When You’re Not Entitled to Your Opinion

There is a growing obstacle in business conversations. It’s the use of the term or phrase: “Well that’s my opinion and I’m entitled to it.” Yes you have the right to have an opinion on any matter or subject. However that doesn’t give your argument any credibility on why you might be right. Actually it just might be the sole cause of all your problems in business or life if not looked at properly.

Effective communication requires anyone whom interacts with people whether to manage, negotiate contracts, or more to hone their skills to identify problems or obstacles when conversing in real-time. This skill is not only to know when and how to proceed, but more importantly the skill to decide, if you should proceed.

Here’s an example of something that allows no opinion: 2+2=4

You are not entitled to an opinion that 2+2=5. It doesn’t. It’s a yes or no statement. But what happens when a person argues that just because you say that it’s 4 doesn’t mean they have to agree with you? Followed with that magical term “Well that’s my opinion so lets move on to other matters.” While you know full well the next part of the discussion not only involves more math, but also some algebraic formulations. What are you going to do now?

Anyone whom understands the business debate, contract negotiations, or personnel matters knows you can not move forward. You must first tackle the 4 not 5 matter. If not, all you are doing is sowing the seeds of an inevitable confrontation or worse. But this is far easier said than done. Especially when the other party decides they are not going to budge regardless of what you say. And the more you try to explain, the harder they fight back with terms such as. “Well what makes you so right? Why can’t I be? I’m only stating my opinion. Seems you’re just hung up on me saying I’m wrong.” or “Listen I don’t care about that now, lets move on. Why won’t you just drop it? It’s only my opinion.”

You might be saying to yourself this a foolish example people know better. Yet I will state this analogy plays out far to often than most understand. Here are a few examples:

In a contract negotiation you hear: “I know you food producers use heavier packaging as to make up the difference for lower profits. I’ve felt the difference in thickness from different suppliers. You guys will make up the difference one way or another. But let’s move on to what you want to charge me for the distribution costs for the northeast region of my new stores.”
You might state emphatically that’s not true, and is regulated by federal law. The penalties are not worth the risks and easily verifiable. Also you encourage them if they ever were to find violations to report it because it’s illegal. But they just follow-up with one of the opinion phrases listed above. Just what do you do now?

In a personnel or management meeting you hear: “I know what it says in the policy manual but the idea that something like this is a violation because it suggests harassment (or some other violation) is just overboard today. I’ve seen that so-called violation happen daily throughout the company, everybody does it. It’s really no big deal. Can we get on to the matters of sick leave now?”
When you interject and state why it is a big deal for the possibility of litigation claims this person (which might also be your boss) states one of the opinion phrases listed above. What do you do now?

As you can see in both of these examples there is no room for an interpretation or opinion. They’re yes or no issues that must be agreed upon before anything else can move forward in earnest. If you were to just “move on” what you would be doing is enabling bad reasoning, which could result in disaster at any time. That is unacceptable regardless of the size or scale of the discussion at hand. If all parties can’t agree that 2+2=4, then you have never had a discussion of any real understanding or value.

People are entitled to their own opinions, but not to an interpretation of facts that require yes or no resolutions. It’s up to you to separate the two. Whether it cost you the business, the argument, or the date.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr