“What’s your opinion?” That may be one of the most exciting questions you’ll hear. It’s exciting because someone wants and values your opinion. But, should we always give our opinion? Should we even have an opinion?
Everyone seems to have a view on everything, and we love having our thoughts heard everywhere. That’s why, in some situations, I’ve learned that, it’s sometimes better to keep quiet than to say something. Proverbs says that staying quiet in certain situations makes a fool even seem wise (17:27-28). I was actually reminded of this very recently in a group discussion I was having: sometimes it’s better to just listen, otherwise you may look like a fool.
Sometimes the forum that discussions are in aren’t very conducive to new ideas. Occasionally, they can actually be opposed to new thoughts. Bringing something new to the table, especially when not having mutual respect across the table, can sometimes make you seem ignorant to those at the table (in this instance, there’s possibly a problem in the group dynamic, as well).
I also remember a time years ago, where my team at the time was at dinner and we had a round table discussion where the leader of the team wanted everyone to voice their opinions on a topic. We went around the table for about an hour and a half. It was a great discussion, and I really enjoyed it. However, once the discussion was wrapped up and the leader spoke, he stated that we’d be going with their original plan on the topic, which was then laid out to everyone. It felt as if none of our ideas were heard.
I left that meeting actually feeling manipulated. My opinion didn’t seem valued or considered. Nothing ever came about that discussion, long term. The only thing the meeting was meant to do was explain what was happening next – not hear our ideas and implement those new ideas into the plan. I learned some valuable lessons from that day.
Here are some ways I try to help foster ideas and opinions of others:
- Humility. Never start with a prove-me-wrong attitude. It doesn’t foster dissenting views, unless you have people who are more dominant – and even then, they’ll dominate the non-dominating leaders.
- Time. Not everyone is quick on their toes. Some of your best ideas will come from those who can simmer on it. Often times they’ll come back to an individual (not the group), so always have an open door.
- Simplicity. Don’t ignore simple ideas. Sometimes the easiest and most simplistic ideas may be what you need.
- Listening. Listen especially to majority themes. If the majority is toying with an idea, but you don’t think it’d work, challenge them to test it out. Not trying something because you don’t think it’d work doesn’t help you or them grow. Even if it doesn’t work – failure is one of the best ways to help someone grow.
- Prepare. Come with several ideas. And, have at least one idea you don’t want to do or don’t think will work. You don’t want your team to be robots, merely repeating what you ask.
- Keep it small. Don’t ask everyone for feedback. Sometimes the worst places for opinions are places where there’s several domineering people, along with others who are more thoughtful. If that happens, try breaking that group down more. Also, generally, the more people you have in a meeting, the less will get accomplished. Unless the meeting is primarily for disseminating information, try to keep the group to under ten people.
Don’t mistake this to say opinions are bad, or even wrong. I don’t mean that at all. Opinions should be full of humility. Your opinion doesn’t define you or me. If you never put yourself out there and risk failing, you may never fail. But, you’ll also never succeed – which is worse than failing, in the end.