The Wisdom to Know the Difference

I started my morning off by witnessing a public spat between two managers in the same group. Both are opinionated women with similar experience. Both like to be heard. And both are smart people.

One would speculate that these similarities are the cause of the spat.  Too people who are too similar can often ignite when put in the same room – especially if those two people are women.  Might not like the generalization, but in my experience, it happens more than it doesn’t.

Why did the spat occur? Over a very important concept – knowing what you know, knowing what you don’t know, and knowing the difference between fact and opinion.

One woman believes her opinion and fact are one in the same. If you asked her about a place for lunch, she will tell you why a restaurant is bad and should never be visited even if her only experience is once during lunch when they ran out of something she wanted. That single experience has forever colored her opinion of the situation – and is now a fact about that restaurant.

The other woman clearly separates her opinion from fact.  If you ask her about yoga (something she has studied seriously for 10 years), she will share the facts about what she has studied. But, she’s going to be clear her opinion about the brand of yoga mat to use is purely her open preference.

This distinct difference in approach came forth in the meeting – and got ugly when the woman who knows opinion from fact pointed out that the other woman was expressing her own opinion but the both approaches were right.  This set the other off to the point where she wouldn’t let anyone else finish sentences, and we got to hear her recite her resume as reasons her opinion is the only opinion because she has all of the facts thereby knowing it all.

In the end, they ended it themselves.  The woman knowing opinion from fact pointed out that talking over someone is not the way to argue, so she was done discussing it with her.

It’s interesting because I’ve been experiencing this phenomenon in real life as well as blog world a lot recently. This confusing of fact with opinion or even opinion with knowledge.  I am just as opinionated as the next person, but I also know what is my opinion based on my experience and how results may vary by individuals involved. I also know how experience can lead to knowledge, but you have to be very careful because, as I already said, experience varies by person sometimes.

Like in this meeting – just like in real life – if one does not have the wisdom to know the difference between these things, one runs the risks of stupid little spats that end with no one learning anything except that the person is negative and petty and, in certain respects, disrespectful.  And, as in this situation, I doubt that this was the message she wanted people to walk away with.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. IveyLane says:

    You summed up my freakin’ week and a client from a project we’re wrapping up right now as well!! The difference is you were able to identify and articulate the problem here and I’ve just been steaming at the general irritation I experience when I’m constantly having to call attention to (or worse simply accomodate) a person who is totally incapable of making this very simple and unthreatening distinction.

    Thanks Emmy. You made my day.

  2. I think I may be the woman whose opinion is fact. I am often accused of that. I try not to form an opinion until I have gathered many facts but once I have an opinion its hard but not impossible to change it.

  3. Sarah says:

    You just described my former boss. It was incredibly difficult to get anything accomplished once she had made her mind up about something when she was wrong. In fact, according to her, she was NEVER wrong.

    Eventually, it got the point that I never consulted her on anything unless I needed her to back me up when someone was arguing against what I was doing. On top of that, she tried to micromanage. It was awful.

    If I were you, I probably would have gotten up and walked out lol.

  4. Advizor54 says:

    Do you work with my sister? She’s never let fact change her opinion, ever. She saves time like the woman in your post and goes straight to opinion even without the facts.

  5. Ms Scarlett says:

    I try very hard to know the difference between fact and opinion… and freely admit I don’t always get there.

    Great post.

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