Opinions remain opinions

We all have opinions and we can be drawn into thinking that we have a right to share them with others. Life has taught me that many feel their opinions are the only valid reference point and everyone must hear them.

Tragically if we have 7.6 billion opinions all being pushed as the rationale for our personal decisions we create too much noise. So adopt the approach that just because I have an opinion do I have to add to the noise.

Define opinion

There’s a real challenge. Dictionaries will give you a range of similar definitions but the reality is that opinions are shaped by our experience and cognitive abilities. They are personal, prone to prejudice and easily linked to emotion.

For example have you ever sat in conversation with a large group and watched one person struggle be heard, watched the frustration rise and the irritation when they are eventually ignored. The conversation moves on and they are left feeling humiliated.

At a training event many years ago we were introduced to “hill tops” the idea that each of us stand in a very different space and our journey to our “hill top” colours our vision. Therefore when we are asked to reflect on what we see our perspective is different. Getting others to share our opinion is akin to getting someone to adjust their “hill top” perspective to accept that ours is the reality.

Sharing our personal thoughts

All opinions need to come with a clear health warning. Many are not to be trusted, even some of our own. For example I trusted parental opinion until I had enough experience to realise that my personal experience and values had changed. I could see beyond the position of my parents.

Yes their opinion was just that an opinion. Do I trust their opinion today? Yes of course but not in everything because I have traveled a different route.

The danger in sharing personal thoughts is that others can develop a dependency believing that we have some insight in areas where they have limited vision. In most cases our thoughts are just that, untested conjecture or best guess. They are in fact an optional guide for others and only to be shared when we are asked for our views. 

Those who volunteer opinions present a real danger.

So my advice to everyone is Opinion remains personal, it is just an opinion. For those who want to think of it in terms of a personal right the answer has to be: Yes you have a right to an opinion but that doesn’t give you the right to share it or express it when you want.

An example

 Today the life sentence of a Royal Marine serving in conflict was reduced to 7 years following the Court of Appeal ruling that he was guilty of manslaughter rather than murder.

Now this case polarizes opinion  with many serving service personnel or recently retired combatants saying the a soldier can only be judged by those who have experienced the same situation. 

As an opinion and a personal standpoint they have a sense of injustice when soldiers are taken to court and charged with criminal offences. 

The other opinion stirs up the right of the person killed, the rules of engagement and combat. The group feel that the criminal justice system is the only way to deal with this. 

Another group hold politicians responsible for placing troops in a war with unscrupulous adversaries.

Valid opinions and all have some merit. Have they been productive? Let others judge but the passionate expression of those opinions has created an unnecessary bitterness.

Shall I share my opinion? No because it adds nothing to the situation, it will inflame some, offend others and probably be ignored. So I have the right to have my thoughts, have my personal commentary but no need to share it.

The Conclusion

Think carefully before saying “in my opinion”. Never embarrass yourself by expressing an opinion when no one has asked for it. Only give your opinion when you are certain of your facts and that it helps the situation.


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