The Discussions We Don’t Have and How That Impacts Our Success

With the Internet as a daily staple in our lives, it may seem like we talk about everything and no topic considered off limits. However, when we take a closer look, most of our discussions are about nothing. Or, at least, not about anything substantial. Most people are more interested in popular topics than anything serious—just scroll through social media to witness countless examples of this. As a result, what important discussions are being ignored or avoided?

The most Googled searches over the last few months were eBook, YouTube, Amazon, weather, Walmart, Gmail, Home Depot, Target, and food near me. So, clearly Google isn’t being used as often to develop facts, evaluate different positions, or examine alternatives.

In general, we have built barriers and social taboos that limit discussion on critical topics, such as:

  • Sex may be a great conservational topic, but there are few discussions of practices especially after one has experienced puberty. The New York Times had an interesting article about sex among older people. One recounted story was about an aid entering a client’s room in a retirement home and finding two people romantically engaged. Being highly embarrassed and assuming something was improper, he asked his supervisor what should he do and was told to leave quietly and leave the door shut behind him. It reminds me of the saying, “It’s only awkward if you make it awkward.” And we’ve certainly made the topic of sex awkward with our own social constructs.
  • Politics receives a lot of attention, but there is very little constructive debate. In fact, many encounters start with rules about being polite and avoiding conflict. It is clear some of our leaders are even struggling to say nice things about some recent politicians who have passed away. This isn’t to say people need to get into fights, but there doesn’t seem to be any effort (or ability) to have constructive conversations anymore.
  • Intelligence has even become controversial. We have even elevated emotional IQ to avoid discussing if someone is actually smart. Evidently, it is acceptable to discuss if someone is a jerk, but not to discuss if they are halfway intelligent. Universities are reducing reliance on SAT scores for college admission. However, there are few discussions of what will replace it or the impact of the changes. Similarly, no one is talking about changing any of the other factors that bias the admission process.
  • Religion is consistently a controversial topic. Personally, I don’t understand how people can pray for God to help their baseball team or how God decides which team to root for. Similarly, using religion as means to avoid vaccination doesn’t seem like a valid excuse.   
  • Finances are also typically avoided. The only probability is that people who are making money will talk about it and others won’t or are trying to figure out how much others are making. Notice how financial conversations have changed in 2022 seeing that the market has not done as well as previous years.

Even when we understand events, we are reluctant to discuss cause and effect. Facts are frequently more independent that we think. Too often, bias distorts positions and facts. We sometimes assume that the relationship among factors is a straight line. However, most relationships involve a variety of factors.

Entrepreneurs are often superb at describing how they perceive their company as different. Typically, the best sections of business plans are the description of the product or service and the expertise the members behind the business bring to the overall team. On the other hand, the weakest parts of the same business plans are, consistently, the competitive analysis, the market research, the marketing plans, and the distribution plans. See the chart below:

When we don’t take the time to talk through important issues, a lot goes unaccounted for. Committing to participating in open discussions can often shed light on critical aspects that may otherwise have been overlooked and, thus, save you from unnecessary frustration and extra work in the end.

One area where discussion is rampant and welcomed is sports. People love and accept criticism of their favorite teams. New York fans even support me in rooting for my Chicago teams. What makes this topic fair game for discussion? There is just as much passion, emotional attachment, and loyalty to sports teams as political parties. Yet, unlike politics, we don’t tiptoe around criticism and debate when it comes to sports.

Crime is another topic that is discussed often, but with very little substance. A few months ago, the big rant was about defunding the police. After recent violence, it is back to law and order, but little attention has been given to causes, analysis, or solutions. Similarly, there is no real effort to enact gun control or criminal justice legislation.

All of this is to say, we need more open discussion and should not avoid uncomfortable issues. Recently, a colleague of mine passed away. I will always remember our open discussions. We frequently had heated debates about difficult issues and, as a result, we developed some great solutions that were mutually beneficial. A heated discussion can still be respectful, productive, and produce positive results. Consider what topics you avoid and why. Engaging in these conversations could unlock new areas of growth and success—both professionally and personally.

Related: How to Focus and Get More Done in 2022