An Opinion on Opinions

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A blogger I follow recently shared a post with several different fall outfit ideas. As this was a new kind of offering for her, I scrolled down to the comments to read what people thought of this effort. I was stunned to see someone had told her that one of the items made her look “terrible.” The person went on to say that it was completely unflattering and actually made her look “old.” OLD? This girl just turned 30! In the interest of full disclosure, let me add that the commenter went on to say, “this is just my opinion.”

Did she think that provided some kind of immunity for the sharpness of the critique?

I found this whole experience quite galling. I am guessing that the person who said this wouldn’t be so bold with people in her own life but has deemed it okay to say this to someone who she will never know in person.

Lest I get too high and mighty here, I feel confident that I have behaved similarly. Although I definitely don’t write comments on blog posts, I am sure I have offered an opinion when I should have remained silent.

This got me thinking that maybe, we need to rethink our approach to offering and taking others’ opinions…

It has never been easier or more popular to share what we think and feel. One only has to look at the comments following a blog, post or story to see the proliferation of opinions. With a couple of taps, we can tell everyone exactly what is on our mind, anytime we want.

While there’s certainly some good things about this freedom, I believe we must also be careful that we wield it responsibly. It can be entirely too easy to forget there are people who may be hurt by the opinions we offer so quickly. After all, bullying is fundamentally rooted in someone else having (and sharing) a negative opinion of our value/skill/beliefs/appearance, etc.

So what can we do to be part of the solution and not the continuation of the problem?

When an opportunity arises to share your thoughts, start by asking yourself this question: Am I an expert on the thing being talked about? Do I get paid to study the issue or situation in question? Have I devoted time to understanding all the intricacies of the matter at hand? Have I been through the situation that is being encountered and emerged with clarity of thought and purpose? If not, tread carefully as what you say may prove problematic.

Similarly, when someone offers you an opinion, determine if they are actually an expert or just someone who has thoughts they want to share. Remember that the value of an opinion is directly tied to the expertise of the one who offers it.

Another question you might want to consider, are you making trouble for your future self by offering your thoughts in this moment? Put another way, could this be a situation where you will be sorry later that you said something now?

There’s a great acronym that might be of value in situations such as these: THINK.

Is what you have to say…

TRUE? Are your thoughts factual or just speculation?

HELPFUL? Is what you want to say going to move things forward? Will it lift the hearer and provide support, or does it hold the possibility of tearing them down?

IMPORTANT? If it really won’t add anything to the conversation, please don’t say it.

NECESSARY? Does this actually need to be said? And does it need to be said by you?

KIND? Are your words being uttered in love or self-interest?

If we can’t answer yes to all five of these criteria, I suggest we take the advice we all learned in kindergarten and simply keep our thoughts to ourselves.