Giving an opinion is a common way of interacting with other people in formal and informal settings. Unsolicited opinions may be unwelcome, but most leaders find themselves being asked to express an opinion fairly often - and those with a reputation for wisdom are asked constantly.
Leaders are asked opinions about all kinds of things, from day-to-day affairs like What should we do about this situation? What’s the best way to handle this difficult client? Does this person look like a good hire? to strategy and tactics (How aggressively do we want to pursue growth? How can we best achieve our goals? Does our mission statement need to be updated?) and even broader concerns (How will the current political climate affect our ability to serve our clients? What industry-related lobbying should we consider?).
If you want to give your opinion and you want to be heard, you must follow these principles:
First, make sure that the situation warrants an opinion. There are many cases where silence is the wiser path.
Ask yourself if you’re the best person for the job. People will always come to leaders for an opinion, but there may be someone else on your team - or even in another area or organization - who’s better qualified to respond. In those cases, you build more personal credibility by recommending someone else than by giving your own opinion.
Start by listening politely. Before you express your opinion make sure to listen. You’ll know exactly what’s being asked of you, you may learn more about the issue in the process, and the person doing the asking will be more engaged and receptive.
Think before you speak. Before you open your mouth to say something, take a step back and think through exactly what you’re going to say. Consider your tone and make sure your word choices leave as little room as possible for misunderstanding or trouble. Maintain a professional demeanor and be mindful of your body language.
Make sure you have all the facts. Everyone has the right to express their opinion, but make sure to do your research and know the facts first. The more you know, the more you can put into words what you mean to say.
Say what you think in a detailed, straightforward manner. Provide as many relevant specifics as possible when you give an opinion to ensure that people fully understand your point of view. Focus on the who, what, when, and where of the situation to make a detailed statement of your opinion.
Use “I” statements. “I” statements are powerful because they promote connection and don’t make the others feel alienated or excluded. People often state opinions in a way that makes them sound like facts - a habit that puts off the people they’re trying to persuade. A simple preface like “I think…” or “In my experience…” can be all you need.
Provide the reasons for your point of view. Provide reasons and build a case to support your point of view. Your opinion gains credibility when it’s backed up with solid data.
Some phrases to consider using:
In my opinion…
From my point of view…
I would say…
My impression is…
I am of the opinion that ….
Lead from within: Everyone has their own ways of expressing their opinions and we all have something to say, but finding ways to say it effectively is half the battle.
By Lolly Daskal