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How to have an Opinion without Being Opinionated

Written by Rebecca Okamoto on Dec. 28, 2014

"The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud." Coco Chanel Twitter icon

Recently I started to give people new leadership advice.

Instead of giving them “safe” advice, and telling them how to get along with people, I’ve been giving them the opposite.

I tell them to do something dangerous:

Have an opinion.

Yes. An opinion. AKA a straight up answer. A clear POV.

No apologies, no alternative options to placate someone that might not agree with you. No excuses that trail off with uncertainty like, "you might not agree with me...", and "that doesn't mean my opinion is the only one..."

No asking for permission.

A simple, "Here's my opinion."

But sometimes I get an answer that surprises me - They're afraid of being labelled, “opinionated”.

Too many people avoid stating a clear position for the wrong reason.

Having an opinion does not mean you have to be opinionated.

Having an opinion means stating your position. Being opinionated is clinging stubbornly and unreasonably to your position.

If you don't state your position, you'll muddy up your message. You'll spend too much effort sandwiching the message with compliments or explanations that your message will lose its impact.

When your message loses impact, the you'll lose respect.

And that’s why so many organizations are wandering around aimlessly.

Leadership means choosing to be clear.

I won respect by stating my position, even when it was unpopular, because I showed courage and accountability. I earned respect by having an opinion.

You can too.

Here’s how to state your opinion without being opinionated.

  1. State your position clearly and respectfully.

    • "Here is my opinion and why."

    • "I disagree and here's why."

    If you feel the need to add a qualifier, stick to one, and then reiterate your position

    • "I realize you may not agree, however, I maintain my support for the proposal."
  2. Stand by your opinion, but listen.

    Having an opinion does not mean you are always right. And it certainly doesn't give you a right to be rude.

    Have an opinion, and have an open mind.

  3. Clarity is not a license to be controversial.

    Organizations appreciate clarity, even when delivering controversial news. However, controversy just for the sake of being controversial is manipulative.

  4. Don't be afraid to be decisive.

    Decisiveness is not a bad thing. It doesn't mean you're a dictator, it means you're accountable.

    On the other hand, wavering is a credibility killer. It's one thing to look for input, it's another to be unable to decide.

Have an opinion.

Spark a debate. Encourage discussion. Stretch yourself and your organization. And if you're wrong, learn something new.

Embrace clarity and you’ll find you’re not just stating your opinion, you’ll be changing people’s opinion too.

Interested in more on Leadership? Take a look at these posts on Evoke.

Shredded Credibility The One Phrase that Kills Credibility

Character Character Matters

Your Team Won't Follow You Why Your Team Won't Follow You

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