Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Action Versus Words: Part 1 of a Series

There is an idiom in the common parlance that says "Actions speak louder than words". I find this phrase more often than not is quite literally true. It doesn't matter if we're talking about a child, a boss, or a wife, but then I'm repeating myself. Your actions (what you do) communicate more clearly than your words (what you say). As a measure of what kind of person you are - deep down - nothing speaks louder than your actions.

One can be a straight up liar or a hypocrite which reveals enough about a person up front that judging their actions will merely be a confimation. However, when dealing with someone in the context of a close or imtimate relationship, you are vunerable to the words coming out of their mouth. You want to trust that they believe what they are saying so you can believe it too. When their actions tell a different story you can feel betrayed.

At one point in our lives we have all been betrayed this way. It can be a small thing or it can be devastating. On the flip side all of us have been completely surprized by that cranky grandpa, uncle or father who does something incredibly nice that does not jibe with the words you had grown accustomed to hearing from them. Grandma would say, "Aw, don't be afraid of him, he's just an old softy". It tells you a more about his character than all his negative words and his not so subtle put downs ever did.

They say the keys to a successful relationship are threefold, communication, communication, communication. I contend that actions are the most important form of communication. Words are great, they can be comforting and they can be encouraging, but when they are not followed up by the action they suggest they become meaningless.

When a woman complains "he never talks to me" I contend she is just not listening. She gets all caught up in the words(or lack of them), and ignores the value of his actions. Some men don't feel comfortable with talk of "feelings". He will show his feelings with his actions. While this is not necessarily satisfying for her (seriously, this is what girlfriends are for), his true feelings are loud and clear. For his part he also needs to know that words, hearing "those" words, are important to her. She has at her disposal a powerful non-verbal body language of her own that says: "Get on your own side". So you see a balance needs to be struck between words and actions for any relationship to be successful. This proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am deaf, dumb and blind. But, hey, I'm speaking in generalities here...

So as I was saying... Every time we value only the words we are let down. And who lets us down? Ourselves, of course. If it is true that a huge percentage of human communication is actually non-verbal then relying on only the spoken word (or, again, the lack of them) is doing yourself a grave disservice. Listen to what his or her actions are telling you... And act accordingly.