If we want people to take us seriously – and more importantly, if we want to take ourselves seriously – then our actions have to match our words.
This applies to all our relationships. Early on with my kids, I used to make threats I couldn’t possibly carry out. (Like kick an eight-year-old son out of the house for good.) I’d threaten that unless they cleaned their room, they wouldn’t be able to watch TV until the year 2067. Being smarter than me, they soon figured out those threats were things I’d never do.
I realized that my kids didn’t take me seriously because my actions didn’t match my words.
We all know people who say they’ll do something and they’re as reliable as the weather in San Francisco. (Everyone quotes Mark Twain saying, “The coldest winter I ever spent was the summer in San Francisco,” but scholars haven’t been able to find the quote. And on snopes, the writer says it’s an example of treppenwitz, the wit of the stairway, the perfect comeback line you remember after you’ve already walked down the stairs. The website linked above calls it, “blinding flashes of intellect…Just a little too late.” (Check it out for fascinating analyses.
We have to be consistent in word and deed. As Malcolm Gladwell wrote in Blink, “When someone says, ‘I love you,’ we look into that person’s eyes to judge his or her sincerity.” That’s the first impression – the moment before the blink. After that, we have to judge them by their actions. If they say, “I love you,” every morning and then insult you every evening, we soon learn we can’t trust them. (And we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that we can.)
For instance, I have a friend who always says she wants to get together with me but each time we make plans, she cancels or changes the time or squeezes me in on the way to somewhere else. (That’s called over-booking which is accepted in certain circles but which drives me crazy.) So I’ve learned to listen to her words and make a plan with her but always have a back-up plan in case she’s a no-show.
Do you have something you say you’re going to do but never get around to?