When it comes to this topic, the most common thing I hear is that we should never let other people’s opinions influence us.
I don’t think that’s necessarily true, or healthy.
And I don’t think the opposite is true, or healthy, either.
Other people can provide a distanced perspective on things in our lives and help us see things slightly (or even sometimes completely) differently than we see them.
Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees and we keep waltzing deeper and deeper in.
Even unasked for advice can provide some valuable insight on something – even though it can be as annoying as all get out.
That’s not to say that we should always follow the advice we are given. Listening and following are two completely different things.
If we are able to sit and really listen to what is said and allow ourselves to be distanced a little from the situation, we can evaluate what has been said a little more objectively. We can pull out the things that we accept and then push aside the things we don’t want to accept.
It might help us with some of the decisions we have to make – or possibly even help us extricate ourselves from some situations already-made decisions have put us into.
Of course, it’s easier to write those two paragraphs than it is to put them into action!
It takes a certain amount of, I would say, emotional maturity to do that. Depending on the situation – or the person giving the advice – we may have more or less of that than in other situations, or if we are hearing it from someone else.
A few things that could help in determining if we should listen or not are listed below. This is not an exhaustive list. And you may already have your own formula for how to deal with other people’s opinions. These are just some things that have helped me sift through the occasional morass of opinions.
1. What do I want and why do I want it? What do I expect to accomplish or get from it?
We can be very easily influenced if we don’t have a solid idea of where we stand on any given thing. Before we start listening to what other people have to say, we should at least have an idea of our own position on it and why it’s important.
2. What is the intention of the person speaking to me?
If we know that the person genuinely loves us, then we can assume that they are speaking from a place of concern. For me, that makes them more worth listening to than someone whose motives I’m not so sure about.
3. How much do I trust that person?
This is related to #2.
If the person is someone we trust, then why wouldn’t we listen? Even if it’s something we don’t want to hear, it might be that we need to hear it. I would rather hear something like that from someone I trust than anyone else. Or worse, not hear it at all and make a really stupid decision because I was maybe too stubborn to listen to another perspective.
4. How many people are saying the same thing?
If everyone around us is telling us practically the same thing, that’s a really good sign that we should stop and at least think about it.
Unless we’ve completely surrounded ourselves with awful people (and why on earth would we do that??), at least some of those people should be people we know and trust. If that’s the case there’s a good chance that what they are all saying has at least some value.
5. What do I want and why do I want it? What do I expect to accomplish or get from it?
Hopefully you have paid enough attention that you have noticed that this is the same as #1. 🙂
That’s because after we’ve heard what everyone has had to say, we should re-evaluate our own thoughts and position.
Has anyone said anything that shows that we won’t actually achieve our goal by following our current plan?
Or maybe has someone articulated a fear that we already had – or a consequence we hadn’t though of – and, hopefully, even provided some suggested solutions?
After all that, though, ultimately it is our own decision, whatever comes of it.
What’s that saying? Something to the effect that
We are free to choose, but we can’t choose the consequences.
So we have to accept everything that comes with those choices – the good, the bad and the ugly.
In a nutshell: Don’t dismiss what others have to say just because you don’t want to hear it. And don’t automatically do what they say just because they want you to.
Easy-peasy, right? 😉
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