Leadership Thought #291 – Don’t Fall In Love With Your Own Opinions

January 26, 2012

Passionate vs. Opinionated - The 7 Distinctions | Psychology Today

There is nothing wrong with having strong opinions but always remember this doesn’t mean you are right.  There is a difference between a fact based opinion and experiential opinion.  In one case you are actually using hard facts and objective data to state you position.  In the other case, you are relying more on subjective experience and personal beliefs to make your point.  The dangerous thing about experiential opinions is that they are grounded solely on the personal filters of the advocate.  They are also based on a singular and usually somewhat stunted view of reality.  Being louder and more passionate about something will certainly garner attention, however, once again this doesn’t mean you are right and very often means you are rude, close-minded and/or a poor listener.

In all types of relationships you can either fight fair or fight dirty.  When I observe someone getting personally critical with another person and/or talking over them rather than focusing on the topic at hand, I assume they want to fight dirty because they know they have a weaker position or are simply intellectually lazy.  Leaders can’t afford to have their decisions overly laced with or influenced by their own or other’s strong opinions.  Reality has a way of overcoming obstinacy.  At minimum, professional reputation is a function of how you are perceived to think and make decisions, as well as how you comport yourself.  Power may provide you with the platform to be self righteous and a blowhard, but these same actions hinder your ability to create true followership and garner long term support.  You ever notice how the student in the classroom who thinks they are the smartest person rarely is and everyone else comes to this conclusion fairly early on.

Unfortunately, I believe America is becoming a country that is increasingly governed by and reveres strong opinions and ideology rather than empirical evidence and collective self-interest.  It has always been much easier to divide people instead of uniting them.  Most of us would rather validate what we already believe over accepting a contrary point of view.   We are great at preparing to talk, but terrible with active listening.  Defaulting to attacking someone else’s positions is an easy trap to fall into.  What we fail to realize is that progress is a direct result of challenging the status quo and opening our minds to new ideas and concepts.  As stated in many other blogs, no one person or group of people has the market cornered on good ideas. They just think they do. Once you think you know it all, please give the reigns of power to someone else. Of course it’s important to be decisive but make sure you committed to making the right decision not just doing what is intellectually convenient or plays to your own personal prejudices and/or vulnerabilities.  If you fall in love with your own opinions you limit your potential for results and for building strong personal and professional relationships.