Today I am beginning a series called 25 Lessons in 25 Years that I will post on Fridays. Simply put, these are ministry and life lessons I learned the hard way. I am sure your experiences have brought similar learnings, but my hope and prayer in sharing these simple lessons is to give you an “edge” so you can learn new and different things and share your learnings with me. That’s life…live and learn!
Put 10 people in a room with one topic and you will have 10 different opinions. Which, by the way, is exactly what you want. A good leader doesn’t surround himself/herself with people who think just like them. Good leaders also don’t surround themselves with people who will say what they think the leader wants to hear. That is not good brainstorming and it is not a healthy way to develop good thinking on your team. You want diverse thinking in that stage of the process. Here is the first lesson, it is OK to have an unexpressed thought. There have been to many times when in the course of a meeting I “shared what was on my heart and mind,” when it was a good opportunity to keep my mouth shut!
Yes, we all have opinions. A good opinion is supported with facts, data or well-structured intuition. A bad opinion is rooted solely on emotion. But either way, there are times we should keep those opinion, even good ones, to ourselves. Knowing when to speak and when to have an unexpressed thought is one of the primary skills of emotional intelligence.
A quick summary of emotional intelligence might sound like this…you have experiences that are interpreted through the five senses. Those experiences travel from the spinal cord to the front area of your brain where rational thought takes place. BUT those senses must first pass through the Limbic System in your brain where experience translates into emotion.
Too many times I opened my mouth at the middle stage of the process, where the emotion is realized. It would have been far better to wait until those experiences and emotions reached the rational part of my brain, which sometimes seems like a thousand miles away. Which is why I say “It is OK to have an unexpressed thought.”
The world does not need to know what I think about every subject. Oddly enough, thanks to twitter, Facebook and blogs, we have a venue to do just that. Trust me on this. The next time you are in a meeting with your Pastor, staff or in a conversation with your spouse, ask yourself this question. Is this a good time to have an unexpressed thought? Sometimes, the best thing to say is nothing.