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Earning The Right to an Opinion

It's human nature to focus on the negative. We're risk-averse, and our monkey-brains tend to focus on what is or can go wrong.


You can see evidence of this from popular pub conversations: Brexit, Climate Change, the dystopian side-effects of social media.


The trouble is, we all too suffer from the "illusion of explanatory depth". The kinds of issues we complain about are all quite complex issues, and I personally haven't tried to address any of them. Quite plainly speaking - I don't know what I'm talking about. I've not earned the right to an opinion.


As Tim Ferris points out in The Four Hour Work Week, very few people actually take action. We tell ourselves "no" before anyone else has the chance to.


I myself have decided not to judge anything I'm not actively trying to do something about. It's made an absolutely massive difference in my outlook. It allows me to just dismiss negative things out-of-hand, and have far more pleasant, productive conversations.


A wonderful side-effect is that I can focus on one of the many positive things I have in common with people, rather than the negative.


This is perhaps best explained by way of example:


Perhaps there's an upcoming family event that you're dreading: yet another conversation with your bonkers Flat-Earther brother. Instead of getting drawn into the weeds into any of that nonsense, you can do one of two things:

  • Pivot to a nicer conversation: "Sorry brother, I've not given flat-earth any serious thought. Would you like to talk about any of the myriad positive things we have in common, what's going on in your life, or discuss some of the things I'm working on?"

  • Don't feel you have to convince the other person, but rather just consider their input in updating yours

For example: "Thanks for your views. I'm not sure they've helped address/advance any of the work I've been doing, but I appreciate your enthusiasm/interest".


I hope that may be of some help - it's an approach which certainly has helped me. If not, I'd love to hear your views/opinions!

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