Opinions :: They Aren’t Always Meant to Be Shared

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I was recently contemplating a phenomenon I’ve encountered throughout my life that always makes me pause: people sharing strong opinions at unnecessary or unprompted times.

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:

Listen

Truly listen to the phrase or question. Ask yourself, “Is this person asking for my opinion or do they need my comfort/validation?” 

Pause

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. 

Listen again

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. 

What pointers would you add to this list?

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Lisa is a transplant from the Midwest. She was born and raised in Kansas (yes, she has seen a tornado) and spent a few years in Ohio before moving to South Carolina in 2014. She holds a degree in Biology and works as a research assistant at the USC School of Medicine. Her career in science spans 11 years and she can't imagine a job anywhere else. She has also been married to her college sweetheart for 11 years. He is a professor at USC, so they are Gamecock fans by default. They are proud parents to a spunky 2.5 year old girl who keeps them on their toes. As a family, they enjoy being outside in the wonderful southern sun, gardening, playing tennis, and going to the beach. They also are parents to 2 fur babies who still aren't sure about their little sister.

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