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3 Questions to Help You Decide Whose Opinions Matter

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I'm super grateful for the internet.

I remember being in middle school and living for AOL instant messenger-- at the time, we still had dial-up internet and I would wait for the school day to end so I could log on and chat the night away with my friends (#ImGettingOld).


When I was in college, Facebook was becoming more and more popular -- it was wild to think that anyone who had an account could chat with you at any time of the day and we could share our lives with the world.


The internet revolutionized connection and communication - there's absolutely no doubt about that. Heck, I wouldn't even be able to type up this blog or watch Netflix (THE HORROR) without the internet.


Though it has provided me with endless entertainment, countless opportunities and has most all the answers (shout out to YouTube), we have to be cognoscente that the internet is filled with other people and their unfiltered opinions.


In a world where people can reach us at almost any time of the day or night, it's difficult and sometimes impossible to escape the thoughts and opinions of people. It's also very challenging to stop ourselves from ingesting all of the harsh comments and judgments, receiving unsolicited advice from others and measuring our lives against the lives of others.


We have all been impacted by this whether we'd like to admit it or not -- we've also mostly responded with the unrealistic line of "I don't care what others think." It's our way of protecting ourselves from a world full of virtually unlimited access.


However, the reality is that some opinions do matter. Our job is to identify and decide which opinions are truly valuable and figure out how to latch on to those.


Although this is not an all-inclusive list, I've found three basic questions I have started to ask myself before considering feedback from others. It's truly helped me decide who makes the cut and who doesn't, and which people I can collect wisdom and guidance from.


Let's talk about it.


1. Do they provide unconditional love and acceptance?

This question is incredibly important, and maybe even the most important, when trying to decide which opinions of you matter. Why? Because unconditional love + acceptance = safety.


Not everyone is safe enough to deserve our most vulnerable parts. This does not mean we shouldn't practice vulnerability regularly, but vulnerability without boundaries is very, very dangerous.


Safe people provide us with unconditional love and acceptance and are typically the same people who are the most empathic. When we bring them a problem, they aren't standing up on a pedestal providing judgment and criticism; in fact, they rarely (if ever) act holier than thou.


They don't answer our concerns with, "You should be really ashamed with yourself." The response is quite the opposite -- they almost all of the time put themselves in our shoes first, validate the struggle and briefly set aside their own needs in the relationship.


Dr. Henry Cloud says it best in his book Safe People: How to Find Relationships That Are Good for You and Avoid Those That Aren't.

In safe relationships, empathy is a large part of the equation. We literally “enter the other person’s head” and attempt to understand how he feels, what he believes, and how he thinks. Empathy is walking in the moccasins of another person, and not judging him until we can see what suffering he’s been through to get to the point he’s at. Empathy is not easy. It involves letting go of your opinion and what you’re needing in the relationship so that you can enter the world of the other person, if only for a brief time. We can’t stay in the empathic position permanently, because we could lose ourselves. But empathy is what makes a relationship real—and safe.

People who we collect wisdom, guidance and support from must be safe. They must provide us with unconditional love and acceptance (with healthy boundaries, of course) regardless of our choices. Those are the people that are truly in your corner and worth listening to.


2. Are they consistently honest with you?

Safe people are filled with empathy... and honesty. We all need a few people in our lives who hit us with the cold hard truth in a loving way.


The truth is difficult to hear and accept -- although I am a huge fan of existing in the reality of all situations, I'm human and am sometimes not ready to hear or acknowledge the whole truth. When I get in this emotional space, I sometimes notice myself going to people who I know won't feed me the truth because I know I'm not ready for it (yikes).


Here are the cold hard facts, though: we need safe people in our lives who will be honest with us. Sometimes we need help making rational decisions. Sometimes we need help seeing things clearly. Sometimes we need to be more grounded and come back to earth... and that's okay.


People who are consistently honest with us are necessary because they help us grow. These are the same people who we should collect guidance from- their opinion matters because they hold us accountable for our own feelings, actions and choices. They understand that the empathy-filled truth may hurt initially, but helps us in the long run.


3. Are they doing their own emotional work?

I never thought about this concept until I was talking to my therapist about the people who are in my immediate life. In mid conversation, she said something that I'd never heard before but made a ton of sense. She said, "Water is level. We seek relationships in life that are similar to ourselves. If we are growing and changing, we seek to connect with people who are also doing the same thing. In this case, their own emotional work."


MIND. BLOWN.


I heard this a second time whenever reading Daring Greatly by Brené Brown (I know you're all shocked by that).

A lot of cheap seats in the arena are filled with people who never venture onto the floor. They just hurl mean-spirited criticisms and put-downs from a safe distance. The problem is, when we stop caring what people think and stop feeling hurt by cruelty, we lose our ability to connect. But when we’re defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable. Therefore, we need to be selective about the feedback we let into our lives. For me, if you’re not in the arena getting your a** kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.

This struck a cord with me because it's so true. If we collect wisdom from people who are not being courageous in facing their own trauma, hurt, vulnerability and overall emotions... how much useful feedback can they possibly give us? Can they even tell us the truth if they haven't faced their own? Can they practice empathy in relationships if they aren't willing to connect through their own struggle?


Being in the arena doing the hard work makes us more suitable to give and receive wisdom. If people are offering us advice but haven't willingly faced their own struggle... their advice could be damaging to our growth and development.

The moral of this 5 minute post is this:

  • Not all feedback is useful for our personal growth.

  • We should be cautious is whose opinions we absorb.

  • Safe people are necessary and hold the only opinions that truly matter.

Take some time to write down a list of 5-6 safe people whose opinions of you actually matter. Pull out that list when you feel overwhelmed by unsolicited advice or the criticism of others. If their name didn't make that list... they don't deserve your full energy and sweet soul.


HAPPY FRIDAY, y'all!

LOVE YOU MEAN IT,

JT

#beinggreatHER

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