Noticing Opinions vs. Facts

opinions vs factssMost of us are very happy to share our opinions with others. You can’t really help but have an opinion – however, it may or may not be a fact, or based on facts. Opinions are just our interpretation of an event or a series of events. An event happens and we ascribe meaning to it, which forms our opinion. We are very good at then owning this opinion as a fact. In most cases it is not.

When we declare that something happened because of “x,” unless we have definitive proof, it’s just our opinion. Usually we assign meaning to a certain event when there may have been none at all. The interpretation is wholly ours – our opinion.

Take any “event” that has happened to you or around you in the last week. How did you interpret this event? Did you assign meaning to it? Let’s face it, as humans, it’s really all about us, so it must have related to us in some way, right? Maybe not so much.

Events are neutral. They mean nothing. It is a fact that something happened, e.g. perhaps your boss did not say good morning and ignored you the rest of the day. You instantly made an assessment, judgment or assigned meaning to this event. There could be at least 10 possible explanations I can think of for this, but as humans, we’ll take the one that has something to do with us and make it a fact. For instance, “she is mad at me.” Our opinion is now our fact. This can set off a whole chain of events that are based on a false premise and usually do not lead us to a productive conversation or outcome.

So the next time you state something, or have a belief about something – NOTICE – whether or not it’s your opinion or a fact. Dig a little deeper. Take a moment to pause and reflect. Separate yourself from your attachment and see what comes up for you. Are you open to a different point-of-view? Would looking at a list of various possible explanations make you change your mind? Broaden your perspective? Could you become more empathetic? More open to learning? My guess is you’ll find yourself smiling at all those things you were so sure were facts. Our brains take just an instant to form an opinion and we immediately convert it to fact. It’s how we’re wired. Without pausing to examine our closely held and cherished opinions we might be missing out on the whole truth.

Take some time, be slow to understand and maybe, just maybe, you’ll have a different perspective. From a different viewpoint, you might see a new solution, possibility or opportunity. As a leader, this is one of the most important parts of your role and holding on to your opinions less tightly is a powerful leadership move.