Last week someone asked my opinion about the college student debt debacle we have in our country. I started to offer a half-baked response based on bits and pieces of what I’ve heard in the media. But I paused, and then said, “I don’t have an opinion about that.” A longer, more accurate response would have been, “I don’t have an intelligent, informed viewpoint about that. I’ve not done the necessary research to substantiate an opinion.”
How long has it been since you said, “I don’t have an opinion about that”? It’s a phrase we should use more often.
- You don’t need to have an opinion about everything. Selectively choose the topics you’re willing to pursue and leave the others alone. Some topics are trivial and an impromptu response is fine: If someone asks my point of view about a movie or restaurant, I’ll respond without thinking much about it.
- We should have an opinion about important issues. Don’t be intellectually lazy and neglect developing convictions; it takes time and effort to properly research a topic.
- Form your opinions slowly and base them on facts. Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Daniel Moynihan famously said “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” Wouldn’t it be nice if our opinions were informed by facts and not assumptions. (I know…the challenge these days is deciphering fact from fiction).
- Don’t finalize your opinion until you’ve researched at least two opposing positions regarding an issue. On many issues, we start with a biased position (often suggested by which cable news channel we watch, our family of origin, or our political persuasion). Prior to solidifying your stance, you should be able to argue both sides of an issue.
- Hold your opinion lightly and be open to change. I’m always amazed how highly intelligent people often espouse opposing views. For instance, there are Nobel-Prize winning economists who believe austerity is the solution to a troubled national economy and there are Nobel-Prize winning economists who believe subsidies are the solution.
- Be respectful of other peoples’ opinions. What are the chances that you are 100% correct in all your opinions and convictions? The answer is obvious—0%. So proceed with humility and remain malleable.
So, what is your opinion about this post? 🙂