How To Have Opinions And Not Be Hated
I consider myself a pretty opinionated person. I am often quick to judge, quick to believe a conspiracy theory, and slow to reconsider something I'm dead-set upon. I've been embarrassed by beliefs that I discovered were only partly true or not true at all. My political and societal views have at the same time invigorated and weakened me. Through the years, my opinions have had the opportunity to weaken friendships, isolate me, and give me undue stress and anxiety.
The desire for truth and knowledge (and a desire to be right) have at times given me a sense of purpose, but I've learned through my failures as a friend, and as a person in relationship with others, that being right about everything and knowing all the facts, should not be the end goal.
Having opinions does not necessarily mean you have to offend others. We can communicate our ideas well without criticizing people as individuals. I think it's important not to be offensive when we disagree with others, and it's important not to be offended when people disagree with us.
Below I give a few guidelines for those of you who care about truth, who want to be active in society, who have opinions, but who at the same time want to be considerate of others - or at least want to avoid being like the people around you with opposite views who you've felt offended by.
1 | Be Open Minded
I had a high school Economics teacher who taught us about the Five and Ten Year Rule. It states that in five years you'll look back at the things you're saying now, and think, Oh man, why did I say that? I didn't know anything. And in ten years, you'll look back at the things you'll say in five years and think, Oh man, why did I say that? I didn't know anything. And by golly, if that doesn't happen to me All. The. Time. There's only one way to avoid this cyclical trap: Be Open Minded.
In order to be open minded, at some level you have to know that sometimes you'll be wrong. It's okay to be wrong. In fact, it's normal. We're never going to be right all the time, so we have to learn to always be open to contradictory ideas as if they're clues. Some of those ideas may hold a partial or whole truth, and it'd be a shame to miss out on it.
Don't worry, I'm not telling you that there's truth in every idea. Some things are just wrong and not based on fact in the slightest, but we have to have the humility to figure out what those things are and we have to do it with respect for truth.
2 | Facts Matter
I believe that oftentimes our opinions are lead by our feelings. That's not necessarily bad, but I believe that backing up your beliefs with facts is essential especially when you're communicating your beliefs or opinions with others. Having facts lined up behind your opinions doesn't mean that you'll never be wrong again - the need to be open minded is still there - but it may weed out some untruths, fake news, or myths.
Facts can be debatable today, it seems. In an interesting aside, Snopes.com founder David Mikkelson warned in an article not to lump everything into the “fake news” category. “The fictions and fabrications that comprise fake news are but a subset of the larger bad news phenomenon, which also encompasses many forms of shoddy, unresearched, error-filled, and deliberately misleading reporting that do a disservice to everyone.”
I love a good documentary, but they should not be the sources for all your information. If something in a documentary really piques your interest, that is an opportunity to investigate it further, especially if it is a controversial one.
Documentaries are hearsay.
You're relying on information given to you by strangers and their fact sources are either flashed on the screen for a second with no link or they aren't given at all, but they're also a great way to show you new perspectives in a beautiful, engaging way that you never would have seen or heard before.
Don't stop watching documentaries, I certainly will not, but know they are not the end of your research, they are the beginning.
The same goes for factoids you hear from friends, coworkers or on social media. I'm sure there's some honest truth out there, but I believe the truth usually lies in the middle of two extreme and conflicting views. Nothing is simple these days. In order to be trustworthy ourselves, we must not continue to pass along untruths. The only good way to do that, I think, is to be on a continuous hunt for the truth and explore all avenues. I personally don't like when people give up, extract themselves from the argument altogether and decide to not have an opinion.
I think not believing the first thing you hear and having an informed opinion instead is much more valuable than not having an opinion at all.
3 | Your Opinions Are Not More Important Than Your Friends
In the end, finding truth is not as important as loving the people around you.
When my husband read this post, he asked why this wasn't number one, and I agree - it's the most important point. I guess here's just another reminder, if you need it, to love sacrificially. If we all gave ourselves over to the needs of those we're with, this world would be a much better place.
For me, the point is not to research everything out so you can be smarter than everyone and put people down. The point of researching is to mainly remember now and then that you're not always right. It makes us better neighbors. Learn, and keep learning, knowing that it will never end. You're never going to know everything, so stop acting like you do. Learn from other people and their experiences. Ask questions of people you disagree with, instead of avoiding them or telling them what they should think.
It's not easy to do, but let's try to respect people for who they are and not for how much they agree with us.