Why Your Opinion Matters & Why You Shouldn’t Fear Having One

We all have opinions. Some of us have no inhibitions sharing them with total strangers on the internet or via social media. In some circumstances, two very different opinions collide and all hell breaks loose. And this happens on a daily, sometimes hourly basis.

Having opinions is healthy. It indicates a progressive nature – one which signifies that we are improving to be better, better educated, more knowledgeable people. But because everyone has opinions, everyone thinks they are deserving of being heard, applauded, agreed with, admired and liked for their opinions. The keyword here is “deserving”, and they will fight, troll, insult, provoke and lie to turn their opinion into the common truth.

Does that mean you have to stop having opinions? Of course not, but there are a few things we should address when it comes to opinions.

Fact Vs Opinions

First of all, what is an opinion and what is a fact? Is Pluto a planet regardless of what the scientific definition says? Unfortunately yes, Pluto is a dwarf planet. That is a scientific fact. The brontosaurus does not exist. Coffee is both good and bad for you.

This is regardless of the opinions (both yours and mine) that Pluto (as New Horizons has proved countless of times) is proving to be so much more extraordinary than all the other prim and proper planets in the solar system; that the brontosaurus will always rank amongst the public’s favorite dinosaur; and that we will still drink coffee no matter what the scientists say.

Facts are facts; opinions are opinions. Don’t mix up the two. But if the three issues above prove anything, it’s that even scientists may need to change facts once there is sufficient evidence to do so. Similarly, opinions can change too.

Opinions Can Change

Why is it so hard to have an opinion on the Internet? My theory is that it is written down: in your timeline, your blog, in your chat history somewhere. The problem with social media is that your past opinions can come back and haunt you.

The thing is, whatever opinions, stances or views you susbcribed to when you were 14 may not be the same as when you are 40. People change, so do opinions. And while it is harder to hold verbal opinions against someone, an inked opinion is pretty hard to shake off. And no one is safe from this, not even celebrities.

Is it fair to hold a status someone shared 5 years ago against them? If you do, eventually no one will dare give any opinions at all.

Opinions Could Be Wrong

Let’s address wrong opinions. Many arguments last longer than necessary because of a dedicated section on how the arguer is entitled to their opinions, how it is a” freedom of speech” thing, and how as long as it makes them happy, they can say whatever they want.

We’re not children. We don’t come to school the next day and play together at the playgrounds again, totally forgetting the previous day’s fights and arguments. We remember hurtful insults and rude comments and ignorant rants, and that label you used to totally strip another person’s identity down to the bare bones.

Being entitled to an opinion does not automatically make the opinion right. It does not reduce the hurt from name-calling or make things okay just because “you didn’t mean it that way”. If you want to fight to the death for your opinion, remember that you have to be accountable for how you deliver that opinion, and that there is still a possibility of you being proven wrong.

Opinions Need Context

Face it, in every argument there is someone who is probably wrong and the other person is therefore, by elimination and definition, right. Why in the world would arguments drag out so long then? Because of context.

That’s right. Opinions need context. Many arguments cannot be resolved because the people involved in the argument are basing their opinions on different contexts.

Ask if breastfeeding automatically makes a woman a better mother and World War 3 commences. When discussing the natural goodness and bonding powers of the act of breastfeeding, yes it has its benefits that is good to the newborn. But when you’re talking about breastfeeding 8 year olds, it’s a whole new ball game (and that’s the end of this because I do not want to go there).

That’s the thing: you can’t generalize with opinions. They all take shape in this bubble of conditions that we call context. When talking about topics like abortions, gay marriage, women CEOs, self-driving cars, artificial intelligence, searching for and contacting alien life, bear in mind that all these topics have potential for controversy and that’s the kind of place where everyone has an opinion.

And depending on their context, everyone’s opinion may be right.

Opinions Label You

There are a lot of cliques, gangs and groups online: Android or Apple, PC or Console, Chrome or Firefox; here are more tech battles you can check out. And like all great battles, there are plenty of passionate people on both sides of the war.

When you have an opinion that aligns yourself to a group or faction, you run the risk of mistaking this sense of acceptance and belonging as who you are. You get reduced down to a label, when in fact you have a personality that is so much more complex and too complicated to be summarized by a single label such as feminist, hipster, fanboy, grammar nazi or housewife.

Beware of parrotting opinions that you don’t believe in, in order to be accepted by the crowd. You have your own set of opinions, formed by your life experiences, by the things you read, by the conversations you have, and you deserve to let that surface.

Reject the labels. You can care about more than two things at a time, and just because you are a hipster or a housewife, it doesn’t diminish the opinion you have to share with the rest of the world.

Your Opinion Matters

I attended a publishing seminar once by a renowned speaker from a visiting university. During the Q&A session, I asked his opinion on a popular trending issue at the time but well within the area of expertise of this Professor Emeritus.

He thanked me and replied, in full view of the hall-packed crowd, “I’m glad that you ask for my opinion because in the academic world, the “opinion” holds the lowest credibility.”

Opinions can and will evolve; sometimes at the risk of reshaping your reputation and credibility. And as much as you are entitled to them, don’t hold on to them too tightly. Opinions have a way of being infused with our dignity – it makes us think that if we change our opinion, them we’re flimsy or weak, when in fact it is a very natural process, kind of like growing up.

Just make sure that your opinion rocks, and don’t be afraid to share it.

Share Your Opinion

Have an opinion on something you feel passionately about? Here’s your chance to see it published on Hongkiat. Check out the guidelines here and how you can contact us, and we might just feature your work.