You might have been there. I have. You’re sitting opposite someone and they’re promising you the world. What’s more, they say the world can come to you quickly, or impressively, with seemingly little effort, as long as you follow their lead.
This could be a partnership, a supplier-relationship or a friend. Perhaps someone you’re interviewing. As you’re listening to them, you can’t help but notice a niggling feeling of doubt creeping in. Should you ignore it, or is it trying to tell you something?
How do you differentiate the inflated stories from the substance? The embellishment from the real traction? Here’s how to tell if someone is all talk.
They play down the effort involved
Anyone who has reached a level of success knows what they put in to get there. It wasn’t overnight. It was likely years of consistent actions in the right direction that built up over time. These people can take inspiration from the wins of others because they can understand the huge effort that went into achieving them.
If you’re hearing a narrative of winning really big for barely any effort, or time outlay, or commitment, it’s probably not a serious opportunity. It’s probably not grounded in reality. Get out of there pronto.
Their stories don’t match
Perhaps someone is trying to get you on board with their idea and seeking a commitment. They namedrop others who have already signed up. But when you bump into those others it’s a very different story. Who is telling the truth?
Someone who is all talk will namedrop in an attempt to convince you to be part of their scheme. They’ll exaggerate the buy-in they’ve had, spin you a yarn without keeping track of it and it’ll have changed the next time you ask.
Ignorance can be bliss. Before someone is hardened by rejection or failure, barrelling forward with relentless optimism will come easily. It’s a great quality to have and should be encouraged, but going along with it without question will leave you blindsided.
There’s a difference between an ambitious vision for the way forward and an unresearched pipe dream. Can you spot the difference?
How others talk about them
People talk and the world is a small place. When you mention this person to mutual friends, listen carefully to the response. Quiz them. Should I join forces with them? Their reputation will likely become yours, so be absolutely sure before going any further.
People with whom you want to partner are those whose praises are sung behind their back. Those who have been admired and respected wherever they walk. Whose work precedes them and whose reputation is solid.
They’ve let you down before
People are largely consistent, and if someone has let you down before, not only will they let you down again, but they will have let others down too. If they’re late for you, they’re late for their friends, customers and colleagues. If they cut corners, they’ll have been doing it for a lifetime.
Freak occurrences do happen, but there’s a difference between one genuine mistake and consistent let-downs. If someone has let you down before, give them a wide berth. Remember how you felt last time and what it cost you. Why would it be different now?
No real track record
True success is humble and quiet. Hot air is loud and brash. Being talked to like an equal, presented with reasonable arguments and confidently told about the opportunity is a start, but look past that to someone’s track record. If someone has not managed to turn any of their hare-brained schemes into a roaring success, they might have just been unlucky or there might be something fundamentally wrong with their approach.
People are far more likely to succeed in business if they have done so previously. Stack the odds in your favour. Decide if you want to be part of it or if you’ll sit it out. You can help without getting involved. You can offer guidance without signing a contract.
If you get a niggling feeling that something isn’t right, find out why. Go through the points to assess whether someone is all talk with plans not likely to transpire.
This isn’t about dismissing anyone or being unkind, this is about focusing on your plans and mission first. Partnerships with the real deal can transform your business, but make sure that’s what this is. Put your own life jacket on before helping others and remember you can always say no.