Updated: Jan 23
Being one of those people who really think their opinion matters can be a pain in the a** sometimes. Recently, I've realized that there wasn't one matter discussed in my surroundings that I did not have an opinion on.
But why is that bad, beyond the obvious reasons? Well, there's the problem of not being able to listen properly. I have never been a good listener, as far as my closest friends and family members are concerned. Most of the time I'm very assertive and even tend to raise my voice to make clear that my arguments are the best ones. And even if they might be - which is usually not the case, because what the h*ll do I know? - being the loudest or most aggressive speaker doesn't make you any more believable.
Realizing this and reflection on it has been a crucial and important step for me. Writing about it even more so. Since moving to Shanghai there has been a huge change in how I behave socially, mostly contributed to the fact that I did not have as much social interaction as I had back home and at work. As a result, some of my social skills changed or got lost along the way. I consider this a good and a bad thing. The ability to convince people of your opinion can be power- and useful if there isn't much time to discuss and if you want to reach a certain point at work or within a project fast. But it's not a skill you necessarily need at home. At least not in a calm, quiet, social and civilized environment.
In stark contrast to my environment at home, my business environment has always been hectic and stressful. Therefore, I have found myself in a variety of situations that required assertiveness - even to the point when I felt the need to aggressively push my opinion. I tried to make people move in a certain direction, needed them to do specific tasks and motivate them by applying a certain form of pressure and amplification. It worked in a lot of cases.
Now I'm at home - most of the time. I'm usually meeting the people closest to me in an environment that does not require me to convince them or make them do anything specific. Hence, my way of approaching these conversations has to be drastically different from my work-conversations. The same counts for my study- und learning-partners. These people can only make me smarter, help me to reach goals that they probably don't even share with me or just enrich my day-to-day life. The situations in which I encounter these people and fall back into old schemas of trying to steer or alter their way of thinking and acting are the ones that make me feel bad afterwards. I feel stupid because it seems totally unnecessary. My opinion does not matter.
I realized that I'm usually in my best state of mind when I was aware of that and acted accordingly. I felt free of any pressure that required me to prove my point when I told myself that things didn't matter to me as much as I thought in the first place - and I realized that my opinion ultimately didn't matter as much as I thought to the rest of the world. This doesn't mean that I didn't have strong opinions from time to time. I just didn't try to force them upon someone else.
I do believe that this is a certain form of authenticity. If you are capable of formulating your opinion, clearly, assertively, but without pushing or forcefully trying to convince someone else. It's not about getting someone to join your side. It's just the matter-of-fact type of showing that you have values, that you believe in something and that you are capable of articulating your opinion.
So, the past few days and even weeks have been a reminder of how important it is to shut up and think first, realize who you are talking to, realize that your opinion might not matter as much as you think - as long as you are only ventilating it to start an argument or build a wall of opinions between you and your dialogue partners.
I have gone back to ask myself how believable I am if I enter a conversation. How much do I know on the topic? It's usually less than I want it to be, but that's the important part. For me this comes down to humility. But it's hard to have humility without being arrogant about it. Humility is a form of courage. So let's be courageous...
I want to end this one on a thought I picked up in an interview lately and I feel it's worth thinking about it: "You're either in love with what you know, or you're in love with what you don't know. And there's a lot more of what you don't know, so pick your love carefully."