Second Hand Opinions

I’ve heard a lot of things about a lot of people that weren’t exactly true. I’ve heard even more things about myself that weren’t at all true. 

People like to talk and an absence of facts is no reason to keep most people from talking. Some people just don’t hit it off. Something about a person turns them off and then they share that “fact” with someone else and it takes off from there. 

That’s why it’s important that you don’t use second hand opinions to make your first impressions. Never decide on a person’s character based on the opinions of other people. 

Several years ago a rumor started spreading around my workplace that I had a severe drinking problem. I apparently was pretty much hammered all the time. I heard about it from a few people and mostly laughed. It was easy to ignore because in all the time I had worked there I had maybe started 3 or 4 beers but never finished one. 

My wife and I had quit drinking alcohol many years before when someone very close to us was struggling with drugs and alcohol. Their counselor had recommended to us that we quit as a way of supporting the person and we did. Before you start thinking we made any great sacrifice you should know that at that time I could polish off a case of beer in maybe a few months. We weren’t exactly big drinkers. It was not a big deal to us to quit but it did send a powerful message to the person we were supporting. We still don’t drink today. 

So I wasn’t all that concerned with the rumor; it was so far off base that it was laughable. Except that some people believed it. After all this time and despite vast evidence to the contrary, some people still do. 

I was forced to try and put a stop to it when a senior person in the company “confided” to a customer, who was a long-time friend of mine, that I had a real problem with alcohol. It was somehow less funny when the rumor got out into the wild where it could take on a life of it’s own. 

But even then it’s was only my reputation they were talking about…not my character. I’m far more concerned about my character than my reputation because my character is who I really am, my reputation is only who people think I am. 

That’s why when I talk with one of my mentors I have never asked about what other people may think of me. I do however always ask if they see me living my values because my character is value based. 

How do you form opinions about other people? Do you listen to rumors or do you listen and watch the person for yourself? Do you let other people tell you what to think of someone or do you decide for yourself, based on YOUR experience with that person? 

Second hand opinions are very often inaccurate. If you doubt that I’d encourage you to think about all the things that people “know” about you that just ain’t so. Those people are forming opinions about you with a distorted view of who you are. 

I’ll bet you’re not exactly happy about that. So don’t do the same thing to other people. Withhold any judgment until you have firsthand information. Only then can you make a “self informed” assessment of that person’s true character. 

It’s one of those “do unto others” things. It’s also one of those things that separate an Authentic Leader from someone pretending to be a leader. Don’t pretend, never form your “own” opinion about someone with somebody else’s “facts.”

5 thoughts on “Second Hand Opinions

  1. Thanks Steve. I needed this – thanks for the reminder about the difference between character and reputation. I really appreciated the blog. It certainly hit the mark with me. I was so worried about the reputation side I forgot the living my values ie my character matters more.
    Thank you 😊

  2. Good read Steve! It’s amazing how in corporate America that falsehoods can take on a life of their own. Sad but true that perception to some is a reality. But I think you hit on a solid point here in discussing character in that people need to form their own opinions through personal experiences with others before making second hand opinions that can ruin peoples reputation. How you act and carry yourself with respect for others shows this in spades vs someone’s perceptions of you. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks Geoffrey, it’s amazing how much we have in common with people we’ve been told were very different from us when we decide to get to know them ourselves. People are far more similar than they are different, no matter what they look like, what they sound like or where they come from. It takes effort to avoid using someone else’s viewpoint to form an opinion on a person, maybe that’s why there are so many uninformed opinions around today. 🙂

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