I was sick a few weeks ago and misread a note that said “defend your opinions” as saying, “defend your onions.” Kind of dumb, kind of funny, and kind of useful.
Our work requires us to be opinionated. Engaging with others requires us to listen to their opinions. Whether you’re the president, a parent, or anything in between, you’re dealing with a lot of opinions on any given day.
Opinions, like onions, have layers. Right or wrong, there’s more to them than what you first see. Again, kind of dumb, kind of funny, but really useful to remember.
If you have a strong opinion, you should be able to defend it – on the outside and inside. If you have a weak opinion, you should understand what doesn’t quite work – again, on the outside and inside.
We don’t ever want to understand our opinions as one solid object. We’re better when we understand them as having layers. It’s extra important when it comes to the opinions of others too. All opinions have layers well below their surface statements and we can’t see them from the outside looking in. We have to unpack them.
It might be logical. It might be illogical. It might be psychological, emotional, or metaphysical. There might be several of these mental processes onion’d up into a dense bulb that’ll make you cry when you peel it. They grow in complicated layers. No matter how they first appear, every opinion is an onion.
One last note on defense. We earn the right to defend our opinions when we’ve put the work in to understand what we’re doing and why. Likewise, we want to approach the opinions of others in the same way. Maybe not with defense but certainly with deference. Like them or not, we want to honor their layers and complexity.
Defend your onions. Understand them. And respect others’ onions too. The more curious we are about their layers, the more productive our conversations can be.