[My communication mantra is “Strong Opinions, Weakly Held.” Recently someone asked me about that phrase, and what it means to me. Here’s what I said:]

I first encountered the phrase on Jeff Atwood’s blog, and since then have also seen it pop up in other places. The original article is still great, and references a wonderful post by Kathy Sierra, so I encourage you to take a look.

At the time I first read Jeff’s post, I was a young tech lead, working to improve my communication. As an introvert I used to struggle between staying too quiet (telling myself “you have nothing new to contribute, shut up!”) or being too pedantic (telling myself “I am right, and I’m not backing down!”)

To make matters worse, different audiences require different communication styles. Most executives tend to prefer a direct, confident, confrontational style, while developers prefer a consensus-building style; and I couldn’t modulate well between those styles.

To me, “strong opinions, weakly held” was a daily reminder to:

  • (a) Speak up! don’t assume everyone already knows what you know
  • (b) Communicate in an effective manner, keeping the audience in mind
  • (c) But do it in a non-threatening way that invites discussion & debate