I’ve been in the traditional workplace for 14 years and have witnessed the following on multiple occasions:
Person A: “I really enjoy this new music. Who is it?”
Person B: “OMG, is that (insert name of hated artist here)? I can’t stand them! They are terrible!”
Person A: (blank stare and confusion and probably regret for saying they liked it)
When I became a parent five years ago, I would see or hear this scenario so many more times. And not just about music. About anything. Baby clothes. Baby music. Baby names. Baby food. Daycares. Teachers. Parents … I’m sure you’ve heard it too.
I don’t know if it’s more prevalent now because of social media, but people LOVE to share their opinion on anything, and love to share it unprompted. Especially when it comes to parenting. See a post with something you strongly disagree with? Better go comment why they are wrong and then say “unfollow.”
So, why do people do this?
Is it a lack of impulse control? Do they not truly listen and realize their opinion was not asked? Do they even hear themselves?
I will add a caveat to this, I’m strictly talking about opinions on things that have no impact on others. I’m all for standing up strong to injustices in all ways, but this is about those things that you say merely for selfish reasons and that benefit no one other than yourself.
My personal assessment of this is that a lot of us are selfish and lack empathy. We can’t imagine someone having a different opinion than we do. We can’t put ourselves in other peoples shoes. We can’t just hear something and say nothing. We have to say it out loud or people will never know!
When I became a parent, and things were very hard in those first years, I often wanted someone to commiserate with me so I knew I wasn’t alone. When my daughter was a terrible sleeper, I wanted tangible solutions, not opinions on what I may be doing wrong from someone who isn’t around me and my baby all day.
I’ve come up with a few pointers so you and I can be more empathetic and less selfish:
Truly listen to the phrase or question. Ask yourself, “Is this person asking for my opinion or do they need my comfort/validation?”
Pause and think about whether or not your opinion is even helpful in this scenario. Will it add information that can be used, or make the problem worse?
Ask more questions
Directly ask the person if they’d like an opinion or just want a tangible solution or validation.
Is what this person is asking actually a time for an opinion? Spoiler: when someone asks you who is singing a song, they just want the name of the artist, not an explanation of why you hate them.
This is an issue I think we all need to be aware of. We all could use a little more compassion and understanding and less opinions that add to the confusion. We all benefit when we listen and truly understand each other. We are all just doing our best every day. No opinions needed.