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Your actions speak so loudly that we cannot hear what you are saying




It is often said, ‘Actions speak louder than words’ when we are talking about integrity between our actions and our words.

However, when the title of this post appeared in my Twitter feed, what struck me was that it could be interpreted in a number of ways and that it speaks a compelling message about leadership in particular and life in general.


Your actions speak so loudly that we cannot hear what you are saying.

If I am saying one thing but my actions communicate something quite different, it is quite obvious that the message in both actions and words will be lost amidst the dissonance of actions versus words. Or worse, inaction or the lack of action renders the words empty and void. In a leadership role, it is very easy to say something and then not act on it because of work load pressures, for example. In this case, it pays to say less and then do more than you say – and, where possible, delegate action to someone known for their ability to carry things through.

And remember that old chestnut,

Promise little but deliver much.


Your actions speak so loudly that we cannot hear what you are saying.

If my actions are in harmony with my words, observers will see that my actions embody my words. The message is compelling and the fact that actions follow words provides weight and credibility to the message. Having an accountability system in place helps to ensure I follow through our promises: as a leader, I can draw on my team and ask them to make me accountable to them for my words and actions. For example, when decision-making, I will ask team-members to hold me to account on the decisions I have made.


Your actions speak so loudly that we cannot hear what you are saying.

You need not, of course, say anything. Perhaps the most compelling, of course, is actions that are not accompanied by words. The actions become a living example of a message that demands to be heard. The person who leads by example through their actions need not say a word. Consider the examples of Mohandas Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela, compelling in their actions more often than in their words.

John Locke emphasises this point:

I have always thought the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts.

And Amit Kalantri urges us:

To assess the quality of thoughts of people, don’t listen to their words, but watch their actions.

And, if we’re still not convinced about the far-reaching impact of our actions, consider the words of Mohandas Gandhi:

Carefully watch your thoughts, for they become your words.
Manage and watch your words, for they will become your actions.
Consider and judge your actions, for they have become your habits.
Acknowledge and watch your habits, for they shall become your values.
Understand and embrace your values, for they become your destiny.


For a completely different take on this quote, please read the post by my friend and blogging buddy, Nicola Marshall, who, as an adoptive parent, considers the needs of children whose behaviour is such that their actions are so loud that you cannot hear what they are saying.

How does P4C impact on a child’s resilience?


Master Isolated Images courtesy of Free Digital Photos

When did you last get asked to justify what you are doing? It might be challenging but it’s healthy and it helps you to be clear about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. As Socrates said in a time before mine,

The un-examined life is not worth living.

During a recent Philosophy for Children (P4C) INSET, I was asked the following:

What’s the link between P4C and resilience? How does P4C impact on a child’s resilience?

Great question. I was modeling P4C with the staff after having spent the day delivering P4C workshops with classes. And there should always be a good reason for what we ask children (or staff) to do. So I attempted to come up with a good answer. So how – and why – does P4C impact on children’s resilience (stick-ability, bounce-back-ability)? I bang on about resilience (and resilient thinking, in particular) a lot in my workshops, training events and school assemblies because I know it makes such a difference to outcomes – and overall success – in life.

However, resilience isn’t something you can just talk about, lecture people on or deliver a set of instructions on – it’s not like a cooking recipe. It has to be identified, explained, modeled – and promoted and practised in activities which offer a safe and secure bedding ground for growing resilience. So that’s why I use P4C.

But how does P4C impact on resilience per se? Those who have used P4C with children will have their own stories to tell about their observations. Here’s a couple of mine: I usually divide a class into smaller groups for part of a P4C discussion, especially when they are required to come to a consensus about an idea. On this particular occasion, a group included some fairly strong-minded characters, few of whom were prepared to agree on a single idea (the intended outcome). When it came to a time for each group to submit their chosen idea (from among the several they had aired), the said group were unable to offer anything  – but they were prepared to admit that they couldn’t come to an agreement. I always aim to use humour to defuse a potentially difficult situation so I made light of it and challenged the group to spend a little more time to come to an agreement. Within minutes, they had, indeed, resolved whatever issue had prevented agreement and we moved on.

In terms of resilience, the children had to relinquish pride and accommodate each other’s perspectives. This takes risk but it builds mutual trust and respect and, in the end, resilient thinking (what I define as the capacity to hold and justify a perspective whilst taking account of others’ and, if necessary, adapting one’s own thinking accordingly).

However, that wasn’t the most important outcome of that particular experience: I asked them (and the rest of the class) to evaluate the session and to state what had helped them to think, to create, new ideas, to communicate, to communicate – to solve problems (and, sometimes, collaboration – or NOT collaborating – IS the problem). Invariably, children will identify not only the skills they have been using and how well they have been using them – but also why they are important.

The structure of P4C doesn’t just impact on children’s ability to ask ‘out there’ questions – it massively impacts on their communication and collaboration skills. Within P4C circles, four important realms of thinking (all ‘c’ words) emerge within a so-called ‘community of enquiry’, as put forward by Matthew Lipman, the acknowledged founder of ‘Philosophy for Children:

Critical thinking – giving reasons and evidence

Creative thinking – generating and building on ideas

Co-operative or Collaborative thinking – engaging in thoughtful discussion

Caring thinking – developing awareness of self and care of others.

  I’ve added a couple of my own, which I think are pertinent to children in the 21st century :

Concentrated thinking – focusing on, and exploring, a specific topic for a sustained period of time

Controlled thinking – being measured, mature and rational – and, if necessary, constrained.

 In Part 2, I explore more of the particular skills and attitudes relating to resilience that children are encouraged to develop as they undertake P4C exercises, including the capacity to develop imaginative thinking, communication of ideas, validation of thinking and more on that essential pre-requisite to collaborative thinking: building community.

Let your knees do the talking


Working with a Reception class recently, we recounted the well-known fairy tale of the Three Billy Goats Gruff. With a little imagination, a low-level chair became a bridge and a child duly took on the role of the troll. In this version, no less than six billy goats trip-trapped across that hapless troll’s bridge, much to his consternation.

The rest of the children joined in with trip-traps and rumbling (the troll’s hungry tummy) and the troll eventually received his comeuppance and was tipped into the river, never to be seen again.

You can imagine the enthusiasm of the 5-year-olds. So much so that they did it again in smaller groups outside – using an upturned crate for a bridge and building a wall of foam blocks behind which the troll could hide and spring up from. By far the most exciting part was the biggest billy goat knocking the wall down on top of the troll…

But don’t we all just love a good drama?

What is so compelling about role-play, about that often-admired but seldom acquired skill of acting?

At the start of a drama workshop, I often ask children when they last saw a drama – people acting. They respond with suggestions such as a Christmas nativity, a pantomime, a school trip – but are surprised when I state that most of them would have watched drama on their TVs the evening before.

Drama is a natural part of our human experience – we use it to communicate, to tell a story, to persuade, to deliver a message, to make sense of our humanity. Drama is compelling form of communication – and it sticks.

Drama requires us to capitalize on forms of communication that we take for granted: voice intonation, facial expression, body language. Try NOT using your voice, relying only on your body – let your knees do the talking. Children find drama empowering and they often surprise us with their insight, interpretation and ability. It brings out essential creativity and communication skills and, within a group, builds collaboration effectively. This clearly has the potential for impact on their learning and achievement right across the curriculum and, of course, in their relationships and personal well-being.

Even a troll can work that one out…


Some useful drama resource websites:


Image by Victor Habbick, courtesy of