Fact, Fiction, Opinion & Expectation

The differences between each of the title words are significant and complex. 

If I personally experience an event this is Fact to me; participation not hearsay or opinion. That is, “I was physically there, I saw and heard firsthand.” On the other hand, if I express what I think and what I feel, but have not personally experienced an event I express only my OpinionFiction is false, a made up story, but often designed as if true and Fact. Knowing the difference and responding appropriately to Fact, Opinion or Fiction is never easy. Seeking hard data to support what is said and heard is not a simple process. One must search for hard proof. Saying it is so does not make it so.

Examples abound around most “Kitchen Tables” where much talk takes place and where separating Fact, Fiction and Opinion is often next to impossible and why I include Expectation in the title. Expectation is usually below the surface, but plays a big role in communication. Often the Expectation is that “I win you over to what I say is true.” Here is where Opinion and Fiction becomes one and turning Fiction into Fact is what the speaker wants the listener to buy into.

The dialogue experience may be the only way we are able to communicate with each other if a speaker believes so strongly in what they say even if what they say comes only from hearsay or what they have read. In other words, what many people believe as true is not based on Fact, which must be actual, but sources that say “what I say is actual.” This most serious problem with communication is more common today than ever due to social media and the technology that so easily makes Fiction appear as Fact.  

It used to be that most people communicated their Opinion to each other and they would say so, but this is becoming rare between us. It is why I suggest asking questions: Is this your experience? Were you there? If told, how reliable is your source? Fact demands irrefutable proof, and we are each responsible for separating FACT from FICTION. This mountain is getting harder to climb.   Sy

    Our world is changing—-Must we also change with it?—-Maybe, maybe not.

Free Speech and Speaking Your Mind

A dear friend (former camper) sent me a book that he believes makes the case that “free speech” is fighting for its life in our country. It’s written by a conservative professor and is about the professor’s frustration relative to his desire to express his opinion on a variety of issues. And, of course, he makes the case that freedom of speech is being taken from him and others like him. The professor also argues that he is denied the right to express “truths” by the institution he teaches at. He goes further writing that universities throughout the country are responsible for shutting down “free speech” in the class room.

I have no fault with his passion for free speech and how he argues for it. Frankly, I am in agreement with him when it comes to being able to express one’s opinion. After-all, what is “genuine dialogue?” It is the highest level of conversation that people can have. It is where mutual respect lives, people are seriously present, listen to what is said, work to understand what is said, and are totally honest in their response. Agreement either happens or it does not and this is acceptable. Also, are facts necessary in most conversations, or is it opinions that rule? 

What this professor misses in his argument is that when powerful people speak their words are too often taken as fact. Unless facts are backed up by absolute provable data, not the power and influence of the speaker, how do we know what is said is true? A problem for many is this: that certain people possess the power or credentials and followers, for some reason, believe every word they utter. How can anyone accept words as fact unless the words are backed up by hard proof? “Stupid is as stupid does.”

Opinion is what most people have and this is commonly based on what one hears– reads and personal experience. If facts are called for we need to ask the question: “what are the facts that support what you say?” I know it’s raining outside because I can see it, feel it and possibly even smell it. That’s fact! But if someone tells me “I heard it’s raining outside?” Maybe yes and maybe no? Knowing the difference between what is fact and what is opinion is essential to almost everything we say to each other. The question: Is one’s Free Speech based on facts or is it opinion? Fact is irrefutable, opinion is always arguable.   Sy 

A Story time About Power, Failure and Knowing Oneself

Demand pushed me to seek additional help working with organizations throughout the country. I needed someone with a deep understanding of a pragmatic philosophy concerning leadership, relationship and dialogue.  My own Inner Circle was the only place I could go since they each were fully immersed and understood our philosophy’s intricacies. Dialogue between us was and is totally open and genuine.  

I had three members in my Inner Circle to choose from. Any one of them would be up to the task. I approached (I’ll call him Joe) and offered him the opportunity (as I saw it) to travel to organizations around the country and hold workshops teaching leaders and their (dysfunctional for the most part) Inner Circle’s the art of Genuine Dialogue between the leader and their staff.

In moments Joe looked at me and said “I can’t do this. It’s impossible for me to teach our philosophy to those with power” I was shocked. What I offered him paid very well; much beyond what he was making. Joe understood the philosophy and its application as well as I and also never walked away from problems and challenges regardless of how difficult they may have been.

I asked him “why?” His answer he gave is of such value that I’m compelled to share it. “As you know, I served in the service in Washington D.C. as an officer and left the service because of the power structure I faced on a daily basis. I had many types of leaders and almost all had no sense of their power and influence over those of us that worked for and with them. Their blindness or love of power eventually got to me and affected the work I had to do. I realized that I needed to be where respect and regard are the driving force of the environment. Having never suffered this with you before the service I decided to return. I was right in doing so.”

‘I totally understand and love our philosophy, but if I lectured to leaders that were owned by their love for power and blind to the damage they do to their staff I would be so negatively affected that I could not help them. Failure has never been an acceptable option for me, and I would fail helping them.”  

Knowing Joe and his background as I do, I understood him and his drive and passion to not fail. His history and the relationships around “the kitchen table” are very much a part of his life and will always play into it.  It’s impossible to fight and ameliorate the ghosts of the past. 

As luck would have it facing difficult challenges and worse has never stopped me from walking into the unknown. In fact, Joe brought this up to me when we discussed his doing this work and why he could not. He said that I faced power people with my own power and never as he witnessed it was less than who I am. 

I have given much thought to the work I do with powerful people and find that I have enjoyed the process of being me and welcome those with power to be the source of empowerment to others. I understand the damage power blindly or knowingly do to those dependent on the one in power. I also understand the good that those in power can do. To convey both sides and to assist getting to the positive side was and is my goal.   Sy 

My Own Revelation

As most of you know, in the mid-seventies I began to work with organizations for the sole purpose of improving relationships between coworkers. Those that employed me saw this as a serious enough problem to warrant finding someone to resolve this problem that (as they saw it) was between and amongst their staff. What gave me my reputation were my own employees and our camp’s remarkable success over a period of 27 years that I believed was due to good fortune and awesome child workers. I saw myself as lucky to have found and hired such capable people.  As leader, I saw me as incidental and simply a good problem solver. I believed that my work was to facilitate the work my staff did and that my leadership was incidental to their excellent work. It took observing other leaders and years of intensive research to realize how wrong I was.

 Initially, my workshops had all to do with helping an organization build a more cooperative and productive environment between coworkers.  What I soon discovered was that troubled staff relationships are not the primary cause, but the result of bad leadership. This troubled me deeply since I, as leader, may have been a major contributor to the personnel issues I faced during my leadership days. For my many years as leader I was absolutely ignorant of my part in staff issues. Simply put, some of them were the problem, never me. So, don’t change me, change or get rid of them.

This shook me at my core since I never remember checking me out as “what kind of leader was I?” When I trained my staff I trained them to be the most creative and able with children as possible. But I was not conscious of the impact my relationship with any of them had on our relationship and the work they did. 27 years later as mentor to other leaders and the solving of their staff relations I discovered how important boss/staff relationships are. Nothing is more important!  

Two changes had to take place. The first had to be the leader’s awakening to their power and influence and the other had to be the planting and nurturing of genuine dialogue, not monologue between the leader and the people they worked with. Also, due to this awakening I began to study Leadership, Power & Influence from any and every source. It continues to this day. 

The success of the workshop program literally exploded and I desperately needed others to join with me in helping leaders grow into their natural, nurturing and empowering selves. Not an easy task.    Sy