Friday, June 27, 2014

Think Before You Speak

"Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another." -  Napoleon Hill

One of my greatest pet peeves is when people speak on situations they have no idea about. When they share their opinions - secondhand at that - on situations others are going through without truly knowing the facts. But placing themselves in a position of an authority on the matter at hand.

Sure, we're all entitled to our own opinions, and anyone with two brain cells can look at a situation and form said opinion based on various factors. We all do that, but that's not what I'm referring to. What I'm referring to is when one hears one side of a situation and formulates not only an opinion, but also a response about the situation as if they were fully informed.

When we are faced with the situations of loved ones, we innately jump to defend that side without ever considering the other side at all. What we truly need is more objective thinking and reasoning and less one-sided, biased opinions informing our stance on situations.

I understand that sometimes, in certain cases, the fault of one party over another is undeniably clear, and in those cases, sure, we can rightly form an opinion based on those facts, one-sided or not. For example, if someone breaks into a house and shoots the resident, it is clear where the blame lies in that given situation. There is no reason to consider the other side. And while that may be an extreme example, it illustrates the point I'm making.

Take, however, a couple arguing. Let's say one party is feeling neglected, while the other party is feeling smothered. If you are close friends with one of these parties, chances are you will jump to their defense and place all the blame on the other party. But is that really fair? No, it is not. You don't know the full story and both sides of the argument. All you know is what one party relayed to you in confidence, and you have formed a biased opinion based on that information.

If you really wanted to help this hypothetical couple, and if they wanted your help (which is first and foremost here), you would listen objectively to both parties and then offer your assistance in helping them resolve what issues they were each dealing with.

I get that there's a sense of loyalty that comes into play in most of these situations, but I'm not just referring to couples either. This goes for friends, business partners, family members, religious leaders, political leaders, etc. We, too many times, base our opinions on a limited amount of facts and/or hearsay and never seek out the full truth of the matter. And then we present our opinions with some level of validity that paints us as an expert on the matter.

No matter how eloquent you may be in your presentation, your opinion is still one-sided and therefore uninformed, resulting in you speaking out of turn and potentially souring others on the party you've placed your judgment - however vague or mildly so - upon.

I will never claim to be perfect or to have all the answers. Nor will I ever make the statement that I am right all the time, or that none of my opinions are biased. I'm just as flawed and imperfect as anyone else, and I make mistakes like anyone else. I know what they are, and I try to correct them or learn from them as I can. I am accountable... when I have something to be accountable for. No one will ever be harder on me than I am on myself.

What I can say, though, is that I sincerely try to look at all sides of every situation, and to place myself in others' shoes as much as I possibly can when coming to a conclusion about something. No, I can't completely do that as we all have different experiences and none of us will ever truly know what another person has gone through. We all perceive things differently, and that degree of perception dictates how great or small various things affect us. One occurrence may be no big deal to one person, while it may be devastating to another. But still, I try.

That's all we can do. We try to better ourselves, we try to understand each other, and we try to live our lives as peaceably as we possibly can. To do that, we have to face ourselves and ask ourselves if we are truly making informed decisions and opinions, or if we're getting seeds of information or gossip and basing our entire philosophies off those tidbits.

The bottom line is, you may know certain things about certain individuals, and the situations they are in and the obstacles they face. But you don't truly know them and everything they've gone through, especially when you are only talking to the opposite side and never considering for a moment that the counterpart may have something valuable to add to your opinion on the matter at hand.

Think, people. Think before you speak and let the world know what your true motivations and instincts are, and what limited resources they are based upon. Think to speak to the other parties involved before making blanket statements based on half-truths and misinformed notions of what you feel are justified thoughts and actions. Think what effect your words will have on those who are familiar with the situation you speak of, even if you try your best to keep it vague. If you truly care, think. Or don't speak at all.

-B

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