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The True Value of Differing Opinions

OCTOBER 27, 2022 - As we began this discussion, the setup was that we all know people in this world who have become overly sensitive to criticism. We can blame that reality on the lack of genuine social interaction primarily because of Social Media. Still, the value of discussing things in person (or on the phone and virtually) so you can at least hear a voice and see a face -- and hold your seats, maybe shake a hand or two --  cannot be replaced.

This live connection really makes the idea of building more trust possible. Making statements on social media leaves no responsibility for the speaker. There is no face, or person at all sometimes, in the case of bots, when a comment is left. Disparaging opinions that are both rude and/or demeaning hurt the feelings of the person receiving them, but there is no way to address the comments in any real way. In fact, the goal behind many of these "troll" comments is just to provoke outrage and get a reaction. It reminds me of having a sibling who might just provoke you to get mad at them in front of your parents so you get in trouble and they look like the victim. People say things that they would normally not say -- or say more reservedly and/or delicately -- if they were face-to-face when they say it. 

We can see why many would not want to disagree with others and maybe avoid disagreement altogether in person. The conversation we're having today, with this blog post is based on our Talking About... series on Entre each week, is about why people should seek to intentionally disagree with others, especially in goal planning and business, but also in our personal lives. 

Empathy is a skill that must be practiced. Gaining empathy is a trial-and-error kind of learning (as is all true learning, but that's a different topic). There is an element of "living in someone else's shoes" to experience what they experience and feel what they feel. Some people have a more natural talent for it, but for many, it's not so easy. We, as humans, are naturally concerned mainly with self-preservation. Being concerned with our own survival -- physically, emotionally, or spiritually -- is the source of many of our disagreements. People generally believe that arguments based on emotion and passion are irrelevant and that only logic and science should be used to reason through difficulties. But when was the last time any major argument in the world was based solely on logic and reason? Never.

People are emotional beings, and our passions and experiences are the lenses that our logic and reason are filtered through. 

To counter the "logic versus emotion" debate, in our discussion, I believe we came to the conclusion that actually arguing all sides of a topic, trying to consider all sides of a story, and considering all dangers and risks are the steps to making the best plans. Still, it's not always easy to break "group-think" actions unless people intentionally argue the opposite (or possible challenges and obstacles) for risk management. 

Risk management is the key to the best plans. Taking action on a terrible plan, in a unified way, is always better than having a plan and doing nothing, or not having a plan and doing things haphazardly with no unified direction. When even a small plan exists, people can focus on what's important to the mission, and they know what's not important. Even better, they can hold each other accountable for what actually matters.    

Humility is also a big component of planning. Once everyone has had their say, and the leader makes the decision to commit to a plan (in a certain direction), then the rest of the team needs to back the decision and work together to accomplish the mission. That is not to say that the mission cannot change or adapt as necessary, but that the people on the team all contribute to the plan and then commit together to executing it. The leader is there to help keep everyone pulling in the same direction, but the people executing the tasks that get the work done need to know that they are no less important (and maybe even more important) than the leader. In the military, they used to say, "Your importance to the battle is not determined by your placement on the battlefield." This meant, even if you're not someone directly engaging with the enemy -- maybe you are a logistics person setting up the meals and bullets that the fighters need, or the truck drivers or helicopter pilots getting it out to them. Still, your job is as important as the one leading and the ones directly engaging because you're all getting the work done together. Be humble enough to know your place on the team and do it to the best of your ability. That, in a nutshell, mitigates a large amount of risk because everyone knows they can depend on your part getting done.

President Harry Truman said it best with this quote: “It's amazing what you can accomplish when you do not care who gets the credit,”

Not too long ago, under President Trump, the US seemed much more politically divided. And a person on Facebook did an experiment. He looked at his Facebook profile and thought, "What if I was a different person and liked different things - let's say the opposite of everything I believe? What would my Facebook page show me then?" So, he ran an experiment, started a new profile, and answered all the setup questions with all the answers he would never give - the opposite of what he liked and found interesting and intellectually or politically relevant.  The result was a profile that fed him all of the algorithmically relevant ads, stories, and "facts" that would support these beliefs that were completely opposite to his own. He found, in real-time, how the social media of today was trying to mentally influence us all. So anyone on social media and/or the internet that reads everything that just comes to them, without seeking the opposite opinions to everything they believe, is only truly hearing half the story (maybe even less because there are never just two sides to any story). 

It was mentioned, that some of us are a personality type known as the "Mismatcher" who regularly argues the opposite side just to argue it. It's a kind of superpower and a curse at the same time. If we do this all the time, and we don't check ourselves, we run the risk of overanalyzing everything and alienating everyone around us. Even our warnings will go unheard -- even if they are right -- because the people around us will tune us out. We have to be open to the possibility that the opposite of whatever we believe to be true, "MIGHT" also be true at least under particular sets of circumstances. As an example, it's pretty universal that killing someone is unacceptable, but in urgent self-defense, protecting another's life, or in defense of the nation, people tend to let it go. Does that make killing right? No, of course not, but it's a special circumstance under which people will accept it with good reasons.

Another good point made during the discussion was that gossip is dangerous. Whenever we are talking about someone who is not there to defend themselves in a negative way, it's gossip. If you're complimenting people who are not there, we don't generally define that as gossip because it's positive in nature. Unfortunately, gossip is intriguing. People are drawn to it. The rule that we should follow instead of gossiping should be to "seek to understand, then to be understood." This is a Bible quote, but Stephen Covey made it very popular with his book "7 Habits for Highly Effective People". The idea behind it is that everyone is going through something at every given moment of the day. Something that someone says could offend you because of the way they say it, but the meaning behind it may be different. When people are mean or outwardly annoyed with someone, there's pain behind it. We don't know what that pain is unless we care enough to ask. It also helps communication, and patience for others to listen to you, if you consistently listen to others - generally, they will give you the same respect (not always though).

Innovations come out of taking in multiple sources of information and ways to do things, seeing a need, and finding a combined and/or new way to address that need. Innovations are started in the study of "WHY" a person does what they do at least in a specific niche at a time. The market grows as people learn to adapt the innovation to their circumstances as well. Pushing the envelope into innovative methods and products begins with seeing people's needs and also seeing what they DON'T need. Like a good lawyer who knows what to say and not say, it is just as important to know what to offer/pursue and not to offer/pursue on the road to success.  

Finally, we discussed, there are different levels of mastery for any application or skill. Everyone has a certain level of attention to detail, an ability to see the other person's perspective, an ability to read emotions in a room, and all other skills. This is the best reason to treat all of our life and business endeavors as a team sport! People need each other. They need to learn to trust each other. No one person has all the answers (as much as their ego might tell them they do). Being able to discuss your opinion with others, without alienating everyone around you, is a valuable skill. It takes practice and trust to leave hostility behind and discover new things together. 


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