Analects 5:9

Confucius said

… At first, my method/attitude/evaluation with others was to listen to what they said, and expect them to act accordingly.

Now my method with others is to listen to what they say, and then observe what they do.

Tsai Yu being asleep during the daytime, the Master said, “Rotten wood cannot be carved; a wall of dirty earth will not receive the trowel. This Yu!—what is the use of my reproving him?”

The Master said, “At first, my way with men was to hear their words, and give them credit for their conduct. Now my way is to hear their words, and look at their conduct. It is from Yu that I have learned to make this change.” L

At first, my way of dealing with others was to listen to their words and to take their actions upon trust. Now, my way is to listen to what they say and then to watch what they do. G

At one time, when I wanted to judge of a man, I listened to what he said, and I knew for certain what he would do in his life. But now, when I want to judge of a man, I have to look at what he does in his life as well as listen to what he says. K

My attitude towards a man in my first dealings with him was to listen to his professions and to trust to his conduct. My attitude now is to listen to his professions, and to watch his conduct. J

In my first dealings with men, I hearkened to their words, and took their deeds on trust. Now, in dealing with men, I hearken to their words, and watch their deeds. H


We should not make assumptions or harbor self-deception—and thus, we should avoid assuming that a person’s speech will or will not correspond with his conduct, and we should not refuse to intwarldy acknowledge when a person says one thing but does another.