“I Have No Opinion”
Ken, a client of mine, told me that he had great confidence in high school and even was on the debate team. With the passing of the years, though, he’s lost confidence in himself. He tries to be so agreeable he doesn’t know what he thinks any more and desperately wants to regain his confidence.
Sadly, I don’t think Ken’s unique. Despite the endless barrage of tweets, texts, and postings that rain down on us daily, many people lack a genuine conviction of their own thoughts. They remain mute or simply smile and mindlessly agree with others’ opinions.
Ken claims he has no personal opinions because he doesn’t want to hurt people’s feelings. His reflex is to nod his head and say, “yes,” “good,” or “I agree,” all the while not reflecting on whether he believes or doesn’t believe the truth of what they’re saying.
There are people who convince themselves that the most important thing in life is to be liked and approved by EVERYONE – yes, everyone – they encounter. And so these people will do whatever it takes to get people to like them.
Do you work with a “yes” person? The person who says “yes” to every request and then fails to deliver on what was promised? In most cases, that person is saying “yes” not because they’re a jerk but rather because they’re afraid of disappointing you in the moment. And even more, they want you to like and respect them – deeply and truly.
Ken doesn’t understand that genuine like and respect go deeper than merely agreeing with someone.
Amy Adams recently talked about Philip Seymour Hoffman with whom she worked on two films. She said that, “He had this unique ability to see people. To really see them. Not look through them. He just really saw people.” When you really “see” a person, you see the good, the bad, and the ugly and in that seeing you respect them by engaging them in ways in which you agree, disagree, encourage, and challenge. That’s the inherent risk of truly encountering another human being. That’s true respect.
I think Ken is afraid that if people really “see” him they won’t like or respect him. Maybe that will happen – with some people some of the time. But without the risk of seeing and being seen, there can be no real relationship.
Ken has yet to take that risk. He has yet to give himself permission to say “I think,” “I feel,” “I believe,” “I want,” or “I need.” He has yet to truly see himself.
He wants to and I’m choosing to believe that in time he will.
What about you – do you really see people? Really see yourself?
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