I am a huge proponent of honesty in conversation, I feel we need more of it. But it seems we also need some guidelines on how to share that honesty. Here are three things to consider before sharing your opinion.
We live in a day and age where we firmly believe that our opinions are worth sharing and we have copious ways of sharing those opinions easily. Back in the day, if you read something in the paper you didn’t agree with you’d draft a strongly worded letter to the editor and by the time you finished writing it, found an envelope, figured out who to address it to, gone to the corner store to buy a stamp etc. you’d have had some time to cool down and more often than not people wouldn’t bother sending the letter.
Those days are O-V-E-R.
Now we are able to share our opinions with the world instantaneously. And I’m finding often times we share our opinions, on social media for example, on things we know very little about. In fact, we seem to be sharing our immediate - and often times irate - reactions to things with very little thought about the impact our words could have. These immediate reactions are often based solely on our opinion rather than our education, expertise or knowledge of a subject. But because we have gotten so used to these platforms that allow us the share our opinions so freely, we believe that our thoughts are worthy of sharing with anyone who will listen.
Today, I’d like to challenge that notion. Whether we are talking about leadership of an organization, leadership of a team or self-leadership, perhaps the fact that we have an opinion is not reason enough to share it. So, how do you know if you should be sharing your opinion? I am a huge proponent of honesty in conversation, I feel we need more of it. But it seems we need some guidelines on how to share that honesty. So, without further ado, here are three things to consider before sharing your opinion:
1. Consider other perspectives to your opinion. It doesn’t take long. You have an opinion, now put yourself in someone else’s shoes, someone who might not share your opinion, and see if there are other viable perspectives that could lead you to either shift your opinion and/or become less rigid in your opinion.
2. Step one is done and you’re confident that your opinion is right and critical to get out to the masses. What is your intention in sharing this opinion? What is it you want people to do as a result of you sharing your opinion? Do you want to perpetuate rage? Do you want to perpetuate disharmony? Do you want to perpetuate blame? Or do you have something bigger than just sharing your opinion? Do you want people to become educated so that they choose action? Your intention will set your word choice and the tone in which you share your opinion. Both of those things are absolutely critical. We can express disappointment and outrage and fear and sadness with an attitude of wanting to make it better. If you have decided you are sharing your opinion because you want to share the rage and further the divisiveness, then perhaps your opinion isn’t critical for people to hear.
3. Your intention is to educate people and you feel you’ve come up with the right words and tone to share your opinion. Now consider your solution or contribution to the issue. If your action is to tweet about it or put something on Instagram or leave a comment on Facebook, in the words of Barack Obama, “You’re probably not going to get that far.” If sharing our opinions on social media or in a blog post or in a podcast is all we are doing then we are not doing enough and we are part of the problem. If we are constantly looking for others to shift, we will not succeed. So, consider what actions YOU can take to help solve the issue and how YOU can lead others to help.
A great example of this is Don Cherry’s latest (and last) rant - you know, the one that got him fired from his long-time standing position as co-host of Coaches Corner. Don’s intentions were likely noble. He wanted more people to support our troops and those who lost their lives for our freedom. Don’s word choice was terrible; they placed blame and created outrage and divisiveness, and on top of that, he didn’t use his incredible platform to provide solutions to the problem. So, what could Don have done differently? Besides choosing different words, he could have bought several poppies and handed them out to people who didn’t have them, both making his point that we mustn’t forget our troops and donating more money to the Canadian Armed Forces at the same time.
The key takeaway here is: we don’t have to offend people and place blame to share our perspective. In fact, our stance will be MUCH more effective if we don’t. We are really into throwing stones these days. And when we throw stones all we are doing is adding more rocks to the pile. So, take that passionate opinion of yours and make sure that you are sharing it in a constructive way that is going to affect change and not just produce outrage.
P.S. Listen to my podcast for more on this and other leadership topics.