As you begin to pay attention to the stories we tell each other, we begin to see they are everywhere. Many logical, seemingly plausible, and comforting in making us feel like we know when we really don’t.
Opinions are just another form of a story. Someone shares with us their perspective on a problem or situation. Possibly filled with exaggeration. Usually structured in a way that fits their view of the world. And then we are asked to respond to what we hear.
For most of my years, I always had a response when someone asked for my opinion. Wanting to seem helpful and to appear both smart and logical. What I have learned over time is that all opinions have the danger of simply being another story. I was as guilty of this as others.
Recently someone asked for my opinion on a situation they were presented with. My answer was simply “I have no opinion”. The reason I answered this way was I had never been faced with the situation they presented me with.
What I did have were questions. Questions that I could not answer but felt necessary to consider. My advice to the person was to seek out subject matter experts in the area first to hear their answers. Then I asked them to share them with me. At which time I could help them sort out what I thought should take priority in making their decision.
The dangers of seeking opinions are two-sided. The first is a danger we create by who we ask. If it’s a friend, most likely they may provide comfort or agreement but may not provide any perspective that would challenge what we believe to be true. When we seek only confirmation and comfort, we don’t learn anything. Leaving us exactly where we started with a high risk of disappointment in something lingering or reappearing in our lives.
Seeking opinions also can be dangerous in the responses we hear. Our initial instincts are to lunge at opinions that are similar to ours or provide us with comfort. Those that challenge our thinking get minimized or ignored. Especially when we do not take the time to determine if the person we are asking for an opinion either has expertise in the area we need help in or has life experience with the situation that confronts us.
To be open-minded is to accept the possibility that our thinking is flawed or incomplete. Taking time to reflect on why we seek others’ opinions important is critical in preparing ourselves for deep reflection. If we are not open-minded we will tend to only hear what we want to hear. If we honestly accept the power of being open-minded, then our listening will significantly improve. Giving us the opportunity to adjust our thinking. Leading to changes in our approach and actions that have a higher probability of effectiveness.
Remember, opinions can be simply stories or they can provide a helpful perspective. Why we are seeking opinion – comfort or hearing a different perspective – is important to judge what we hear. Most importantly, who we ask, by understanding who they are and where they have been, can make all the difference in the world.