Facts are useful. Opinions help, too. Knowing one from the other will help you get more work done with more people. Here’s why.



Hello, I’m Tony Mayo, the Business Owner’s Executive Coach.

One client told me that today’s distinction helped him make every business conversation more productive -and shorter.

But first this… The doctor says to his patient, “I’m very sorry, “your condition is terminal. “You have less than a year to live.” The patient says, “I want a second opinion!” And the doctor says, “Alright, your tie is ugly, too.” We’ll come back to this.

Most of what we say is opinion with the occasional fact mixed in. This is okay, that’s what humans do. The important thing is to know which is which. What philosophers call assertions versus assessments. But assertion and assessment sound too similar to each other so let’s stick with the words “fact” and “opinion.”

Facts are statements about the world. Statements that can be proven either true or false. For instance, if I were to say this pen was made of 309 stainless steel, you and I can very quickly agree on some method for determining whether or not it really is 309 stainless steel.

On the other hand, if I told you this pen was beautiful, well, you’re free to disagree. You may think that it’s too shiny, too squishy, too anything to be beautiful. That’s the nature of opinions. Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. Like beauty, all opinions arise from an individual’s personal values, experiences, perceptions. It’s the world filtered through who they are. Opinions are not true or false, they’re either useful or not. They come from some grounded authority or not.

For example, if Apple’s top designer, Jony Ive, told me this pen was ugly, well, I’m going to give a lot more weight to that opinion than the opinion of some random teenager about the beauty and aesthetics of this pen. Jony Ive is a world recognized authority on the design of consumer products. He can cite market experience, statistics, facts, sales numbers, to ground his opinion about the aesthetic value of this object much better than most people. So I grant him _authority_ -in the domain of consumer-product design- to give very useful opinions. Now, his opinion about my skills as a coach don’t really interest me because he has no particular authority in that domain.

Here’s the gist, the way to use this distinction. Facts tell you about the world, and we can prove whether they’re true or false. Opinions tell you a lot about the person expressing the opinion, and that’s very useful when you’re working with people. It’s also useful when you’re expressing an opinion. So the key to all of this is to know when you’re expressing or hearing a fact. One set of tests in usage. When you’re saying or hearing an opinion it’s a different domain and a different set of information. You see, the patient didn’t want a second _opinion_. The patient wanted a second doctor to verify the _facts_. And _that_ is how you make every business conversation more productive -and shorter. Thanks for watching this video. I hope you enjoyed it, that you apply it, and share it.