I’ve created a brand new way of judging people. I’ve already started using it, and I want you to join me, and also judge everyone this way.
This new approach is incredibly simple, and is based on two well-known expressions “talk is cheap” and “actions speak louder than words”. This is now how I judge others:
- Whatever someone says is assigned a weighting of zero.
- Whatever someone actually does is assigned a weighting of 100.
It’s ruthless but fair, and it’s an idea whose time is overdue. I call it the “walk / talk ratio” – the ratio of the number of promises you make, to the number of promises that you actually keep. Ideally, this ratio should be 1:1, but how many of us can make that claim?
I first started thinking about this idea after I watched an episode of All In The Family (Mike’s Move, Season 6, Episode 19). Mike & Gloria were planning to move to Minnesota, but their plans fell through. Afterwards, Archie told Mike that he had intended to pay for their plane tickets. Mike was very grateful for this expression of generosity. After they left, Edith said “Archie, that was so sweet of you, offering to pay their plane fare” and then asked him if he really meant it. Archie replied “Certainly not, but when being generous don’t cost you nothin’… you might as well go all the way”.
Promising something, whether it’s small or grandiose, costs us nothing – in time, energy or money – and that’s why promises are so easy to make. This is why I now assign a value of zero to them. However, people seem to be impressed by promises and assign not only a considerable value to them, but also hold in high regard, the people who make them. One notable example of this is in pop culture – specifically, songs about courtship. In 1965, The Yardbirds recorded a song called For Your Love, and its lyrics are nothing more than a series of mostly empty and impractical promises. Here’s a sample:
“For your love, I’d give the stars above”.
“I’d give the moon if it were mine to give.
I’d give the stars and the sun for I live”.
The singer wants this girl’s love (and whatever else her love might entail) and in return he promises things that are impossible to deliver. He is offering her nothing, yet he expects something tangible from her. I trust women are able to see through this nonsense.
A more recent musical example is a song called Grenade by Bruno Mars. He uses a similar technique – trying to prove his devotion to a woman by promising ridiculous things. Here are some sample lines:
“I’d catch a grenade for ya, throw my head on a blade for ya”
“I’d jump in front of a train for ya, take a bullet straight through my brain for ya”
It costs him nothing to say this, yet he seems to genuinely believe that he’s bringing something of value to the relationship table with these grandiloquent assertions, and is then truly baffled that this woman is not enamoured with him. What’s even more egregious, is that he is unable to construct a grammatically-correct sentence out of his plethora of empty promises. He ends each sentence with “for ya” instead of “for you”, which in my opinion should automatically disqualify him as serious boyfriend material.
I mentioned the relationship between actions and words in a previous blog post called The Conditions of Forgiveness. In this post, I described my impatience with people (especially celebrities) who behave poorly, apologize only when they’re caught, and then expect forgiveness immediately. I’m always tempted to say to these people “I don’t care if you’re sorry, or how deeply sorry you are. The only thing that matters is how you behave in the future”.
Another example of people who are “all talk, no action” are these well-intentioned but annoying individuals who post the following items on their Facebook wall “[Disease du jour] sucks! Let’s try to eradicate it this year! Post this on your wall for one hour in honour of those who are fighting [disease du jour]…”. All of this sounds noble, but it accomplishes absolutely nothing. What astounds me, even more than the insipidness of these posts, are the number of “likes” that they receive beneath their message. If you clicked “Like” then you’ve accomplished just as much as someone who ignored the message. If these people really want to eradicate this [disease du jour], then they should go to university, earn a chemistry or biology degree and become a medical researcher. That would impress me. If they aren’t scientist material, then they could pull out their chequebook and donate some money to a hospital or to a related charity. This past week, the Slaight family of Toronto donated $50 million to the Princess Margaret Hospital, for cancer research – it was the largest cancer research donation ever in Canada. For those who are posting in honour of someone who has the disease, then the least they could do is visit an afflicted person and offer their support, encouragement and companionship, rather than posting a Facebook message for one hour “in their honour”. Re-posting a message on Facebook costs nothing – in time, money or energy – and while I’m sure those who do this think highly of themselves, my opinion of them remains unchanged.
Now that I’ve started evaluating people based solely on their actions, rather than on their words or even their best intentions, my environment has changed completely; my world is suddenly full of phonies. People everywhere seem to expect admiration from their parents, friends or love interests, but they don’t actually invest any time, energy or money to earn it. All they offer are words and promises, which cost nothing to utter. The true test of one’s character is being able to deliver on one’s promises. Whenever I hear someone promise something (to me or to anyone), my first thought is usually “Don’t look at me and expect any approbation. It doesn’t matter what you say – the only thing that matters is what you do”. I will admit that this approach does makes it difficult to judge politicians; I haven’t yet devised an accurate method for choosing the best candidate – or more accurately, the one who sucks the least.
In all fairness, I am also applying this new philosophy to myself, and analyzing my own “walk / talk ratio”. Whenever I promise something, I make mental a note of it, and then write it down so that I won’t forget about it. My goal is to have a 1:1 walk / talk ratio – to deliver everything I promised, and within the stipulated time frame. From time to time, I’ll even ask people if I’ve delivered everything I promised, so that they aren’t fuming in silence.
When I need inspiration, I look to the unlikeliest of characters: Ebenezer Scrooge. At the end of A Christmas Carol, after Scrooge wakes up on Christmas morning as a transformed man, the narrator states “Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all and infinitely more”. By giving more than he promised, Scrooge’s walk / talk ratio surpassed 1:1. That’s laudable because it’s above and beyond our own current behavioural expectations – as soon as the obligations are met, there is no reason to do any more. No one I know ever delivers more than they promise.
The walk / talk ratio is my new method for calculating the worthiness of others, and getting my own ratio down to 1:1 is also my rigorous personal goal. You’re welcome to join me, and if you choose to do so, here is my mantra: strive to be like the enlightened Ebenezer Scrooge; be better than your word, and when possible, deliver more than you promise.