Why do so many people’s actions take us off guard? Why then do we hit ourselves on the head and ask, “How could I not have seen this coming?!?!”
We’ve all had situations where we’ve met someone and their actions or words initially surprised us. The problem is that most of us tend to give others the “benefit of the doubt.” We downplay our surprise at others’ words or actions through rationalization.
- Lying: “He told me that he’s a very honest person, but he also admitted that sometimes you’ve got to lie to get the job done; I’m sure that I won’t be one of the people he’d lie to…”
- Incompetence: “He wasn’t fully prepared for our meeting, but I guess that’s because he was busy with other clients; I’m sure that once I hire him, he’ll have more of an incentive to really work for me…”
- Experience: “He assured me that he has over 20 years experience and has won a lot of awards in his field; I wonder why he didn’t recommend any solutions to my problems and just offered to do whatever I told him to do…”
- Inexperience: “He said that he wasn’t really knowledgeable about my problem, but that he would work hard with me to solve it; I wonder why he didn’t do any of the preliminary research before our first meeting…”
Do any of these situations sound familiar? Have you (like I have often done in the past) disregarded the disconnect when something just didn’t add up? When you noticed the incongruity between words and actions, did you keep that in mind as you moved forward in the relationship?
I’ve talked about this issue before in Paradigm Shifters #30 – Believe what people do, not what they say. Unfortunately, there seems to be an increase in the degree of disconnect between someone’s words, expressed priorities, and actions. Trying to determine the cause is beyond the scope of this paradigm shifter; instead we need to focus on how we can best respond to these disconnects.
The burning question that must be addressed is: “Is this person intentionally trying to deceive me OR does he/she really believe what it is that they are saying?? In other words, are they aware of the disconnect between their words and actions?
I admit that I tend to give the benefit of the doubt, so I believe that many people are unaware. However, I have also learned to notice this disconnect and to refer back to it when interpreting events and situations in that relationship.
Disconnects between words and actions don’t exist when people are living authentically.
If someone is living authentically, then there a strong foundation built on core values that underline everything that he or she does. These values are obvious. We can see them in their actions. And whether we agree with these values or not, we understand who that person is.
Whenever there is a disconnect between words and actions, we need to make conscious decisions in determining how to proceed:
#1: Notice your feelings of surprise or confusion. It’s not what people say that they’re going to do that matters; it truly is what they do that matters.
#2: Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification – repeatedly. If they are intentionally trying to deceive you, you’ll notice fidgeting and squirming – watch their body language. Also watch their eyes: if they can’t look at you, then they might be hiding something. However, if they’re really good at deception, repeatedly ask for clarification until YOU are fully satisfied; we often quit asking questions if we believe that we are making the other person too “uncomfortable.”
#3: Don’t forget your initial feelings as you move forward in the relationship. Ironically, people tend to be the most forthcoming about who they are when you first meet them. If their words or actions gave you pause, don’t just “pooh-pooh” your instincts. Respect those instincts – they are often insights working more on the subconscious level that haven’t fully filtered up into conscious levels of critical thinking.
#4: You have a choice in how (and if) the relationship progresses. There is no need to get in heated arguments if the disconnect continues. After all, you noticed the disconnect previously so you also play a role in how the relationship evolves. What you decide to do often depends on the degree of the disconnect AND the importance of those underlying values to you.
People are the foundation of any relationship – whether it’s personal or professional. Even in the age of B2B (business to business) marketing, we still have to create trusting relationships with the employees who represent the companies with whom we do business.
Trust your instincts, ask for clarification and proof, and, above all, believe people when they show you who they really are.
Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model. An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube. To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com.