My Parents Loved to Argue
Not with each other.Not about who takes out the trash, or why the toothpaste cap wasn’t replaced. In fact I never remember them raising their voices to each other. For the short time I had them both, I always saw them in perfect harmony. But they loved to argue none the less.
In fact, my whole family loved heated conversation, – Aunts and Uncles, Grandparents, Cousins, all had points of view about politics or current events, or the ethical reasons behind a business decision. And these were smart people. You didn’t win an argument in their world with rhetoric. If you wanted to win an argument, you needed to make precise points, supported by hard information, or demonstrated empirically. But if you could do that, you had the ultimate reward. The other person would acknowledge your superior arguments by acceding to you position and agreeing you were right. And not because they wanted to end the argument, but because they saw your point- and they had the ability to learn that another’s point of view might be the right one.
I didn’t realize until I was older that everyone wasn’t like that. You need to be self-confident to be able to admit that you might be wrong. If you’re not confident, then every time someone else is right you are somehow diminished. In fact, the ability to converse and debate and accept the opposing point of view if it is made well is so rare, that it has become worthy of note in my world. When I first served on the Interpretations and Procedures Sub-Committee of NAR’s Professional Standards Committee, I left the meeting and called my wife and said.”I just had the best time ever! I sat in a room with almost 20 well informed, articulate people, with strong points of view, who were willing to be talked off their position if you could make your point well enough!”
Some Things Aren’t Convincing
Many people have a problem when they write. They give an opinion and frame it as a fact. That’s just not accurate. Saying something with conviction does not convert it from opinion to fact, its just a loud opinion. And as I pointed out earlier, an opinion might not be the most valid opinion, its just yours.
Speaking in generalities does not mean that your statement will apply in every market or in every situation. Nor does your experience create valid generalities. It speaks only to your experience.
Repeating something said to you by someone you respect or trust doesn’t make a fact of an opinion. Even the people you respect can have misinformation. And your confidence in the other person doesn;t mean that they had all of the facts – only that they believed that they had all the facts.
I don’t mind when someone shares their experience, as long as that experience is qualified as their experience , not some universal truth. Until you have run a business, its hard to have a valid opinion about what the owner should or should not do to provide better (fill in the blank) or avoid (fill in the blank). Its not hard to have an opinion , its hard to have one that is valid. And even the amount of validity can be questioned based upon the experience of the person providing the experience.
And Some Things Are
When Lani Anglin-Rosales write about Social Media , I’m interested. When Russel Shaw writes about listings , I’m interested.When Rich Jacobson writes about Communities on-Line or Teresa Boardman writes about photography and blogging, I’m interested. Because they have substantial experience in those fields and when they speak about those things they have hard facts or numbers to back up their statements.
Its too easy, in this arena, to take a whack at some targets. National Brands, Large Companies, Different Business Models, Trade organizations, or people that don’t use technology as we do. But like too many of the easy things in life, there isn’t as much reward in those activities as there is in sharing ideas that work, technology that we can use, and activities that we have found rewarding.
Your Voice IS Important
When you write, a post,a comment, or even a tweet on twitter, you are taking a position in front of a larger audience. You have a responsibility to that audience and to each other.
You need to tell them what you know is fact. Not what you think is fact.
You need to tell them when you are sharing experience and when you are sharing opinion without experience.
You should recognize that your words may have far reaching and unintended consequences, and think about what those things may be. There are more people impacted by each statement then you may think.
Write as if the whole world was watching and listening to your words – including your family. And then make sure that those you value would be proud of the position you took and the words you used to support it.
July 31, 2008 at 10:28 am
Bill, what I know is, “you’re an insightful guy.” What I think is we all can easily fall into the trap of sloppy thinking and even lazier communication. As you’ve shared, it takes extra conscious effort to think things through, consider the consequences, repercussions and perceptions of our message, then share it.
How many times have I been boomerang bitten by puking out facts that only had technicolor chunks of actual-fact and a whole lot of liquid opinion-fact. Too many.
Great post, nice reminder, everyone wins when you think first and speak/communicate concisely.
July 31, 2008 at 4:06 pm
>”When Lani Anglin-Rosales write about Social Media , I’m interested. When Russel Shaw writes about listings , I’m interested.When Rich Jacobson writes about Communities on-Line or Teresa Boardman writes about photography and blogging, I’m interested.”
There’s something to say for expertise in the field, as these outstanding AG writers certainly are. That’s why you (and I) are interested. It’s important that your voice comes through, expressing your expertise. What’s important, here, is that you have to know your expertise (first) in order to express it through your voice – via your blog, or your photos, or videos. To me, it’s fabulous to see that the little “Flip” videocam has alread sold over a million products. That tells me that even those who aren’t confident in expressing their “voice” through words, they can express is through their own video work.
My point? First, to know yourself so well that you know your own expertise. Second, to have confidence in that expertise – after all, that’s what our clients sense when they hire us. Finally, to act on that confidence by choosing the optimal way to express that voice – by words, photos, or video – or some other format yet to be developed!
July 31, 2008 at 5:57 pm
I love to argue – I mean debate. I think it’s crucial to having a functioning brain. In having an opinion, people often think of their position as fact and frequently have a hard time differentiating. I heard a lot of argument at Inman about what is fact regarding SEO and what isn’t.
I think the funniest thing that happened to me in this realm is that someone walked in when I was having a heated conversation with a friend. The guy who walked in said, “Are you guys arguing?” In unison we said: Yeah, but not with each other.
Your reminder is a good one. When we loudly state our opinions, remember: people are listening. Another important reminder is not to make it personal and not to take it personally when there’s a passionate opinion.
July 31, 2008 at 6:12 pm
I try not to take any of this personally but as everyone learned last week, I’m a delicate flower.
Where problems usually arise is when people confuse their opinion with fact. Or frame their opinion in such a manner that they feel no opposition is possible. Seen that happen far too often.
July 31, 2008 at 9:48 pm
@Ken & @ Vance – Thanks so much for your responses. and for getting the point 😉
@ Vicki – When you speak everyone listens ( I was going to make an EF Hutton reference but O didn;t know if they were still in business or if anyone listens to them anymore
@Jonathan You are a desert flower that blooms with magnificent color (please see Ken’s comment about Technicolor puke) – part of the arguing thing is ethnic – you understand 😉
August 1, 2008 at 12:05 pm
Thanks Bill. I needed that.
Yes, Jonathan, I agree – you are a fragile flower.
August 1, 2008 at 1:57 pm
Ahhhh……Bill, stated so eloquently! While the web has provided transparency and knowledge to the consumer and professional, it has also made many experts whose opinions would have been better kept inside their own head. Especially when they state it as fact!