Part of the reason that I blog regularly is so that I have a place to record some of the many gems of wisdom that I stumble across randomly during the course of each day’s online travels.
Today it’s the turn of Brad Feld’s post ‘Mentors 9/18: Clearly Separate Opinion From Fact‘ which is taken from his upcoming new book, ‘Startup Opportunities: Know When To Quit Your Day Job‘.
He points out that many people who advise others fail to fully appreciate the difference between facts, data and opinions. Whilst Brad is tackling the mentor/mentee relationship in his post, it’s clear that the same warning applies to anyone who advises others (the role of lawyers immediately sprang to mind here to me).
In short, advisors will often justify (unconsciously perhaps) their role in the relationship by stating that something is a fact when the statement is in reality simply their opinion. Of course, a statement might be based on data (truth) which you used to subsequently form your opinion. But an opinion is necessarily an extension of the facts. Your opinion is not factual in and of itself. But the person who listens to it has no way of knowing that they’re listening to an opinion rather than a fact.
The point is simply to be clear about the advice that you’re offering to the person that you’re helping – is it fact or is it opinion?
Both are valuable but conflating the latter with the former can have negative consequences for the person who is eagerly waiting to use what you say to help them make a decision. And the more transparent you are during this process, the more valuable your help is likely to be.