With the emergence of ‘fake news’ in recent years, you’ll be forgiven for asking how we can trust the information we hear. Because of that, we’re becoming more cautious about information. We ask “What do we mean by facts? Where are facts useful? How do we discern what we need to know?”

I saw this recently when working with one of my clients. The team was struggling to reach an agreement. Instead of becoming aligned with what was true and what was reality, they were becoming blinkered by opinions. To help, I asked them to separate the facts of the situation from the opinions.

Naturally, everyone has their own opinions. We see the world through our own lenses. We experience events from our own perspective.

“We don’t see the world as it is, we see the world as we are.” Anais Nin

The challenge here is that we form opinions based on our own belief systems of what we think is right and wrong. We may even treat our opinions as facts. That’s why people argue. You might believe that your opinion is true; other people might strongly believe that it’s wrong. We base our opinions on the way we approach a situation. Just one more fact can change that position.

Get a group of people together with lots of different opinions, and difficulties often happen. As soon as someone provides a hard and fast fact, backed up with evidence, perspectives can change.

Sound Knowledge Helps You Achieve Your Goals

When you’re making decisions on your goals and course of action, pause and ask yourself: “Are my decisions and course of action based on opinion, or am I basing them on truth and facts?”

Decision making is helped immensely when you carry out due diligence. Fact checking can include doing some background research to investigate what’s been said. Check also that you’re fact checking against reliable sources of information.

In this blog, I wrote about Knowledge. Are you testing your opinion against the knowledge you’ve gained, or are you simply acting on hope? Measuring something that’s based on opinion rather than facts can be too vague. You may well trust the source of your information, but to ensure it’s true, always verify the facts. Those facts will help you to define your goals and measure your progress.

When testing the validity of your sources, check how trustworthy they are. Who’s influencing your opinions? Are they a reliable source of factual information? It’s okay to test and challenge your sources to ensure they’re giving you good quality information. If they’re a figure of authority, you could either take what they say at face value or do your own research and fact checking if there’s any doubt. You decide how credible they are!

Where’s the Evidence?

A belief is something that we hold to be true. We treat our beliefs as if they’re factual. Some beliefs are backed up by scientific facts. For instance, I believe that the sun will rise tomorrow morning. Luckily, there is a lot of evidence supporting that belief!

Beliefs are accumulated through experiences. So, when someone asks for evidence, you can provide three types of evidence:

  1. Anecdotal – tell the story you’ve heard; give examples and discuss it. Is it credible?
  2. Empirical – provide the facts from reputable sources, the science.
  3. Experiential – describe your first-hand experience.

Many people only believe something when they see or experience it for themselves, particularly if the earlier evidence wasn’t strong enough. Anecdotal evidence may not be credible, but empirical evidence adds weight. Then, experiencing it yourself gives extra weight to the evidence. There are some situations that you can never prove until you’ve had the experience of it yourself.

When I’m working with clients and ask their view on something, they often tell me, ‘I can’t do this because…’, giving their reason as a fact. In coaching, our process explores the validity of that belief. How true is it? Even when views were strongly held for years, through gentle questioning the client eventually realises that the information was only an opinion, a point of view. Looking at it from another perspective completely shifts their position.

I’ll often unblock a long-held mental block simply by questioning, looking at things from different angles and revisiting that belief. Using a non-confrontational approach, I only ever come from a place of curiosity and exploration.

Exploring the validity of your belief helps to uncover whether it’s based on fact or fiction. You may be choosing to hold on to it because it protects you somehow, preventing you from taking a seemingly scary course of action. Discovering the facts often reveals the less helpful influences and the reality of the opinion, helping you to let go of anything unhelpful.

What’s Your DISC Profile?

Some people are wired to go with their gut feelings depending on their DISC profile. Sometimes, even in the face of solid evidence, our gut will state that the opposite is true. When we listen to that instinctive voice, we go with our intuition. People who listen to their instincts are comfortable in changing opinions or direction simply based on their gut feelings.

Conversely, people with Compliance in their mix want facts, evidence and data to double or triple check, cross reference and verify. They want more information to corroborate the facts, not taking anything at face value. They take the time to do that due diligence.

When it comes to teamwork, it all depends on the style of your team’s profile and that of the individuals within the team. Be prepared to back up what you say with corroborating evidence. Be prepared to be challenged – you can’t just say, ‘Because I said so!’

People with a high I in DISC are easily persuaded and influenced by others; they can also easily persuade others!  Whereas those who are more of a low I high C need the evidence. Prove it!

What Are Facts?

  • Facts help us understand the difference between what we hold as factual beliefs and our own opinions
  • Facts help us to see how we are being influenced by our beliefs and opinions
  • The facts we have at our disposal help us to make good decisions.

The risk averse amongst us will carry out lots of due diligence, whereas those of a more relaxed risk profile will happily go with their gut feelings and be influenced by others’ opinions. So, it’s useful to be aware of our personality profile.