Build An Echo Chamber

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Do you have people in your life that always seems to agree with you no matter what you say? It might be a friend that never disagrees with you about where to go for lunch or a colleague that always says that you are right when you go to them for advice; these people always tells you exactly what you want to hear. Don’t get me wrong, it is nice to have people tell you that you are right. That you made the right decision. That your opinion about the new girl down the hall is spot on. That your beliefs about politics, or religion, or gun control, or women’s rights are always correct. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with having friends or colleagues that agree with you, but it can be detrimental when you surround yourself ONLY with people who tell you everything you want to hear or believe exactly what you believe. This can create an echo chamber.

An echo chamber is a climate where we are surrounded only by people whose opinions and beliefs align with our own. When we are in an echo chamber our views are always reinforced and we never have to consider ideas that contradict what we believe. Now, more than ever, it is easy to allow yourself to stay in a completely polarized world. It isn’t hard to find thousands, if not millions, of like-minded individuals that share your same beliefs online. With a few clicks of a mouse you can find whole communities of people that will agree with everything you post. But that is not real life.

In our day to day lives we spend time with peers, colleagues, and yes, even friends and spouses that don’t believe exactly what we believe and who don’t always agree with the decisions we make. And that is a good thing! In fact, if we are thoughtful about whose opinions we value and who we go to when we need advice, seeking advice from others who might not share our same beliefs, who come from different backgrounds, or have different experiences might just be the wisest thing we could do. I am not one for getting input on every decision that I make, just ask my husband. He will tell you that I might make too many decisions independently. He has learned to love me both because of and in spite of my fierce independence. My point is, when it comes to big decisions I have learned to seek advice from people I trust and who don’t always share my same beliefs. The ones I know will shoot me straight and not just tell me what I want to hear.

In leadership, and quite frankly in my life in general, I don’t want to be surrounded by echo chambers, by “yes people”, or by people that only tell me the good stuff. Let’s face it, opinions are a dime a dozen, they are everywhere, and it certainly isn’t hard to find echo chambers. Experience has taught me that even when it is uncomfortable, and especially when it is hard to hear, the people in my life that are willing to share their true beliefs with me when I seek their advice are almost always the voices that guide me in the right direction.

Who are the people in your life that you go to when you have to make hard decisions? Are they willing to tell you how they truly feel or are they simply shaking their head in agreement with you because it is the easier thing to do? Find the people in your tribe, in your family, or in your industry that are willing to tell you the hard truths, even when they aren’t easy to hear. Those are the people that will guide you in the right direction. You can either build an echo chamber or you can build council, but you can’t have both.

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