Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What's Your Opinion?

Every day we are bombarded with questions which require choices: "Paper or plastic?" "Would you like fries with that?" "Can I borrow $5?"

We are also surrounded by loud sound bites, brash advertising, obnoxious emails and constant phone calls. Our minds routinely have to process a lot of information.

As a result, I sometimes find myself indifferent to rather unimportant choices. Recently a friend asked me whether I wanted to have lunch at Restaurant A or Restaurant B.

"I really don't care," I answered.

He frowned. "No, where do you want to go?"

"I like them both," I replied. "And I really don't care." He chose Restaurant B which was fine. If I had really preferred one choice over another, I would have said so.

Everyone should have an opinion about certain issues. An opinion is not the same as simply making a choice. An opinion is defined as the view about a particular issue based on considered facts then concluded by the thinker.

People routinely get asked for their opinions. Currently many are being asked for their political opinions. Most folks often refuse to share their opinions and instead wait to mark their ballots in privacy. Some will write letters to the editor, talk openly (and often about matters of which they know little) and freely share their opinions, often with little encouragement to do so.

Opinions are good things to have. We are not judged by our opinions which are private matters. Among the ideas bantered around and for which many of us likely have our own opinions are such topics as religion, childrearing, job performance and patriotism. There are subjects to be avoided if we hope to retain friendships, such as the proverbial question: "Does this dress make me look fat?" Sometimes it is best to keep your opinions to yourself.

Several years ago a friend and I were visiting his family which lived many miles away. The family was arguing over personal items remaining in the house of their recently-deceased grandmother. She had passed away a week earlier and, unfortunately, the vultures were circling. Each of my friend's siblings had their eyes on certain household furnishings. We were riding in the family car while driving several miles to a family event. My friend, his two brothers and a sister -- along with assorted partners -- were captive in the vehicle. As the conversation turned to which of the household items were the most coveted, tension began to build. One of the sisters-in-law finally asked me to share my opinion of the matter.

I smiled. "I'd rather not say."

"No, come on now," she encouraged. "You're rather impartial. We want to hear what you think."

At that point I shared my opinion which apparently was too blunt for my fellow passengers. Again, sometimes it is best to keep one's opinions private.

For fear of offending others or sharing too much information, many people entirely avoid forming opinions. They think a lot about things -- certain topics more than others -- and let the grains of information enter and leave, but rarely organize what is going through their heads. There is little analysis during which the information is sorted, absorbed or eliminated and a thought created. Thinking about any topic carefully is really quite easy but, unfortunately, is a practice rarely utilized.

It's good to have an opinion, like carrying a spare set of car keys. We never know when it might come in handy and when we might be called upon to reveal how we felt about a certain topic.

Some people are fortunate enough to live in a stimulating environment which welcomes -- even encourages -- interaction among its citizens. Other locations discourage such interaction entirely. What does one do with an opinion that no one else wants to hear?

There are options other than talking to friends about subjects they don't wish to discuss.

Write a letter to the local newspaper.

Review an online article and post a relevant comment -- your opinion!

Find an already-posted comment and show support or disagreement with that comment.

In today's world, it is not necessary to bottle-up your opinions and remain silent. There are plenty of chances to make your opinions known.

Provided, that is, that you have an opinion.

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