Whose Opinion Should you Listen to?

Have you noticed that is a gigantic entity in the world whose opinion has a massive influence on what we do?

That entity is “people”.

How often do you hear someone say “I can’t do that because people might think…”, or “What will people say?”.

When I ask clients the question “What stops you from being more visible?”, one of the most common responses is fear of judgement and the opinions of others. “Others” is just another reference to “people”.

So who exactly are these "people"? And should we care what they think?

Opinions and judgement from others can have an impact on what we achieve, the progress we make and the recognition that we get. When you’re trying to get something to happen some opinions do matter, but not everyone’s opinion has the same level of influence.  

When we start breaking the mythical “people” entity down into smaller groups, and even individuals, we can start to look at why we think their opinion is important and discover practical ways to respond. 

Instead of being held back by a big scary mass of opinions that are constantly changing, we can choose which ones we think matter, and develop our own strategy to be visible (or do the thing we’re scared to do) and tune into the feedback and listen to the opinions that really matter.

I was scared of "people" questioning my commitment to my job.

When I was managing Digital Creativity Labs, I was nervous about speaking out about being a coach and my passion for one day running my own coaching practice.

I was worried that “people” wouldn’t think I was committed to my current role, and that there was a risk that they wouldn’t listen to me or take me seriously. That fear held me back, and in some ways pushed me harder to show my commitment to the day job for fear that I might be found out. 

When I start to break “people” down into the different groups I notice that while the top-level fear (questioning my commitment to the role) is the same, I actually had different concerns over the opinions of different groups: 

  • for the members of my team – I was scared that they would feel uncertain about their future if they thought I might be disappearing off to do something else with my career. 
  • for my colleagues – I worried that they would question my commitment to the tasks we did together, and it would affect how they worked with me as a team. 
  • for my manager and other senior managers – I thought it might risk my chances of being considered for promotion or other roles, and that I’d be held more accountable and be more scrutinised for every project I took on. 
  • for our customers and partners – I was concerned that if they thought I wasn’t “in it” for the long-term, they would be nervous about building a relationship with me and that this would affect the success of the project. 

I can still connect with the big, top-level fear of people’s opinions really easily, but it’s interesting to me that when I break it down into groups here to share with you here, I’m not really sure what I was afraid of. 

When I start to break it down further and explore the possible reactions of some of the individuals in those groups, I realise that most of them would have been really supportive (and were when I eventually took the leap). 

Even more interesting is that those few people that really could have kicked up some sort of fuss or made my life difficult didn’t have anywhere near as much influence to do that as I’d made up in my head.

And that brings me to the reality of what was really going on – until I took the leap and started sharing what I was passionate about with others, the “people” and opinions that I was fighting with were all in my head – and my head is way scarier than real life! 

It was never “people’s” opinions that were holding me back, it was my made up fear of all the possible things that could go wrong… none of which played out the way I thought they might anyway! 

When I stopped listening to my opinion of people’s opinions and started doing what I loved, I discovered that people’s opinions mattered a lot less than I thought! 

If you want to get out there and be more visible but people’s opinions are holding you back, ask yourself:

  • What are the things you’re hiding that you’re scared that “people” might judge you on? 
  • What happens when you break “people” down into smaller, specific groups. What new options emerge?
  • notice what comes up when you ask “whose opinion matters” and use the answers to guide the actions you take.

If you’d like to continue this discussion around overcoming people’s opinions so you can be more visible, come over and join the discussions in Emma’s free Authentic Visibility For Women in Tech Facebook group.

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