Click here for Tony Mayo's podcastFacts are useful. Opinions help, too. Knowing one from the other will help you get more work done with more people. Here’s why.

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Hello. I’m Tony Mayo, the Business Owner’s Executive Coach … with one quick idea you can use in your business today.

A client told me that today’s coaching distinction had made every one of his business conversations more productive —and shorter.

But first, this…

The doctor says, “Your condition is terminal. You have less than a year to live.”

The patient says, “I want a second opinion.”

The doctor replies, “Okay. Your tie is ugly, too.”

More about this in a moment…

Much of what we say is opinion, with …the occasional fact mixed in. That’s fine; it’s just what humans do. The important thing is to know the difference between facts and opinions, what philosophers call assertions and assessments. Assertion and assessment sound too much alike, so let’s stick with …facts and opinions.

Facts are statements about the world. Reasonable people can easily agree on an appropriate method of determining whether a fact is … true or false.

For example, [click the pen.] if I say this pen is grade 304 stainless steel, you and I could quickly find some way to verify whether the object is, in fact, 304 stainless steel or …something else.

Facts …are true or false for everyone. We can demand proof because facts are objective, features of the object not influenced by the person seeking proof.

On the other hand, if I say this pen is beautiful, you’re free to disagree with my opinion. You may feel it is too shiny, too squishy, too anything to be beautiful. That’s the nature of opinions. They’re subjective and personal. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Like beauty, all opinions emerge from personal perceptions, filtered through the individual’s experiences, goals, and values. It’s a version of the world influenced by who you are.

Opinions are not true or false, they’re either useful or not. Opinions cannot be proven from reality like facts, but they can be grounded in authority.

For example, if Apple’s top designer, Jony I’ve, says this pen [click the pen.] is ugly I am going to give that opinion much more weight than if some random teenager says the same thing. Jony I’ve is a widely-recognized authority on consumer product design. He can ground his opinion in data, principles, and market experience. That is, he can support his opinions with facts, so I grant him authority in the domain of consumer product design. On the other hand, his opinion about my skills as a coach doesn’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 object. [Hold up the pen.] With a little work, we can all have the same objective facts. Opinions tell you something about the person expressing that opinion. The more you know about the usefulness of a person’s opinions and their ability to ground them in facts, the better able you are to work with that person.

The patient in my joke with the terminal diagnosis …didn’t want a second opinion. He wanted another doctor to check the facts.

Facts are not better than opinions, they just have different purposes. You can be more effective if you’re clear about which you are saying and hearing, about whether you are stating a fact or expressing an opinion. That’s how you make every business conversation more productive [chuckle] —and shorter.

Thanks for listening to this podcast. I hope you enjoyed it, that you
apply it, and …share it.