Using Actions to Communicate

People talk a lot about communications. But what most people mean by “communications” is just talking. We have to communicate more, right? Meetings, emails, reports, decisions, etc. More words, basically. But people rarely see the direct and reciprocal relationship between communications and actions. Instead, they simply deliver a single message from their brain to someone else’s using words. Once they’ve done that, they’ve communicated. No iteration to press for understanding, no checking to see if messages resonate and lead to desired actions, no assertion of responsibility to clarify as often as necessary, no consent to mutually adjust expectations as things emerge. Just dump the words and run. That’s how most people communicate. Badly.

And that’s why communications comes up all the time. The inherent problems are never resolved because people don’t think through all the steps in the process. In fact, the delivery of words is only one very small part of communications. Also, if you rely only on words you need a lot of them to move people to actions. It’s simply not a very efficient way to communicate.

So, what’s a better way to communicate? Simple. Use actions. In fact, I can’t think of a better way to communicate anything than via action. Actions work. They resonate. They attract. They move. They generate other actions. And they do these things far more effectively than words. Some people who genuinely want to communicate well don’t realize this. They don’t know that actions themselves are communications, so they default to just trying to improve their verbal skills. Others shy away from using actions to communicate because actions are complex and more difficult to implement than just talking. Still others know full well that actions deliver clear messages so they intentionally don’t act so they can duck responsibility and hide behind obfuscation. Their words, basically.

Now, words can be used to support and amplify actions and clarify intent, but the fastest way to see through the meaninglessness of words is to judge their corresponding actions. So, are there any corresponding actions? If so, are those actions consistent with the words? If not, dismiss the words entirely and judge the actions alone. You’ll likely get a vastly different message. But beware. Many people have this consistency bit worked out, and they bend their words to fit their actions after the fact to persuade you they were consistent when reality clearly says otherwise. That’s spin. You can spot that when your stomach turns inside out as someone talks to you. Trust your gut, not your head. In the end a person’s action is the only communication you need to understand. And it’s your most effective tool to deliver your own communications as well.

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