Opposite Proverbs: How Leaders Mislead Themselves

June 19, 2013

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Opposite Proverbs

Opposite Proverbs

If you’re looking to persuade others (or even yourself), you can usually find a proverb that will support your position. Unfortunately, or tellingly, there’s usually a proverb that conflicts directly with your position, too. And, chances are, you’ve used both proverbs at one time or another!

Do you believe “Good things come in small packages” or “The bigger, the better”? Or does it fluctuate based upon context, stakes, and convenience?

As an executive coach, I test my clients’ beliefs and assumptions. Sometimes I’ll do it by using opposite proverbs, but my goal isn’t to make my clients look foolish or reconsider one particular decision. My goal is to help them find out what they really believe and why, and how individual beliefs fit in with their belief system as a whole. I want them to make decisions based upon a belief system they know and trust, and one that is aligned with their values, as well as the organization’s mission and vision.

If you find yourself quoting a proverb, remind yourself of the opposite proverb…because there is one if you search hard enough.

Opposite Proverbs

A man’s reach should exceed his grasp.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
Above all, to thine own self be true.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
It’s never too late to learn.
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
Good things come in small packages.
The bigger, the better.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
There’s no point in beating a dead horse.
He who hesitates is lost.
Act in haste, repent at leisure.
Two’s company, Three’s a crowd.
The more, the merrier.
Do it well, or not at all.
Half a loaf is better than none.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Better safe than sorry.
Never judge a book by its cover.
Clothes make the man.
Out of sight, out of mind.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Many hands make light work.
Too many cooks spoil the broth.
Actions speak louder than words.
The pen is mightier than the sword.
Never change horses in the middle of a stream.
Variety is the spice of life.
Practice makes perfect.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
A penny saved is a penny earned.
The love of money is the root of all evil.
Dig the well before you are thirsty.
Don’t cross the bridge till you come to it.
A miss is as good as a mile.
Half a loaf is better than none.
A miss is as good as a mile.
Something is better than nothing.
An old fox is not easily shared.
There’s no fool like an old fool.
A good beginning makes a good ending.
It’s not over till it’s over.
Blood is thicker than water.
Many kinfolk, few friends.

For more opposite proverbs, try this flashcard site.

Proverb-Free Leadership

Rather than draw upon proverbs to support your position, draw upon your values, vision, mission, and belief system.

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