58 years of life and 37 years in business have taught me one undeniable and unforgiving lesson: watch what people do, not what they say.
There was never a truer statement than, “talk is cheap”.
I don’t believe that people blatantly lie or mislead. I do believe we are all guilty at times of speaking without great thought or conviction. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to sift through all the conversations one has in a day and determine when people “mean” what they are saying, and when they are “just talking”.
How many times have people said, “be a good listener”. I have a better suggestion. Be a good “watcher”. Talk is subjective. Action is objective.
When I base my opinion of people and situations on what actually happens as opposed to what is talked about, I feel very liberated. I don’t have to labor over every discussion, try to drill down on specifics and come away with an agreement or understanding on every issue. This probably sounds counterintuitive to every class you took or manager conversation you have had. We are taught from a very young age to listen intently, hold people responsible to what they say and commit to. So, how is that working for you? Are you usually disappointed with people’s follow through? Are their actions incongruent with discussions you have had, agreements you negotiated?
I am not suggesting to eliminate conversations... they are necessary. Nor am I suggesting to be rude or dismissive in a conversation. Actually, quite the opposite. You can freely and intently listen to what people are telling you. However, it’s meaningless talk until you see action. I call it necessary/useless conversation. It is necessary to have the conversation, but it is useless without action.
There is no need to overreact to what people say. The best examples I can think of are political campaigns. How many times in our history have politicians run on a platform that bears no resemblance to what they do once in office? Throughout history, it’s repeated over and over again. Yet, we parse politicians' words via multiple 24/7 cable news networks with mind numbing regularity, arguing what the candidate/politician said and meant by a statement.
How about we simply judge the politician (or anyone else) on what they do, not what they say. Actions are objective. They can be evaluated.
Here are a few examples of our former presidents' actions vs. what they campaigned on:
Woodrow Wilson: I will keep our “boys” out of foreign wars. Sent millions of “boys” to Europe in WWI.
Franklin D. Roosevelt: Champion of the underprivileged. Locked up Japanese Americans in prison camps.
Harry Truman: Dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan. Fired McArthur for wanting to drop nuclear bombs on Korea.
John Kennedy: Railed against organized crime with his brother. Helped by organized crime to be elected and shared mistress with mob boss.
Richard Nixon: Law and order president. Approved Watergate break-in and subsequent cover up.
Ronald Reagan: I will never negotiate with terrorists. Negotiated with Iran.
George Bush: Read my lips, no new taxes. Raised taxes.
Bill Clinton: Women's rights are critically important to me. Engaged in oral sex with a 21 year old intern in the oval office.
George W. Bush: Human rights, spread of democracy. Waterboarding.
Barrack Obama: No red states or blue states, just United States. Clinging to bibles and guns.
Donald Trump: We will see. Bizarre so far.
Each of these men also did great things during their terms. Judge people on what they do, not what they say. If you believe what they say, you will be profoundly disappointed most of the time and angry the rest.
In the day to day life of regular people, I will always base my opinions on what I see, not what I hear. If this became the norm in our country, we might be able to eliminate cable news.