How to know whose opinion matters

In a segment for the daily show Al Dia, I shared an incredibly powerful tool that has helped me determine what opinions matter in my life.  I received this tool from a wise person about 5 years ago, and to this day I remember how life changing it was the first time I used it. 

In our day to day, we are constantly bombarded with the opinions of those around us. 

Some of these opinions matter and others do not matter at all.  Yet, we often have a hard time discerning between the two.  The problems this creates for us are endless, but here are some of the worst ones: 

  • We follow the advice of toxic people, and in turn create toxicity in our own lives. 

Their advice sets us on a path we ultimately do not wish to walk on. 

This can become a vicious cycle, as toxicity lowers our self-esteem and self-worth, which in turn keeps us from being discerning as to who we should listen to, and so we give weight to opinions that should not matter, and so the cycle continues.

  • We end up investing too much time in the wrong friendships. 

We seek out “friends” who in return do not take the time to nurture a relationship with us and we end up resenting these “friends”.

  • We struggle to maintain inner peace and harmony, as we try to take into account all of the varying opinions that are given to us. 

The tension and confusion that results within us makes it hard to listen to our True Voice and make a good life choice.

So we end up making bad choices because we listened to people whose values ultimately differ from ours (these values are not worse or better, they are just different).   

It becomes even harder to discern what opinions matter when these are coming from our family, friends, and other loved ones.  

What if the opinion is coming from someone you have to deal with on a day to day basis? Such as a neighbor you see often, or a work colleague you see every single day? Yet, it is impossible to satisfy the wishes of every single person that makes a suggestion to us.  

Personally, and adding to the above, in the past I struggled with the cultural phrase: “Que va a decir la gente?” (“What will people think?”).  It was a phrase constantly repeated over almost any decision that I made while I was growing up.  I went away for college and lived in a dorm, 2 hours away from my home…  According to my family, living in a dorm was not a standard norm for a young Latina, and so “What will people think?” was constantly repeated.  I went to prom and was only allowed to stay at the after-party for a couple of hours because, “What will people think?” if I ended up staying longer. 

This cultural phrase resulted in living a life at the mercy of people’s opinion.  And as mentioned previously, satisfying every single opinion of those around us is impossible.  I am amazed that somehow within all of the fear of “What will people think?” I eventually did find my True Voice and strengthened it, so that I can now rely on my own values and opinions. 

So we know there are opinions that we can benefit from and those that will derail our goals, dreams, and purpose.  How can we choose the opinions that matter most to us?  

Here’s a simple exercise that you can do right now:

  1. Take a blank sheet of paper and make a list of all of the people that are a part of your life and whose opinions you are routinely exposed to (at home, at work, in your community, friends, etc.)
  2. On the other side of this piece of paper, draw a star right in the middle (this is you!)
  3. Around the star, draw multiple rings, until you run out of space on the paper.  It should look like this:

4.  Take a look at the list in the back of the paper, and place each person within a ring.  Place the people that are most important to you closest to the star.  How do you determine the people who are most important?  The way I do it is by identifying the people who (1) love me unconditionally, and (2) support me today and support my dreams for the future (FYI this doesn’t mean these people don’t tell me the “hard truths”, but we all know the difference between someone giving you feedback out of love vs. an unsupportive person)

5. You might have to do step #4 several times.  It took me a few tries as I moved people around the rings…Someone I did not speak to often mistakenly got placed on an outer ring.  Yet, after some thought I realized they loved me unconditionally and supported me today and my dreams for the future, so I moved them to rings closer to me. 

6.  When you feel confident with your work and you are done, take a step back and look at the page.  The people closest to the star (to you!) are people whose opinion could matter most to you.  Despite having many people who I love and who love me, I just had 2-3 people in my inner most ring.  The following ring had a couple of more people.  The following ring had a couple of more.  There were many, many people in the last ring who I see routinely, yet who I realized should not have such a strong pull in my decision making (don’t be surprised if your gossipy colleague is in that list…so stop worrying about him so much!) 

What I love about this exercise is the incredible perspective that it gives me. 

Yes, sometimes it is necessary to remove certain people from our lives.  Yet sometimes, all we have to do is discern whether their opinion matters or not. 

When you do this, you create space and clarity in your mind.  You no longer have a rapid, never ending stream of opinions and thoughts within you all vying for your attention.  When you create space and clarity in your mind, you will have greater capacity for better, newer, friends.  You will be able to give more to the people who love you unconditionally and support you and your dreams.  You strengthen the relationships in your life, those with your partner, friends, and family members. 

Our mind is one of the most precious things we have.  How careful are we with what and whom we give our mind to?  How discerning are we to what and whom we give mind share to?  There are many things and people that can take our attention, do we protect what and whom we give this precious capacity to?

I hope this exercise helps you to do so!

Do you know someone who would benefit from discerning what opinions matter in their life?  Share this article with them, or share it with your friends and family so they can also start creating the life they want to live.  As always, leave a comment or question below, I would love to hear from you.