Has this ever happened to you? I hope it’s not just me! You reach out to someone you know and respect by text, phone, email, smoke-signal or carrier pigeon for some input, doesn’t matter about what, and you either don’t hear back at all, or, they say, “why don’t you just look it up on the web?” with a slight air of displeasure for having been asked. For a while now, I’ve encountered this negative trend in interpersonal communication, both professional and personal. Sure, I could look “whatever” up on the ‘net, but I was seeking their opinion, input, perspective, judgement, not condescension.
So, I’m curious: Have people lost interest in helping those they know with simple queries? Do folks honestly believe the internet has the same perspectives as the individuals in your personal sphere? Yes, the internet is a great source for pretty much everything you might want to know, and there is certainly no shortage of opinions to go along with the wealth of both useful and worthless information. But something has been lost. It seems people no longer feel valued, respected and appreciated when their opinion is sought by those they know.
Restaurant reviews exist by the thousands from a large number of sources on the ‘net, but if you ask for a restaurant suggestion of someone you know and respect you might be more inclined to follow up on that suggestion than that of the stranger who wrote a review on the web, even it is on a “reputable” site. Same holds true for almost every product or service.
What kind of opinions can you inquire of those you know? Of course, the afore mentioned restaurants, also movies, TV shows, music, concerts, places to apply for a job, and lots of other areas are possible based on the scope of your networks. We all know some very diverse people, but you’re also most likely to only ask their input only on what you know they know or have experienced.
Are folks more hesitant to offer their personal recommendation or opinions for fear that if you follow through on the information they provide and you aren’t satisfied with “whatever” they will be blamed or that your experience might somehow reflect negatively on them? That’s a lousy argument, but it appears to be a common one. Certainly if that is a concern, by all means tell your inquisitor why you don’t want to provide a response to their query. But I would rather know that someone feels this way rather than receive no response at all, or a “side eye” for having asked.
Before spending money for a ticket to a movie that you are unfamiliar with, would you be more inclined to go see it if a like-minded acquaintance gave it a thumbs up? Would you hire a contractor without first getting the opinions of those who have already worked with that company? Would you want to work for an employer where people you know have negative things to say about the business?
Without a doubt there are appropriate ways to make inquiries for another’s opinion, and it starts by being respectful of their time, the place and circumstance of your query. If the other party isn’t comfortable providing their 2 cents, let them off the hook and say, “thanks anyway,” or let them know you understand they are merely providing an opinion about the actual “thing” you’re inquiring about, and maybe that will relax them enough to share their thoughts. Also let them know that you won’t hold them responsible for the outcome of your ultimate decision, as it really does not reflect on them.
A solicited personal recommendation from someone you know and respect is far more valuable than researching the thoughts from strangers from a review site, where there is no obvious line between the subjective and objective opinions. Yes, ultimately both perspectives matter and can be considered in your decision making. But a solicited opinion from a personally reliable source beats the rest by a longshot. So next time someone asks your opinion about something you know, don’t hesitate to share your thoughts. After all, Your opinion matters!