In my opinion…… powerful words

I’m sure we all say ‘In my opinion’ quite readily – I know I do – but only recently have I fully  delved into considering the area of ‘having an opinion’.

This came about for the most recent development activity for the RFU, where Leading Edge is supporting England Rugby to develop the future stars of the game with a series of unique off-field activities. We’ve now completed two years, developing, designing and delivering three camps each year with off-the-pitch experiences that take the players out of their comfort zone and develop self-awareness, communication and leadership skills.

Forming an opinion, and being able to articulate and back up that opinion, is essential for a professional sportsperson, especially one who goes on to represent their country at the highest level. Players need to have informed opinions to be able to influence in a high-performing team (lead with a small ‘l’), have the confidence to articulate their thoughts mid-game and contribute to the team’s success. (And having the ability to confidently give an informed opinion in reply to a challenging question when the camera is rolling will always be a useful skill to avoid getting caught in the moment!)

To help the boys form opinions through this community-based development activity, we teamed up with The Passage, which runs London’s largest voluntary sector resource centre for homeless and vulnerable people. Homelessness is a very complex issue – and certainly one that divides opinion. The boys needed no encouragement to throw themselves into this: preparing and serving food to 120 homeless people, getting to know them and listening to their stories, and being open to seeing homelessness through someone else’s eyes – something that’s incredibly important for developing and evolving an opinion.


Players experience homelessness through VR headsets

This was a powerful weekend for England Rugby’s next generation, and if you’re interested in the details, take a look at my second blog.

Opinion is important in sport, in business, in any aspect of life. And our first, immediate, opinion when we’re presented with a new situation or hear something new will be an emotional one. It’s our gut response and unlikely to be considered.

This framework around the brain’s processes in forming opinions is useful:

  1. Emotional viewpoint: first response, not considered (red brain)
  2. Reference previous experience viewpoint: driven by existing beliefs, upbringing, parental views (blue brain)
  3. Reflective viewpoint: having considered multiple perspectives (green brain)

(Read about how we explored these three viewpoints on homelessness with the rugby boys here.)

What I find fascinating about ‘opinion’ is that we will all have one, whether we want to or not!

As leaders in sport or business environments, we need to be careful with our opinions and give them as well-formed, well-articulated viewpoints… while remembering that they are just our opinions. And when we do give our well-formed, well-articulated opinions, we need to try to remember that the recipient (perhaps someone in our team or a colleague) will hear our opinion with their ‘red brain’.

Someone else’s red-brain response (emotional viewpoint) to our green-brain opinion (reflective viewpoint) could challenge our green-brain opinion, and that challenge might make us want to find out more and gather more experiences. And this can help to keep us curious about our own opinions.

Opinion is complex.

Many topics that we form opinions on are complex.

Homelessness is certainly one of them. Thank you to The Passage for helping our boys develop their opinions – and do something good – while developing their character.

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Patrick Marr

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