Sorting it All Out

Sorting it All Out

Usually, I love information!  I absorb it with curiosity and enthusiasm. But these are not standard times. Between COVID-19, the racial protests, the 2020 elections on top of everyday life, we are bombarded with a continuous stream of high volumes of information, much of it conflicting, contradictory, and plain old inaccurate. 
After several exhausting weeks, I realized I was suffering from information overload when I yet again found myself frustrated almost to a breaking point.  In a silent fit, I went about deleting all the news apps, Facebook, and LinkedIn off of my devices with the commitment to put myself on an information diet.  
My commitment was a bit short-lived and hit the brakes the first time I was asked about a current event. Instead of attempting to perform an unnatural act of putting my head in the sand, I decided to discover a better way of taking the information in.  The more information that comes my way, the more I feel compelled to consume it and sort out facts from opinions. In my quest for answers, I found that much of what we hear is just that – opinions.  I started to question if that was not the source of anguish, not information overload, but an opinion overload?  Perhaps I am on to something here!  
To dig into sorting out my thoughts, I always want to start with a foundational definition. Thank goodness for online dictionaries. 

Simply put, an opinion is an expression of personal beliefs and views. Opinions: everyone has a least one.

The opinion is often more than just an idea.

On to itself, an opinion does not have to be wrong when it is based on fact and void of bias.

Opinions can not only be dead wrong, but can be dangerously toxic when grounded in false premise:

  • Eugenics as a basis for racial bias
  • Homosexuality is a choice
  • Poverty is caused by laziness
  • COVID-19 is a hoax.

Or when grounded on dogma:

  • My God is better than your God
  • Boys will be boys as an excuse for the degradation and/or sexual assault of women and girls

The opinion is a window into a person’s mind. I want to hear a friend or colleague’s view or judgment and appreciate when they can provide the facts or knowledge that led them to the belief. Their opinion is of interest to me as it leads to discussion, and there is a likely chance, I will learn something from it. For example, my friend and colleague, Martha, and I have to be mindful of the time when sharing our opinions; we can get lost in our conversation for hours. We trust each other enough to know that we don’t have to agree. We often start a debate in disagreement, but through our heartfelt and mindful conversations, always come out of it better informed and never at odds.

Opinions are founded in experience and influenced by personal bias.

With everyone having an opinion, it is essential to understand which ones are based on facts. Few would disagree that the current world environment is as stressful as anyone alive has experienced. There is little that we feel we can control. As we search for something to control, one of our fallback position of control is our position, our opinion. The longer the stress lasts, the deeper we dig in our heels. Among the barrage of opinions, I often hear the following statement: “This is what I think—and I am entitled to my opinion!” In other words, “It is mine, and I am holding on tight.”

Comments like this give me pause. Everyone is indeed entitled to their own opinion. As a nation, we value our 1st Amendment Constitutional freedom of speech so that people can communicate their opinion without fear of prosecution. We have a right to believe what we think is right and to express our views accordingly.

However, what is not true is that an opinion is a fact. Many people believe that their opinions are facts and that their thoughts are always correct. We believe just because we think it, so it has to be true. And to prove my opinion right, all I need to do is search the internet, and I am sure to find several opinion leaders who support me. Because another person supports my opinion does not necessarily make it any more right.

What is most upsetting is that our country has grown so divided that we can no longer talk with each other as we have come to believe a different version of “reality”. The very concept of “alternative truth’s” has a very toxic impact when applied to opinions.

Indeed, the news outlets have played a role in forming and maintaining our opinions. Unfortunately, we most often choose the news source that supports our belief. Social media has a lot to do with our opinion and bias. I say this as someone who has enjoyed social media and the connections it offers and enables. Through Facebook, I’ve reconnected with friends from a past life from decades past. I keep up with my large family scatted across the US and friends living abroad. It is a good thing – or at least it was.

I no longer believe it is. I have come to realize that social media networks, specifically Facebook and Twitter (I’ve yet figured out how LI algorithm works) are suspect sources of information, and frankly unhealthy, an echo chamber. 

My Facebook page and Twitter feed became places I would go to express my opinions and have them echoed back to me. There were plenty of links to follow, but the algorithm in these tools direct me to yet more pieces that support the beliefs I already held. Somewhere along the way, I stopped using Facebook to build a social bridge. It became much more of a safe place to construct an ideological silo around me.

I know this because when people express a difference of opinion, no matter how innocuous it is, there is often an immediate reaction to declaring the wrong. Rarely, do you see the conflicted parties engage in seeking to understand. It wasn’t until lately that I began to know that I bought into this pattern, hook, line, and sinker. And I did not like it. I knew I needed to sort it out.

Sorting it all out

I began to think about the best way to break the habits that are so far afield of my core values. I share them here in hopes that others will gain from my sharing my vulnerabilities.

  1. The first step in any change is acknowledging the need to change. I knew I could not change anyone but myself, and it is not my job to change anyone’s mind. I can teach by example, I can live in integrity, but I do not need or want to push my agenda. I came across Olivia Newton John’s “Serenity. It helps to remind me.
  2. Be mindful of excessive news consumption and outlet bias. When I hear or see a news article, the first thing I seek is to understand the source with the intent of sorting out the bias of the news outlet. If the topic is particularly interesting or of concern, I purposefully seek the alternative views. Yes, it takes more time and yes, I to be discerning of what news topic I care enough to learn more about; I use ‘ad fontes media” news ratings as my guide.


The live interactive site is much more interesting:

3.   All individual opinions, be they posted on a blog or newsletter as “expert opinion or a friend commenting, are based on personal experience and influenced by their bias. Go back to the Opinion Definition – an opinion is an expression of personal beliefs and views. I will respect it as their view. Again, if the opinion causes me to question the basis or is important enough to me understand I can kindly inquire. I may ask, “Interesting. Can you share the source of facts behind your opinion?” I will understand my questions may invoke three different responses: (A) facts are shared and we hold a great conversation where we both learn; (B) silence, which I then drop any further discussion; or (C) a defensive response that spews more opinion without facts which generally results in putting both of us on the defensive. Job #1 is when faced with (C) is to focus on remaining calm and avoid falling into my own defensive trap by pushing to provide objective truths backed by facts. I accept that I have no control over another’s’ opinion, at the same time I look to learn from others.

In Closing

All that I share here is my opinion based on my experience and bias. I expect many to disagree with my view. I would love to learn your approach to sorting it all out either in the comments here or an email.

In support of focusing on priorities, this will be my last article until Fall. Think of it as a summer hiatus. I am committed to focusing on listening and learning while supporting my current clients through these tumultuous times. I will be around lurking, learning, and posting judiciously on social media.

See you in late September. Until then, I am here if you need or want to talk.

Warm regards,


Mary Patry
IT Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach  
 480.393.0722 (AZ)
 [email protected]

Let’s Talk sponsored by an IT Executive Coaching and Advisory practice targeting CIO’s challenge of leading and delivering business solutions with a focus on effective people and process capabilities. Discover the possibilities by scheduling a complimentary strategy session with Mary Patry. 

Neutral No More

Neutral No More

We dont do neutral here.  

A client made this statement a week ago today during a conversation related to his companys culture. It pierced me to my core. Later that evening, I sat quietly for an agonizing 8 minute and 46 seconds as the network channel I was watching ran a silent tribute to George Floyd. As I reflected on the injustice of George Floydhomicide, these five words kept coming back to me – WE DONT DO NEUTRAL HERE.   

 I work hard to stay neutral, perhaps too hard. I take pride in my effort to honor my values while steering clear of offending. Emotional Intelligence (i.e. the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically) is not my natural state, but it is a learned skill.   

E-I is failing me right now. I find it near impossible to contain my emotions as I acknowledge our failure as a society. Our country is fractured, and we are in desperate need of leadership to help us heal the crack. After a particularly low day last week, I awoke with the realization that we must be the leaders we are looking to serve us. That means speaking up, expecting more, demanding more, and most important – giving more. It means moving from neutral to full speed ahead to drive the change we seek. Now is not the time for playing it safe, avoiding conflict, or avoiding offending.  

 The Last 60 Years  

 You see, I was child in 1963, listening to Dr. King with my Mom when he shared with the world his dream. He said: I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Mom cried. I did not understand the importance of his speech at the time.  

Mom was progressive for her day. She met her first non-white person at 32 when we moved to Illinois from rural Iowa. We lived in a diverse but segregated community. Our little homes back yard abutted the colored section with an alley between us. My Moms best friend was a beautiful African American woman who lived across the alley – Averne. Mom and Averne looked enough alike that they could pass for sisters except for the color of their skin. Arverne was a nurse and was the first person I would run to, to fix my bumps. Mom appreciated the diversity of her new friends, and we learned to love people without regard to the color of their skin.   

Moms perpetual pot of coffee provided an excellent spot for the neighbor ladies to debate the brewing integration decision. The community was at odds over the integration talk coming out of D.C. The argument against integration was simple in my white neighbors eyes – everything is fine the way it is. I can remember many times playing on the back porch, with kids of all colors, listening to our parents argue over integration. We could not understand what the big deal was, werent we all friends, why would it matter on what side of the alley anyone lived? Mom spoke up loud for integration.   

It mattered to many in our community for conflicting reasons.  Segregation was outlawed as a result of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Mom lost friends. Many of our neighbors moved away, and our community integrated. Despite the battle for racial equality heating up across the United States we were fine within our little community.  Between 1964 and 1971, riots resulted in large numbers of injuries, deaths, and arrests, as well as considerable property damage concentrated in predominantly black areas. Many of us, myself included, joined in to protest against racial inequality at our local level. We may have hit our alltime low when Dr. King was assassinated in 1968. The riots grew more violent resulting in some change but not enough.  To learn more about the riots: 

 All the while the racial protests were going on; the U.S. was suffering under a second conflict. The Vietnam Conflict was in full swing. Vietnam was the first significant conflict in which blacks were fully integrated, and the first conflict after the civil rights revolution of the early 60s.  

 Like COVID-19, black men bore a heavy burden in the conflict we sometimes call the Vietnam War.  Though the ratio of black combat troops to white ones was double that for the U.S. population, their rate of combat death was likewise higher. At the same time, there were disproportionately fewer African Americans serving as officersAfrican Americans made up 5% of the officers, but 10% of all Army troops. Civil-rights leaders like Dr. King made the case that Vietnam was an example of, race war in which the white U.S. Establishment is using colored mercenaries to murder brown-skinned freedom fighters.”   

The riots of the 1960s led thenPresident Johnson to establish a National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders in 1968. The commission identified white racism as the leading cause of the riots. The report called out pervasive discrimination and segregation, black migration to the cities as whites left them, harsh ghetto conditions, the frustration of hopes, and a feeling of powerlessness on the part of many blacks.   

There is no evidence that any real or sustainable efforts were made to correct the problems identified by the commission. The Johnson administration, and those that followed, viewed the riots as law-enforcement problems rather than signs of social imbalance. The commission made no positive change.  In many ways, I suspect they contributed to system racism. If you are not familiar with the term systemic racism, here is a source that explains it well:  

To add to the craziness, we were also going through a flu pandemic where 100,000 US residents died in one year – the 1968 pandemic. To be honest, I do not remember the pandemic, though my Canadian husband remembers it very well. I suspect we already had enough on our plates. If you are like me, and do not remember this pandemic:  

Our country was as divided then as it is now. After Vietnam ended and Nixon left office, life seemed to settle downI guess we thought we were healed. We never healed. We simply pretended all was okay. Many will say, and I agree, that the efforts then enabled systemic racism that continues today. We would have continued to pretend if it were not for the horrible, very public, killing of George Floyd by a police officer while one of his colleagues looked owhile two others kept the crowd from helping. Protests ensued starting in Minneapolis and then world wide.  


 As of this publication, protests continue and are now on their thirteenth day straight.  The protests are in demand for equality that we failed to deliver  back in the 60’s.  Fifty-seven years later, we are nowhere close to realizing Dr. Kings dream or solving racism. Systemic racism is all around us.  Black students are suspended and expelled from school three times more often than white students are. The median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black households and 18 times that of Latino households.   

Seven in ten blacks said they are treated less fairly than whites are in their dealings with police.  A quote from the ACLU website says it all:    

From our public schools where students of color are too often confined to racially isolated, underfunded, and inferior programs, to our criminal justice system that disproportionately targets and incarcerates people of color and criminalizes poverty, to the starkly segregated world of housing, the dream of equal justice remains an elusive one.  

 It is time to stop dreaming and stop pretending. It is also time to stop excusing.  I am proud of the small role my Mom played in integrating our community. It took courage to offend her neighbors and friends. Now it is time for me to make Mom proud.   

We are all in this together. We cannot change the channel. It will take more than a few bandages to fix our cracks, and it will take hard work by many. We can lean in and work together to heal the fissure that started hundreds of years ago. We can learn to listen and act in a way that is helpful.  

Let us not make this a political partisan thingMany are outraged against Trump and I am as well. As much as I would like to say this is all on Washington DC, it icertainly not. I hold Republicans and Democrats just as accountable as I hold us as citizens.  So many of the empty words we hear now need to turn to active change.  We need to hold our lawmakers accountable in the fight against white supremacy and racism. They did not fix anything during Johnsons administration or after. They owe us to fix it now. Most of all, we need to hold ourselves accountable and reject the acceptance of racist behavior and attitudes.   

Going Forward 

 You can be assured; I will not do neutral anymore. At the very least, I hope Ive provided a bit of history along with reason to support us all to be better.  If I have offended you, I will not apologize. Our fellow humans are hurting. Our community is hurting. Our country is hurting. I cannot pretend that everything is fine or that it will be okay.  Pretending never leads to change. I stand in solidarity with our Black Professionals, Business Partners, family members, friends, and neighbors to fight against the injustice still happening today.  

 Will you stand too?  Here are a few resources to help you get started: 

Anti-Racism Library Curated by LeanIn.Org 

31 Children’s books to support conversations on race, racism and resistance 

Anti-Racism resources for white people 

 Stay safe as we continue this journey together,  


Mary Patry
IT Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach  
 480.393.0722 (AZ)
 [email protected]

Let’s Talk sponsored by an IT Executive Coaching and Advisory practice targeting CIO’s challenge of leading and delivering business solutions with a focus on effective people and process capabilities. Discover the possibilities by scheduling a complimentary strategy session with Mary Patry.