Trust Their Lips but Watch Their Hips

I see Patrick Sloan around town from time to time and my greeting is always the same: “thanks for the tip”.

Pat was a volunteer coach for my grade school basketball team. During a game, a player faked me out, and he gave me this simple advice: “stay between your man and the basket and never take your eyes off their hips”.

When I asked why, he said, “their eyes will fool you, even their shoulders and feet can pretend they’re going a different direction, Timmy, but their hips always have to go with the rest of their body”.

I’ve played hundreds of games since then and always enjoyed that advice.  I’m slow. And as my brother, Terry, likes to say, “I can measure your vertical jump by running my credit card between your feet and the ground.” But I’m okay at defense, thanks to Pat.

This advice came back to me in another way this week, as several of my entrepreneurs are being juked by their vendors, customers and employees.  In one case, my friend is hearing the religious approach.  To me, he says, “Tim, I have to trust him…I go to church with him”.


It happened to me dozens of times.  I’m often a fool for someone who has a good rap.  (Salespeople are easily sold.)  But over time, I’ve added observation and time to my listening skills.  That is, I now remind myself and others to listen to the talk but then take time to observe their walk.

Or, as Pat said, we’re learning to keep our eyes on their hips.

We all acquire skills and habits, business and personal techniques to get what we want.  Certain folks, test what sells then incorporate that into their pitch whether they fully believe it or not.  Then danger comes for empathic people like me.

I’ve heard I’ve had a hard life in many forms. It’s often an attempt to gain and take advantage of my sympathy.

  1. We’re having a bit of a downturn in our business right now, or
  2. the late delivery was someone else’s fault, or my current favorite,
  3. please overlook that, remember we share Christian values.

I am a man of faith, but I learned to watch out for the guy whose eyes are pointed to the right while he’s dribbling past me to the left. I’ve learned the hard way to take time to get to know people so that I can have faith and verify.

Trust their lips but watch their hips.

You’ll know soon enough which direction they’re headed.


Tim McCarthy

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