Deep Thoughts

My Opinion of Opinions

Listening to Lori

You can listen to me read this here or read it yourself below. The choice is yours!

Over the years, I’ve found that expressing my opinion loudly is the best way to convince others of my point of view. It feels great to scream out what I believe into the faces of those who previously held a contrary belief. It’s delightful to see their faces light up with understanding as I bellow my truth.

When the exchange is over, I often think, “If only I’d loudly expressed my opinion sooner we would’ve seen eye-to-eye earlier.”

What? You’ve had a different experience upon expressing your opinion? It didn’t change minds? It irritated friends and family? Hmm. That’s strange. People love it when I express my opinion.

They say, “Tell us what you think, Lori, especially about religion and politics. You are so wise and we can’t get enough! And when you’re done that, would you please give us some unsolicited advice?”

Preaching to the converted is rewarding.

Even better than changing minds is sharing my truth with those who already accept it. They cheer without hesitating, nodding in agreement and spurring me on. I appreciate the reinforcement of my truth by the folks who are already as smart as me.

It’s great to meet people who think exactly what I think. I sure like them better than the folks who think differently than me. They’re much easier to relate with and I don’t have to go through the work of listening to what they say or trying to see their point of view.

Heck, we’re so similar that we don’t even have to really listen to each other. This makes me feel comfortable and it makes me feel right.

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Opinions don’t convince. Opinions annoy.

In reality, I’ve only ever annoyed others with my opinions unless they happen to share my exact opinions. This doesn’t happen very often. Like never.

We’re complex beings with complex minds. We have our own ideas and our own life experiences. We are not going to agree on everything. Start with that premise.

Opinions are divisive.

Strongly-held opinions divide us as solidly as brick walls. This may feel good sometimes. Opinions can help us establish an identity, a belonging to a certain group. It’s nice to belong. It feels good to feel welcomed. We all want to be accepted.

But too close an association with one group can be limiting and stifling. And what if you develop a new opinion, a point of view that differs from the group’s view? Then shut up or get out. You’ve found a safe place within those walls. Don’t mess it up by thinking too much.

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Talking is easy. Listening is hard.

I enjoy talking. It’s fun to sit around and chat about myself, what I think, what I’ve done and what I want to do. Just as I get going, though, someone else wants to talk about what they think, what they’ve done and what they want to do.

That’s fine. Their talking gives me a chance to decide what I’ll say next about myself. I’ll keep nodding and they’ll keep talking. When they stop, I’ll resume the important work of telling them about me.

Listening is difficult and it’s not natural. It takes intention and practice. We have to choose to listen and then work to do it. Where’s the fun in that?

I know there are drawbacks to social media and emails, but here’s a plus. Typing to others makes us slow down and read what they have to say – just like letters used to do. It’s the same idea.

In conversation, though, we’re not often focused on that moving stream of words. With our own ideas flowing through our minds it’s hard to concentrate on someone else’s thoughts. Listening is hard, but it’s one of the only things that can bring us closer.

Listening is powerful.

Listening can change the world. Hearing what others have to say isn’t necessarily agreeing with what others believe. It can be, but more importantly, listening opens the door to understanding.

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“Oh, so that’s where she’s coming from! Her experience formed her opinion. I sure don’t agree with her perception, but I can see why she thinks that way. If I’d had that same experience, maybe I’d hold that opinion, too.”

Reaching an understanding about why people believe what they believe is a very good start to mending our differences. The only way to get there is through listening.

Spout tales, not opinions.

If we want people to listen, let’s say something worth listening to. Storytelling is engaging. That’s why all the best teachers throughout time have used storytelling to convey their messages.

Jesus and Buddha and Gandhi and Mother Teresa and Einstein did their best teaching through telling stories and by walking the walk. They gave us information based on their experience, and they gave us stories to help us understand those experiences.

I’m sure they all had opinions. We all have opinions and that’s okay. But opinions aren’t what these teachers used to change the world. Opinions would’ve slammed the door on our learning and they knew that. Opinions don’t change the world. They divide it.

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The listening challenge:

I don’t think I’m up to changing my opinions this week, but I think I’m ready to sharpen my listening skills. I’ll take these baby steps:

  • When someone’s talking, I’ll try not to think of what to say next.
  • I’ll try to focus on the speaker’s words.
  • I’ll make an effort to understand the intention behind the words I’m hearing.
  • I’ll try to honour different life experiences and different backgrounds.

If you want to join me on this listening challenge, let me know how it goes for you. We can share our stories about how darn difficult it is to really listen. And on that, we can definitely agree!

 

 

 

 

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