While most everyone has an opinion on multiple things, our individual opinion is not sought on all things. While expertise and degrees, practices and professions warrant many seeking opinions and input from us, it is a sign of humility, perspective, and even compassion for others, to first think through both the reason for that request, and how the idea may be received.
In a process of opinion-sharing, it often entails two steps: Someone asks something, and we share our opinion. Done.
Another two-step flow is: Someone or something is observed, and we share our opinion. Done (except for the rejection or the disagreement regarding appropriateness).
Instead of either of the typical two-step approaches, the following five-step flow allows for less “done” for the moment, and more “relating” with/to the person.
Hear. Is someone saying something or asking something? It is important we hear another person, rather than presumptively step-in, or on, their approach or conversation. The words and ideas must physically be heard and then emotionally heard. If nothing is said, per se, then asking if someone wants to discuss XYZ is a form of hearing, as that person may say “yes” or “no,” and hearing that response is vital.
Listen. While words are being said, not all of us really listen. We often think we know where someone is going or finish a thought for someone else because we listened long enough to know … at least in our minds.
When people are speaking, it is more than just hearing words, it’s listening to that person, in that moment, about that issue or opportunity, that creates trust and exchange.
Comprehend. Even though we may listen, we are also processing. In that processing, some things seem out of the realm of possibility to us, and others seem “normal,” or feasible. Comprehension involves engagement beyond the hearing and listening, as it engages potential, “resources,” and perspective. Questions of “what?” and “how?” here allow for further investigation. “Why?” questions often evoke defense, so as we are comprehending what someone else is sharing or asking, it is considerate not to put that person on the defensive. Remember, we want to comprehend and not offend.
Decide. With data, emotion, background and even hope dancing around in our minds and hearts, we decide what we are able, and willing, to use. As we decide our stance, this is the first time this process is about us, as the previous steps were us doing something for/with the person inquiring. This is where our opinion is formed internally. Our decision is something we own and is not to be reached until we have the information we believe necessary for us to move on.
Share. Eventually, and believe it or not, often quickly, after hearing, listening, comprehending and deciding, it is time to share. How we share is equally as important as the sharing of a view itself. Starting off with something like “Having heard you are looking to X, and appreciating your shared Y, based on my experience, you may want to consider Z.” A stronger approach is to offer “Respecting you want to X, and considering Y, it is my opinion that Z.”
In neither of the examples did the statement start with “I” or “You.” This is intentional, as it is about the view and not vanity or correctness. An opinion does not have to be accepted or rejected, rather shared.
Having an opinion, and our opinion being sought, are two different things. Respecting the words, intent and details of the exchange, as mentioned above, will keep the expressing of views less about solely stating an opinion, and more about offering full consideration. ♦
Debbie Lundberg is a certified life coach, certified leadership coach, and certified image consultant who speaks, facilitates, trains and coaches throughout the country. She is author of Presenting Powerfully, serves as an honorary commander at MacDill Air Force Base, and is a recent member of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce board of directors. Learn more about her at debbielundberg.com.