Last week someone gave me one of the biggest compliments I have ever received. After class one of my professors said to me “you never give an opinion until you have fully understood what is happening.” As lame as this sound, I felt validated in my decision to be intentional with my opinions. It really is the satisfaction that comes from knowing that somebody else sees this in me.
It requires no effort to spit out the first thing that comes to one’s mind. On the other hand, not giving an opinion on a matter you do not completely understand requires discipline and a lot of self-control. More importantly, reserving your opinions to yourself until you have a good grasp on the subject needs to be a deliberate action.
Weirdly, the timing of this compliment was perfectly matched to me coming across an article, The Dying Art of Disagreement. Please take 15 minutes of your time and read it; I has so many valuable truths in it. One of the many great points that Bret Stephens, the author of this article, makes is this one:
“To disagree well you must first understand well. You have to read deeply, listen carefully, watch closely. You need to grant your adversary moral respect; give him the intellectual benefit of doubt; have sympathy for his motives and participate empathically with his line of reasoning. And you need to allow for the possibility that you might yet be persuaded of what he has to say.”
If I had a penny for every person who foolishly shares a weak opinion on an issue he/she has no understanding, I would be sooo rich! Like, really rich. To be honest, it bothers me every time I hear someone who stubbornly thinks his/her opinion is the ultimate conclusion of an issue. Perhaps, this is the reason why I keep quiet until I am able to give a good opinion. An opinion that reflects a deep understanding of the issue. An opinion that shows you have consider the issue from different perspectives. An opinion that considers consequences that go far beyond a short period of time. An opinion that sees the people involved in it and thinks of ways they could be affected by. An opinion that exhibits compassion, kindness, selflessness, and fairness.
Yes, there are many things we must consider when forming an opinion. Ironically, the only way to have good opinions is to listen to other people’s opinions. And here’s the key to get the most out of other’s opinions: listen with intention and purpose; do not arrogantly dismiss the ideas that go against your own. No one likes a person who vaguely listens to what one has share. No one. So just don’t be that person.
I can imagine what you might be thinking, our opinions set us apart from others, they make us who we are. Yes, they do. However, while it is important to develop our individuality (“Even if all others, not I”), it’s equally important, if not more, to expand our tolerance. Treasure different opinions. Welcome contradictory views. Instigate healthy debates.
Let’s try to save the dying art of disagreement. One opinion at a time.