Winning With People: Opinions

 

Opinions. Sometimes they’re based on facts, sometimes on experience,

sometimes on misinformation, and sometimes they’re based on nothing at all. Opinions are everywhere and we all have them. Interestingly, while people are often hesitant to share other things they have (chocolate, for example), they are typically quite anxious to share their opinions.

Unlike facts, the value of opinions does not increase or decrease based on their accuracy, relevance or timeliness. Rather, the value of an opinion
is mostly dependant simply on whether or not is has been requested. We’ll generally value an opinion when we’ve asked for it, yet a freely given yet uninvited opinion rarely holds any value to the recipient – even when the opinion is 100% accurate.

One of the greatest secrets to connecting with people and building strong relationships is knowing when to share your opinions, and knowing when to keep them to yourselves. Chances are you’ve seen at least one relationship become weakened, either business or personal, because of an inappropriate or untimely point of view being presented.

Most of us know at least one person who seems completely unable to resist telling everyone around what he or she thinks. And the irony with these people is that their very opinionated behavior often causes other people to begin forming opinions about them.

As a general rule of thumb, work on the assumption that your opinions about anything (and particularly about other people), are best kept to yourself. From a sheer risk-benefit perspective, there are few times where volunteering your opinion has a significant upside. The potential downside of having to publicly extract your foot from your mouth, however, can be enormous. If you are being paid for your opinions because of your occupation or subject matter expertise, then it’s OK. If you’re a parent trying to provide guidance to a child, then it’s OK (albeit risky if it’s a teenager!). If a friend or acquaintance genuinely asks you to weigh in on something, you’re probably safe. Other than that, you’ll rarely go wrong with a strategy of silence.

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