Actions Really Do Speak Louder

Actions Really Do Speak Louder

“Actions speak louder than words.”

That’s a pretty well-known maxim. It’s right up there with “don’t spit in the wind” and “five dollar footlong” when it comes to familiarity.

For my non-native English speakers out there, that quote means that doing has more impact that speaking. But, I bring this up because there’s both an English and communication lesson in there.

The other day I was caught in traffic and running late to a client session. I texted him a heads up, and he replied back with:

“Safe driving”

I understood him, of course, and it’s a very easy fix: drive safe. In that correction we have good rule of thumb to follow. Focus more on the action (i.e. verbs) rather than the nouns.

Think about it conversationally:

  • Have fun
  • Be safe
  • Enjoy the movie
  • Have a good night

Too often, in the pursuit of trying to translate from one’s native language, there’s too much focus on finding the right descriptor or single word choice. Even if you find it, you’ll sound unnatural.

Here, you don’t need big vocabulary, and if need be you can always explain in more detail. That rings true in the professional world. When you have to talk about yourself in an interview, you can’t use fancy words to describe yourself. You’ll sound pompous and unrelatable. You can, however, simply state what you do:

  • X I’m very organized. –> I put all my files in alphabetical/chronological order
  • X I’m very creative. –> I prefer to make my own templates instead of…
  • X I’m a good communicator. –> When I’m at a social, I try to talk to as many people as possible.

Use those verbs, mmkay?

First Time Interview Tips

First Time Interview Tips

Why is so much interview advice out there so basic? Well for one, the process as a whole is flawed– interviews are not the best way to gauge a person’s ability. And that’s why you’ll hear two points repeated so often: 1) appear professional 2) do your research.

After that, it’s more or less how well you can show your personality. The first time going through an interview, you might not have any idea what interviewers are watching for. Let’s see if we can get you to express yourself a little better.

Don’t Bring (Up) Your Parents

Okay, so aside from physically bringing your parents to the interview site (please don’t do that), you should also minimize any time spent discussing them.

Maybe your parents influenced you. Maybe they’re your heroes. That’s all great on a personal level. But too much talk about Mom and Dad forces the perception that you’re still their kid.

In a job interview, you need to look like an adult. You’re your own person. You don’t need Mom and Dad. The interviewer is looking for independence, not neediness.

Match Your Application

Walk the walk and talk the talk. Sure, plenty of people embellish their resume a little here and there, but you can’t drop the ball on the follow through.

To be even better in person is a great thing. To be the complete opposite is a major flub. If you say you’re creative and quick thinking, you need to back that up. If you claim to know a certain process or system, you need to talk through like you do.

The interviewer is looking for any evidence that you’re a big fat liar.

Don’t Lose Your Shit

Interviews can be intimidating. Sometimes the person interviewing might want to pull the whole “bad cop” routine on you. But here’s the thing: sometimes the “hard questions” don’t have any good answers.

In that case, the interviewer is trying to see how well you handle under pressure. When you don’t know, do you stop completely? Or do you still make an effort to consider alternatives?

When you’re under pressure, do you crack? Most interviewers can understand nervousness, but it’s hard to give you the benefit of the doubt if you’re a sobbing mess.

The interviewer is looking out for crybabies.

Don’t Geek Out

You’ll see this often in job listings: “looking for a passionate X to join the team”. And it’s true, an enthusiastic worker will always shine bright and be desired.

Keep in mind, there’s a difference between being energetic and nutso. You still want to have a sense of relatability. You still want to come off as, you know, a real human being.

And that’s the problem with geeking out. When you crank things up to 11, you’re in deep waters that can turn people off. It’s a similar conundrum of being a fan versus being starstruck.

The interviewer is looking out for the crazies.

Don’t Let the Job be “The Dream”

Maybe you’re applying for a gig that would be a dream come true. Maybe it’s a position that for real has always been a dream.

That’s personal talk. You can’t bring that into the interview itself.

No hiring manager wants to have that conversation. It’s unnecessary pressure. Your eagerness can easily be misconstrued as desperation. They don’t want to know how hard your life will be if you don’t get the job.

This goes back to appearing professional. Give the impression of cool and collected. The interviewer needs to know that you’ve got a level head, and you’ll be okay no matter the outcome.



Screw the Basics

Screw the Basics

First, learn to crawl. Then, it’s learn to stand up on your own. After that, you’ll eventually take your first steps. And that’s all there is to life.

Er, that’s what babies do, I guess? I don’t have kids, but I think that setup works.

My point being: we’re really comfortable with the idea of systematic, sequential order. Move from point “A” to “B”. Textbooks are made so that if you can grasp Chapter 1, you should in theory be better prepared for Chapter 2.

Sometimes we look for that extra edge– a shortcut of some kind– but ultimately we know that we have to put in the time and effort.

And don’t get me wrong, basics are important. It’s something I preach on the fitness front constantly. But something that takes priority over the basics: context.

It Sucks When You Struggle with “Basic Words”

One of the things I like to do with my clients is have designated time for small talk. These people are sharp in their field, but struggle with speaking about the simple things. This happens because of a difference in invested time (i.e. more time spent on communicating their job specialty and very little time speaking about anything else).

The topic at hand was “Dine-In Movie Theaters”. I asked if being able to eat a real meal while watching a movie was appealing to him.

Client goes, “I’m okay as long as people aren’t too [loud] when they [chew].”

Except, he couldn’t remember the words “loud” and “chew”. And that’s when the pity party began.

“Oh Jon, it’s terrible. These words are so basic, but I couldn’t even remember them. Maybe I should study vocabulary lists.”

Now remember: context. Sure, these are pretty basic words, but for this client’s lifestyle– is there any real necessity for that vocabulary?

I’m going to argue “no”.

Would it be nice if he had these words in his arsenal? Maybe. But going back to drilling vocabulary lists like schools do? That’s a lifestyle for a student, not a man with a wife, kids, and a full time job that requires overtime.

And, as much as the pain might sting in not being able to remember “loud” and “chew” in that moment, the chances of him remembering them now are much higher. Hey, sometimes shame can be useful– just as long as you drive things forward and don’t dwell on it.

Breaking the Sequence

Going in order works until it doesn’t.

Using the examples from beginning: sometimes the earlier chapters of the book aren’t going to prep you for what’s to come. And sometimes “Point A” and “Point B” don’t really have any real connection either.

People do jump further along without always knowing why they can comprehend things like they do. Look at music. Look at sports. Look at popularity.

You can call it talent or God-given gifts. The label doesn’t matter.

What you know and what you’re supposed to know are always going to be effected by the context. Failing to recognize that, and more importantly refusing to acknowledge context in favor of idealizing a system approach is super duper dumb.


Speaking Out of Order

Speaking Out of Order

Remember: speaking has a certain flow. When you follow the right kind of sequence, you sound smooth. When you deviate, something sounds “off”.

If you’re learning English, you’ll be tempted to over-commit to certain phrases. Unfortunately, that makes you sound more robotic than natural. Here’s a good example from Japan:

A: Hi, how are you?

B: I’m fine, thank you. And you?

There’s nothing technically wrong with that, but without any room for deviation, it sounds pretty dull.

Breaking away from the mold needs some nuance and balance. Take this recent exchange with a client for example. Tetsuo wanted to know the opposite of “I’m busy”. We have a whole range of expressions:

  • I’m free.
  • I have nothing on my schedule.
  • Today’s slow.

They all essentially mean the same, but the method for using them can differ. “I’m free” is the most universal because it can be a reply or a general statement. The sentence about the schedule explains the reason. The day feeling slow is a commentary.

If you’re talking out loud and say, “Today’s slow.” No problem. On the other hand, if this was a conversation exchange:

A: Are you free?

B: Today’s slow.

Something sounds “off”. The reason is the sequence is out of order. Something is missing.

A: Are you free?

B: Yeah, I have nothing on my schedule. Today’s slow.

That sounds better. The combination works. Now, the trick is to not become too obsessed with the setup of the sequence. This is where people get trapped in extended small talk.

Just think of it this way: before you explain or provide commentary, you need to address the point first.

If you get ahead of yourself, that’s fine. Giving a detailed explanation or personal comment earlier works out okay, just as long as you have everything together in the end.

A: Are you free?

B: Today’s slow. [Personal Commentary] I have nothing on my schedule. [Explanation implies the answer]

Note: when I talk about speaking “out of order”, don’t confuse that with speaking “out of turn” (i.e. interrupting). In fact, I think for many passive speakers, they need to learn to be more aggressive and cut people off. Even in an interruption, you can be fluent. Native speakers interrupt all the time!