Opinions are a touchy subject in today’s world. Some people don’t like hearing what others really think, and prefer to just scrape the surface of conversations in order to “play it safe”. I am not one of them. Those people have a time and a place, but often, they can be detrimental to any company or relationship, whether it’s a startup, big corporation, or a friend.
Being opinionated certainly has it’s downside risks. Some types of opinionated people come off as arrogant, abrasive, or can end up lacking tact and hurting themselves in their careers. Though these are all risks, its important to gauge your audience and hope that they push for a culture where peoples’ ideas can at least be heard (no matter how good or bad).
When working closely with people, it becomes an issue of “why would I talk to this person” when they feel that the conversation will go nowhere. In order to foster creativity and growth in a tight-knit group, it is important to be honest, opinionated, and understanding. The person in the room who everybody knows doesn’t have an opinion immediately loses value, because people will soon realize there is very little upside to talking with them. Your outcomes are either:
a) You ask them their opinion and they shy away from giving it, or tiptoe around it, for whatever reason. “well I’m not really sure…”
b) They listen to what you have to say and remain silent, reciprocating nothing. “oh.”
c) They disagree with what you say, then quietly tell somebody else in private what they really think. “I can’t believe (s)he said that to me…”
With responses like those, nobody is learning nor is it advancing or deepening the culture and/or relationships that are being built.
We are at a period of time when people are more watched, recorded, and analyzed than ever before. It’s understandable how some people may just want to get in, do what they are told, and get out. Just skate through life hoping for nothing bad to happen and to play a quiet role. Some people are just programmed this way, and that’s fine, but when looking for growth and upside in people, it’s important to float your opinion out there and see what comes back. It allows everyone a view in to what level you are thinking at, how you observe the world around you, and may even improve your product/company/relationship/life. Don’t underestimate the upside of being opinionated. It’s a thin line to walk at times, but one that is well worth the risk.