Actively look for opposite opinions


How do you know you are right. If everybody agrees with you ?

Knowing what we don’t know, Is also a form of being all-knowing.

The future lies in all the things we don’t know – we don’t know.

Starwars stormtrooper stepping out of rank

How do you know you are right. If everybody agrees with you ?

It’s a different perspective you’re looking for. You’ll most likely have come across plenty of different approaches, other ways of doing and various views on the same topic. But they’ll likely be quite close to your own thoughts, as we tend to look to known sources and people we trust to give us objective feedback. Which means we know them well.

What you need. Is a completely different and opposing angle on your ideas and approach. Something that will thoroughly shake your brain stem, and help you see completely new angles.

You will learn from family, friends and peers. But nothing compared to what you’ll learn from those who live near opposing lives. 

Learning from others will not take anything away from you. It will not undermine your personal beliefs or change who you fundamentally are as a human being. If anything, there’s a better chance it will re-inforce or broaden your foundation. Confirming and informing your knowledge and methods. 

We’ll learn immensely more from those who disagree, challenges us and ask questions. It should push us to think deeper. Investigate why we are operating, deciding and acting the way we are. It will help us develop, in ways people who agrees purely from an opinion or cultural point can.

Remember. You are responsible for your own learning. From doing your homework and all through life. Not as a chore, but for taking part in shaping your own journey.

For every piece of knowledge, experience and practical ability you learn. For every method you develop on your own. You should look for opposing views, different ways of doing, see history from the perspective of other cultures.

And you should participate in being the opposite view yourself. Always being open and objective. Offering your perspective, so others may learn from you. Spending time with people unlike yourself, is not about speaking against – but learning from each other.

Always remain open

Of course, the knowledge, experience and opinions of others. Will influence and inform your own in different ways. Depending on whether we are actively looking into a specific topic, we came upon it by chance or suggested by others. Or if it was in some form brought to or imposed on us from outside.

Our relationship with it, will be different if we are actively engaging from the beginning. If we ourselves are looking for and absorbing everything we can find on our own. Even if given to us.

It is the same as loving homework and preloading. Getting it right from the beginning is less important than owning the topic in our context. To allow it to seep into our own knowledge and mesh with our views on life, business and culture.

It’s especially important to be open and take it in, regardless of our initial interest. Or lack of interest in the topic, as is often the case. If you take an interest, there is a better chance you will find something meaningful in it. Once you begin to make connections to what you already know.

You find new ways to solve old problems you hadn’t thought of. And realise your world might just open up to new people and ventures, you previously thought were too remote or off limits. 

When you have to

Remember that wanting to is more important than able to. And this comes true in magnitude when dealing with something, or someone, we either fear or initially don’t like.

When we have a chance to pick the topic, task, people and place. It should all be easy street and smooth sailing – nothing’s in our way.

But when you don’t have a choice, or when it is imposed on you. That is the time to turn it upside down, and make a conscious choice to want to. To learn, spend quality time with the people involved. Choosing to be ok with where you are.

And then there’s a chance that you may be open enough to be surprised. To learn something new. To admit to yourself, that payroll accounting for inner city garbage collectors. Is interesting and will move your needle forward. If you choose to engage positively and objectively.

If you close yourself off and avoid engaging with a less desirable situation. And it is possible to do something, without engaging in any way – millions of people do it every day. You may get it done, you may get paid and you may keep your job. Hoping you get back on Easy Street tomorrow.

But choosing not to engage, or not knowing how to. Makes it a lot less likely. 

It is brilliantly described by Hellen Mirren in her MasterClass.

You are on set, you have not chosen the cast or the director, you are in a bad spot – and your performance will reflect it in the movie. It will be evident in 4K, on silver screens in cinemas across the nation. That you are not engaged in the moment.

And you may not get called back when they are filming on Easy Street. Her advice is to turn it around, to choose to love the very things we despise.

It can be very difficult, to engage in a positive and professional manner with every task, colleague, customer and vendor. We are human. But it is possible, with a little awareness. To give ourselves a chance to succeed a little more, by letting go of ourselves.  

Change your environment

If you are not naturally among people with diverse opinions. And there is a good chance you are not, as we tend to spend time and work with people who are mostly similar. Even if we think they are not.

You should actively look for people from different backgrounds. Anybody with different preferences, observations and beliefs. Seek and spend time with them

Go to new places. Take the bus across town for dinner. Go for a walk in a different neighbourhood. Walk a different way home from the bus. And of course, if your means permits you. Visit as many different countries and cultures as you possibly can.

And everywhere you go. A simple ‘hello, how’s your day?’ . . . might just bring about an interesting conversation.

It’s no different than a business doing marketing research. Whether it’s the local copy store, finding a couple small businesses they can service by offering different formats. Or a European food company going to South America with new taste profiles and ingredients to suit local tastes there.

Round every corner. There’s an interesting person with different experiences and a new view on life. And you have something to offer them as well.

Look for input from the periphery around you. Around the topic you’re involved in – the people in the periphery of that topic. Drop a pebble in the unknown waters around you, and follow the ripples in all directions.

Beau Miles is a master of changing perspective. Going on adventures in your local community and environment – and some times venturing quite far. Appreciating the depth and diversity everywhere around us.

Diversity works

Diverse groups makes markedly better decisions than homogenous do. This holds true from preschool to president !

For fresh new input and insights. Preventing false positives or other biased information. We need fresh mirrors that haven’t gotten used to seeing us, and who might be conditioned by our regular patterns and views.

It’s difficult to see new patterns in people we know well. We’d naturally assume their behaviour, manners and opinions, are in line with what we’ve come to know. People who ‘knows’ that you disagree with each other. Unsurprisingly tend to auto-disagree with you. And vice versa for people who always agree with you.

Same as people who knows us well, people we regularly agree with on general topics. Are prone to accept our new ideas in areas not previously covered. Thus less likely to think fully objectively

Use multiple types of information sources. Not only should you get more than one opinion. But same as you have several reasons that supports your opinion, choices, strategy, etc. You should look for sources that counter, debates and moderates them.

You’ll find as many reasons that will speak for and against it, or moderate it in some ways. Whether it’s in a single group, or you create the group by engaging with several people individually. All those opinions and insights will rarely be held by one of them.

Cultivating different opinions

One of the traps we often encounter is, that people tend to avoid being critical or appearing negative towards others. Even they are perfectly polite and considerate.

We can assume a stronger or deliberately boundary positions to encourage an opposing view or reaction. But that’s utterly counter to getting objective and useful feedback. It would be coerced, and in most cases laden with emotional reactions rather than involved thinking.

Instead. Ask people about their experiences or advice in a certain area. Stories about particularly arduous or successful moments.

It can be encouraged by telling your own stories. Opening up for interesting conversations, sharing experiences.

Your emphasis should be on asking clarifying questions. To learn what is behind the difference of opinion. What are the experiences, knowledge and cultures behind it. Learning what is behind their views, is where the real insights are.

Refrain from asking qualifying questions. Qualifying as in verifying their information or knowledge. Which is about you being right – and not about learning. You can objectively evaluate what they have given you later.

Don’t push for it

You have to accept, that people don’t always have the time or energy to give you feedback. Or some times they don’t want to.

They may be concerned about hurting your feelings, or create conflict. Most people react defensively, or take constructive criticism poorly. Possibly you yourself have done so with this person or group in the past.

There’s always cultural considerations. Giving feedback and sometimes even information that counter yours. Is seen as impolite in some cultures and groups. Pushing reluctant people to provide their views, will most likely only give you false positives.

You may need to better create an environment or ambiance that invites an open dialogue. And return to the matter at a later time.

It’s best we feel out the mood in the room. Else we wont learn much other, than how not to be invited for dinner again :).

It’s not about creating conflict

Don’t look for people to disagree with. Neither create factions in the workplace, or in any other way add tension between people.

Remember that differences of opinion are normal, valid and essentially little gifts of knowledge. Insights and wisdom we can learn from, and the reason we can enjoy living in a varied and multi faceted world.

When you move forward, having made your decision. You’ve done yourself, and those who rely on you for direction and guidance. The service of getting as much and as varied input to the decision as reasonable and possible. As much as possible taking your own bias out of the equation.

The point is to listen. Not to debate their opinions or try and convince them you’re right. Which is only your insecurity and confirmation bias speaking.

Neither should it in any way make you doubt your own intuition, or ability to make decisions. Which will create conflict with and within yourself.

If anything – the fact you are smart enough to actively seek outside information. And ensure you have a well informed and varied view on things. Will put you ahead of most people. It is a strength !

Look within

It’s healthy to feel split between different opinions, choices and directions. It shows you see and perceive the world from several angles. That you’re not locked in.

You may on occasion feel indecisive. And others might at times see you as insecure or vague. Only to then make quick decisions that may be counter to the obvious choice. Having fall back options, listening to feedback, remaining objective. A certain amount of procrastination. It will look like that to the uninitiated.

It’s difficult holding back, and evaluating all the alternatives on a set of objective metrics. Believing that slowing down – to get where you want to be faster. Is the right way forward.

But the important element is to have a clear sense of the outcomes you’re moving towards. And a set of metrics on how to measure or evaluate outcomes. Including checking in with your gut feeling. And communicating these to everybody you work and engage with. At work and in your private life.

Your ultimate ability to make a final decision. To fully commit to go with your in-the-moment best option. And still having the ability and will, to change your mind. Is a strength.

Seeing a broader picture is healthy. It helps you continuously develop your intuition. Which in turn helps you decide between options. Another healthy self-reinforcing loop. It’s a good habit.

Include your risk assessment.

You may not actively be doing a lot of risk assessment in your personal life. Except for bigger decisions like taking on a home mortgage, having good insurance cover and where to take your next date for dinner. . .

But it should be a normal and frequent component in business and performing your job. And it’s an excellent source for objective and measurable points to inform you.

Keep in mind. That a risk is also opportunity – they’re the outer barriers of your field of execution. And thus equally represent areas for you to hold back and reduce risk, and opportunity to push further outward.

An opposite opinion can just as well be. That you’re not doing enough, not taking enough calculated risks. Opposite does not equal holding back or slowing down. It means slowing down – so we can speed up.

There are no 100% truths

There are most often several truths coexisting at the same time, and in the same space. As most things are influenced by culture, more than mathematics and physics.

The outcome is of course to ensure. That you, your team or business, doesn’t become your own echo chamber.

That you always make an effort to understand what other people think. Especially those unlike yourself. That we consider different opinions and cultures. And remember that we are not the customer.

There are always alternatives, multiple ways to achieve a given objective. Always something to learn from, and possibly adjust your approach.

Make it your daily dose of vitamins. But don’t discard your own ways. Use it all to supplement your existing knowledge.

If everybody disagrees with you. It does not mean you’re wrong.

Photo by Aitoff