When I was growing up, my Dad always said, “actions speak louder than words.” Meaning, that it didn’t matter what people say they’re going to do, it matters what is done.
It came up a lot for me in my younger years. I would promise my parents that I’d clean my room, or do my homework, or practice piano, or whatever. If I said I would do something, but then didn’t get around to doing it, Dad would point it out to me.
I’d have a million excuses why, but they wouldn’t matter because I didn’t do what I said I would do.
When I was younger, I just thought it was an annoying parent thing. I’d respond with an eye-roll and a tormented huff.
Of course, it would happen again. The lesson wasn’t really learned in my youth.
As I got older I understood it better and it took on a new meaning for me.
What I learned is that it isn’t just actions that matter, I’ve learned that words matter too. What you say, you believe. Speaking your vision, or plans, or dreams out loud makes them real so you can begin to move forward and achieve them.
But more than that, your WORD matters. It’s who you are. It’s your promise to the world. It speaks to who you are at the core of your being. I understand now that when you say one thing, but do another, it means much more than just disappointing Dad. It’s a window into your intentions and the respect you have for yourself and for others.
Twice this week, I’ve had this happen. Where someone’s words didn’t match the eventual outcome of their actions. When you think you can trust someone and then they act against their own word, it’s jarring. It makes me sad.
Sad for the loss of trust. Sad for the fact that maybe they weren’t who I thought they were, or who they purported to be. And sad that they have, at least in my mind, damaged their reputation.
I’m always of the opinion that honesty is the best policy. I’m sure we all slip-up on this with exaggerations, or little white lies. But overall, I think that honesty, even when it’s uncomfortable is the only course you should take.
If you’re faced with a discussion or confrontation, you can assume that the other person already knows or has an idea of the truth. Lying in that instance won’t serve you, or the situation. Especially if you know later actions will confirm the truth.
I advise my career coaching clients that when faced with an uncomfortable situation, like acknowledging a mistake, they should come clean early and then work to be part of the solution. In business that’s often referred to as “falling on the sword.” Own your mistakes, apologize and then work diligently to fix them. The earlier an issue is given light, the less damage that is caused. More importantly, you avoid anyone else being blamed.
Maybe it’s not about a mistake. Sometimes your actions will be at odds with others around you. If you are confident in your actions, then don’t hide the truth. Be honest when asked, even if that means you’ll lose support or friendships. It causes more damage when your actions reveal your truth and that truth is different than the words you spoke.
I think Dad was right. It’s a good rule of thumb to be sure your words and your actions align. Do what you say you’re going to do. The follow through is key.
But more importantly, speak to your actions. If you are asked, be honest. In my opinion, if you’re proud of your actions or behavior, you won’t mind speaking the truth about it. Even if that conversation is uncomfortable.
I guess after all these years Dad was right. Actions do speak louder than words, and your words really do matter.