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“It’s Not Personal, It’s Just Business” – The Godfather

I recently read a blog post, The Peculiar Idol of Personal Opinion.  Why do I bring this up on this blog that focuses on sales and business?  Fair question.  Since I read that post, a lot has crossed my mind about the personal opinions we bring into our business interactions with customers or co-workers whether in a small or large company, in-person or virtually.  Personal opinions are just that—personal.  No matter how important those opinions are to us, we need to be watchful and prudent as to how, when and if we share them in a business environment.

Every day we have the responsibility not only to represent our selves, but also the products and/or services of the company where we are employed.  How we do that is a direct reflection of who we are as individuals.  That everyday “you” is the result of your upbringing, your environment, your education and who you surround yourself with.  You bring all that into every business interaction you have, but it is critical that personal opinion doesn’t get in the way of that business.

The obvious challenge that we all have is to be a good, solid representative of a human being to everyone we work with including co-workers and customers.  Almost every interaction is filled with a combination of business acumen, technical information or industry jargon and customer service.  We’re paid to do a job and sell what our company offers to customers.  It is an imperative that we are careful not to share too much of, if any, a personal opinion in that environment.  In today’s tweeting, posting, going live social media world, respectful caution has grossly yielded to carefree and careless—where my personal opinion is so much more important than, well, yours.  OK…that was a bit sarcastic, but you get it.

I have two friends that are both real estate brokers.  Both have stories about “deals” that were lost because an agent gave a personal opinion to a client that didn’t want it.  Being objective is sometimes difficult and honesty is a must, but giving a personal opinion can break a deal, especially when tone and body language are thrown in for emphasis.  Even away from work, too much of a personal opinion can hurt or end a friendship.  (I’m guessing we all have a story to tell.)

How do we more carefully manage our personal opinion in business circles?  Being more consciously aware is certainly one way.  I often told my teams over the years that when you’re in a situation where you’re professionally challenged on what to say or how to act—particularly when a personal opinion could come into play—pretend that your mother and the president of the company are there sitting on your shoulders.  Here’s the point.  You would want to show self-restraint or composure in front of your mother and show respect for the company in front of the company president.   

Within the past few decades, the term emotional intelligence has been brought to the forefront of many corporate training programs.  This psychological concept focuses on a few areas—awareness of your own emotions, your ability to understand and harness them, your awareness of other’s emotions and the environment you’re in.  In my own words—how well do you realize who you are, manage it and, then, how well do you realize how you impact those around you, and manage that.  I bring this up because it is critical to controlling your personal opinion as you conduct yourself with those you manage and with customers.

Here are a few things to think about when you have the urge to give a personal opinion that adds nothing to a business situation and could potentially damage or end it:

  1. You are paid to provide your employer a valuable task or skill tied to products or services
  2. There are over seven and a half billion people in the world…each with personal opinions
  3. If and when you have that urge…literally, count to five or 10 and take a breath or two
  4. Continue to ask questions, listen and always get clarity—remember, this is business
  5. Never, never get so wrapped up in your own personal opinion that it threatens someone

Kudos to the author that wrote about personal opinion being an idol.  Some might think that’s a harsh way to look at it, but it’s always good to be reminded—particularly in the arena of sales. 

Mark Twain penned this appropriate line over a hundred years ago, “I, like all other human beings, expose to the world only my trimmed and perfumed and carefully barbered public opinions and conceal carefully, cautiously, wisely, my private ones.”  Be a thoughtful and careful professional whenever you feel a personal opinion coming on and manage it wisely.   

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