.
And the same goes for all relationships. Professional and personal.
4. The (Revised) Golden Rule
Some people like to make veiled giving gestures. They give gifts, but they give gifts that they themselves would like to receive and expect praising thanks for the recipient.
And it doesn’t just have to be the usual gifts of material things. It could be a promotion or an act of goodwill or really anything. Even a thank you or congratulations or something like that.
I’m a fan of the revised golden rule. The rule is that we should treat others how they want to be treated. Not how we want to be treated.
It works with words, but it works better with actions.
Whether you’re looking for a mentor or looking to mentor someone, the actions speak louder than words. I find this true with many of the business books I read. I like reading autobiographies where someone successful is sharing their keys to success.
But I almost prefer the biographies. Where an outside person, usually a journalist, examines somebody and tries to lay things out objectively so the reader can glean lessons.
I’ve found that sometimes people don’t even realize the reasons for their own success. And sometimes the advice we gives doesn’t jive with what we’ve actually done.
One example would be the successful businessperson that didn’t attend college telling others to attend college.
Similar to mentorship. More of a direct relationship situation. Perhaps parent to child. But could be any situation. Just teacher to student. The actions of the teacher almost always communicate more to the student.
7. Emotional Control
It’s not so much what you say during certain emotional situations, but how you say it and how you act. How you respond. We all go through trying times. Both good and bad. How we react with our actions often says a lot about us. I would almost say how we react when things are going well is more important than how we react when things go wrong.
Telling your team that you’re going to hold someone accountable for a mistake is one thing. Actually holding them accountable is an entirely different thing. You’ve probably been in a situation where the boss said there would be consequences for something only to take no action. That tells the rest of the team that it’s okay to do certain things. When that happens things usually start to fall apart for the entire organization.
The context I’m thinking about is more arguing your case or skill in some instance. Not necessarily when you’re having a fight with someone.
But say someone is arguing your credentials for a job. They’re arguing that you’re not qualified. You could tell them about your credentials. Or you could show them. It’s almost always better to prove your worth with your actions. In the long run people pay more attention to results.
Mentioned this in the introduction. Many of us could improve our listening skills when someone is talking to us. But many of us could also improve our listening skills to the actions of others. I guess maybe the better term would be observational skills.
How well do you pick up on what people are doing?
I’m a believer in actions. Maybe it’s because I’m quiet. I don’t expect others to change their ways to accommodate me not talking much. But I try to live through my actions. I try not to make big proclamations. I see much value in verbal communication, but in my experience it’s the actions that are just as and usually more important.