The controversy surrounding the New England Patriots sparked a lot of outrage this week. For those that are not familiar with the story, Tom Brady has been accused of having his equipment manager deflate his game balls below the allowable p.s.i. for game use. Facebook and Twitter exploded with opinions and debate and I have spent several days talking (code word for arguing) with several friends about the situation. Being a Patriots fan the majority of these “discussions” were me being told my favorite team cheats and me asking accusers to be slow to form their opinion until the facts were discovered. The entire situation sparked my thoughts about opinions, perspectives and their relationship.
I have always said it is difficult to form an objective opinion on topics to which you have a direct connection. Your own kids aren’t annoying running around the restaurant, rolling on the floor, throwing food and screaming…they’re energetic. You justify their action as having “spirit.” I am laughing as I type this as I had a mother tell me that once as her child actually took food off my plate! “Spirit!” Usually, when your kid gets called ugly, you go in parental defense mode, objecting, defending and rebutting every criticism. But what if your kid IS ugly or IS out of control or IS spoiled? I use this example of kid criticism as it evokes the passion and emotion that interrupts our ability to be objective.
My point is as a society we have become quick to judge, quick to convict and even quicker to form opinion based on very little, if any, evidence or fact. Take time to think about your own opinions on Barack Obama, another topic that elicits immediate emotional reaction. I would hazard a guess that if I quizzed those with the strongest opinions about President Obama regarding legislation specifics, the majority would fail miserably; myself included! Yet many still offer up their opinions on the job he’s done without one single solid piece of information to support their stance, pro or con. I listen to folks talk and quote things on FB that were literally straight from a Fox News article posted that morning! And they speak it as if it came from their own thoughts, when in actuality they have given very little effort to forming a fact-based opinion, thus skewing their own perspective. And it is perspective that can make or break you in life. Remember our conversation about being open-minded versus closed-minded? What do you think happens when you only input partial information that supports what you already accept to be facts about life? If I am a conservative and only read books about conservatism, only talk with other conservatives and listen to Rush throughout the day, what do you think my lean will be? Does this provide for a cross-section of information from which to gain proper perspective and formulate an educated opinion? And before I get jumped on, substitute liberal for conservative if applicable.
Successful people are slow to speak because they take time to collect information from a variety of viewpoints necessary to form opinion as to not make mistakes that would cloud their view of the world around them. They are quicker to admit the possibility that their kid is not “spirited,” but spoiled and out of control. Why? Because they must have clear and honest perspective in order to successfully steer their ship. This past week Google realized their kid was ugly and withdrew their glasses from the market. Instead of continuing to stubbornly and pridefully push a product that was failing, they listened to market feedback and halted! If they were too busy talking versus listening they would have missed the public’s message: “your product sucks!” Be careful to continue the habit of being quick to respond with opinions that are supported with partially read online articles, talk show radio host opinions and details you pick up from other’s thoughts! Successful people take time to educate themselves and this requires the mouth to be in the closed position.
I often quote the Dalai Lama, “when you speak you are repeating what you already know, but when you are quiet you might learn something new.” I use to be quick to speak. I could talk and talk and talk and talk. What made me tolerable was my quick wit and outstanding sense of humor…sarcasm. But even though I liked to talk, I took pride in the fact that my friends said to me that I listened and let them state their opinion and was slow to argue. I attribute this skill to my education at UNC-Charlotte: “Study myth not to prove truth or falsehood, but trying to understand how it helped in forming the believer’s worldview.” This can be difficult sometimes as we are emotional beings and when faced with controversial topics we feel obligated to give our opinion, regardless of how misinformed that opinion might be. But sometimes it is better to remain silent and be assumed a fool than to open your mouth and remove the doubt.
Perspective. Perspective. The capacity to view things in their TRUE relations or relative importance (Mirriam-Webster Dictionary). I encourage you to inventory your process of forming the opinions that provide you perspective. Take time to contemplate yourself and your thoughts. How many opinions do you truly own? How many resources do you utilize to help you gain perspective? Do you make little effort to educate yourself, yet jump at the chance to tell someone what you think? Do you react emotionally? Do you express yourself from a closed-minded position? All of these things lend themselves to a skewed perspective of yourself and the world around you. This in turn disallows one to truly understand what is going on in life and how to respond in a manner that will produce the highest level of success and achievement!!
When all is said and done, work to be someone that friends and associates seek out for advice. Be slow to form opinion. Be slow to speak. Be slow to judge. Be slow to exclude. Be slow to react. But, be quick to listen. Be quick to accept. Be quick to consider. Be quick to contemplate. Be quick to be patient. Be quick to forgive. Be quick to be tolerant. Be quick to observe.
“Those that are quick to offer opinions are often the last person friends look to for advice.” Daniel Ray