Strong opinions, loosely held

I first heard the phrase “strong opinions, loosely held” in the context of politics, but I think the perspective it represents is applicable more broadly.

In the workplace, I think there’s an opportunity to apply this perspective for stress reduction. As a general example, there may be many ways to solve a problem; having a particular solution prescribed, that differs from past experience, without context can be stressful. A concrete example: you may be used to working with many small git repos, but here we use a single mercurial monorepo. I may have found the former more efficient, but there may be many equally valid reasons to use the latter.

This reminds me of a phrase from the workplace, in the context of organizational efficiency: “assume your colleagues are smart and have the best intentions”. In retrospect, these two phrases seems complementary.

I think “strong opinions, loosely held” also has value in the context of organizational efficiency, which could probably be described as the confluence of political and workplace concerns. For example, in an interview setting, I think it’s helpful for the interviewee (and later as an employee) to be able to “drive” a discussion with humility.

I wonder why these phrases exist. Did alternatives like “weak opinions” or “strongly held” have value at one point and now we have to explicitly move away from them? Perhaps we package desired traits in phrasing as part of a learning process, like a mantra or koan. Perhaps, phrases like “strong opinions, loosely held” catch my attention as their utility becomes obvious, like when I’m feeling stress about conditions just outside my sphere of influence :)


Thoughts? Suggestions? Hit me up @erikeldridge


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