The Right to an Opinion

I have been on a consulting engagement since I got back Thailand in November. I have learned many things on my first independent gig. I’ve also discovered some new policies I have for operating in the world. One of the most important is that I only express my opinion when I have a right to one.

To give some specificity to this, take my current engagement. I was brought on to help put services around some specific products. So, when it comes to services processes, or services pricing, I have been readily offering my unsolicited opinion. But when it comes to things like the structure of the organization, it is not my place to offer my opinion unless asked.

At a more subtle level, I was talking to the CEO, Binod Singh, a very┬áconscientious┬áleader who knows everyone in his organization. I had been on assignment for about three weeks. We were discussing some changes that needed to be made. He told me how I should go about initiating those changes inside the company. I said “that sounds like a good idea”.

I was explaining this interaction to my friend and mentor, Steven Young, and he pointed out that I couldn’t really know if it was a good idea or not, since I knew very little about the company or its culture. Not only had I not been there long, but the company is 95% Indian, which is different than anything I’ve been in before. Putting it another way, I didn’t have a right to an opinion about how to take the action Binod suggested.

Now, my positive intention in saying “sounds like a good idea” is to tell Binod that I was on board with his approach. But when looked at carefully you can see that it actually comes across sounding a little foolish and arrogant. Binod did not react negatively to my saying it. But I think that even if only at a subconscious level, it did not serve me to pass judgement on his direction to me.

So, the question then becomes, how can I appreciate Binod for the advice without judging that which I have no right to judge? Any of the following could do: “thank you for the direction”, “I appreciate the advice”, “thanks, I”ll do that”. There are many more.

Next time you’re planning with someone, I invite you to try this for yourself. Recognize when you have a right to an opinion, and only give one when you do. Could you imagine what the world would be like if everyone did this in their marriage…