Do actions really speak louder than words?

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You’ve probably heard this phrase more than once, or twice, or even three times. Really, it’s probably the most popular cliché of the English language.

So, let’s get down to the question: do actions really speak louder than words?

Here’s the short answer: yes, they do. For the most part, seeing how a person acts will give a clue as to how they feel and think.

But of course, this would be a pretty dumb article if I ended there. Because now we get to the extended answer. It begins with a no.

No, actions don’t actually speak louder than words. I mean, can you really understand a person’s motives just by looking at one action? Or two? Or five? Because people can do the exact same outward action for different inward reasons.

What I’m saying is that, like a picture, a single action, or in fact, a series of actions, can be viewed under different lenses; and people can draw different conclusions. Yes, there’s no doubt actions “speak” volumes more than words do; however, the speech coming from actions is garbled. Unless you’ve been with a person through their entire journey (and even then), you can’t really guess their motive. They only way to find out definitively is if they tell you.

Here’s an example. Suppose a person is a huge proponent of a controversial product (say McDonald’s), and while many others oppose it, they support it unconditionally.

Of course, there might be different reasons why that person supports McDonald’s they way they do. Maybe they

  • have shares in McDonald’s.
  • think that McDonald’s is a good place for kids to get jobs.
  • got their first job at McDonald’s.
  • really like the food.
  • really like the Happy Meal toys.

As you can see, there are many different reasons this person might like McDonald’s. But for the most part, they probably result in the same action: when given a choice between similar places to eat, they’d probably go for McDonald’s over other places. However, we, on the seeing end, only see the action. To know why they’re going to heart attack land, the person would have to tell us directly. With words.

Going on a slight tangent, you’ve probably noticed a handful of popular clichés involving words, such as the one we’re discussing. But there are others. Like, “a picture is worth 1,000 words”, and the like. Honestly, I think such clichés, idioms, or whatever we call them, are rather demeaning of words. We’re still using words, aren’t we? In fact, we’re using words to make those clichés. So obviously words must serve some purpose, or else, by now, we’d have completely switched to another form of communication.

Anyway, my main point is that while words without actions can be easy to understand, actions, without words, aren’t as easy. Or really, actions may speak louder, but louder doesn’t mean clearer. One can figure that out just look at the nearest kid screaming and yelling.

Anyway, if actions did, definitively, speak louder than words, I would’ve just uploaded a interpretive dance video instead of writing this thing.

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