I often find myself – in day to day conversation – using common phrases/sayings that I have been taught and heard as I’ve grown up. But I’ve learnt to also reflect on those sayings and see how true they are – and whether they are “truisms” in a real sense. Most recently, I was thinking about the phrase “actions speak louder than words”.
I was thinking about this in respect of two experiences that I’ve had in the last month or so. The first experience was at a conference that we held which was focussed on disability in the workplace. The conference audience was made up of around 50% of people with a disability – whether visible/physical or not visible (such as mental health or learning difficulties). Very soon after the event had begun, a young man at the front of the auditorium raised his hand. The conference facilitator then asked him what he would like to say – and he declared that he had a learning disability – but that some of his colleagues who he was sitting with had hearing difficulties – and that one was deaf. For this reason, he asked the facilitator whether – instead of people clapping and applauding as they would do normally, they be asked to wave their hands in the air (sort of “jazz hands style”). This – he informed us – was the common sign for applause in the deaf community.
The facilitator agreed to this request – and asked the audience to adopt this approach. The impact of this on people was fascinating. Some people loved it – and immediately adapted to the change – and we saw a sea of hands across the room when someone had finished their presentation or had made a particularly pertinent point. Others struggled with the idea including myself) – and continued to applaud in the standard fashion – before then converting to the “jazz hands” when they realised that theirs was a lonely gesture! But – by the end of the day – everybody (including me) had got the hang of it and the applause was signalled by a wave of hands across the room.
I thought this was a great idea – and brought a whole new atmosphere to the event. Because people were more conscious of the action they were doing – applauding felt like a much more engaging and “celebratory” activity. Some people I spoke to afterwards didn’t feel quite the same – but the majority agreed that (on this occasion) actions were louder than words (in the form of the noise of clapping).
So that was very much a collective activity. Then yesterday I – like millions of people across the country – chose to respect the 72-second silence for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire. Unfortunately, at midday, I was actually driving. So I was on my own in a car in the middle of the countryside as midday approached. But I was on a long, straight stretch of road – and it was safe for me to stop the car and get out and stand. (I felt more comfortable/natural being outside doing this – than just sitting in the car somehow).
So there I was – standing at the side of the road, head slightly bowed (in respect) and just gathering my thoughts. I’d stopped a bit earlier than 12 – just to make sure I didn’t miss the midday “deadline” – and was just gathering my thoughts. Then someone pulled up in a car just behind mine and asked me if I’d broken down. I said no – and told them why I’d stopped. “Oh” they said “I’d forgotten about that. Thank you for reminding me. Could I stand with you?” Of course, I said yes – and so there we were – two people standing at the side of the road in the middle of the Cambridgeshire countryside – effectively praying/ contemplating for a couple of minutes. After that, we simply acknowledged each other for what we had done, shook hands and went our separate ways.
A lot of words have been – and will be – spoken about the Grenfell tragedy. I think though what this experience proved to us both is that again – on this occasion – actions had definitely spoken louder than words.
Paul Deemer is a guest blogger at nStratagem and is Head of Diversity and Inclusion at NHS Employers, UK. You can find out more about Paul in our People section and about his work at NHS Employers via LinkedIn or Twitter.
** The views, information, words, concepts or opinions expressed in our blogs, articles and blog articles are solely the opinions of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of nStratagem, its employees or its affiliated companies.
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