I recently had a wonderful long talk with my mum about all sorts of things (new businesses, innovation, paleo dieting, health, and relationships just to name a few) and towards the end she said something quite profound which resonated deeply with me:
I could not have said it better myself.
What is an Opinion?
An opinion is just a belief, idea, or judgment a person has for a particular topic. They may have formed this through extensive experimentation, life experiences, research, or just because one day they woke up and decided to have an opinion.
I have many opinions on a wide range of topics, some of which I honestly do not know much about. But I still have those opinions. Why? The answer once again lies in the flawed workings of the brain.
Your brain develops an answer for every question you can pose and it does so by referring to it’s massive bank of data it has stored away in the dark little recesses of your mind. So when you want to form an opinion on something your brain quickly analyses everything in your memory that relates to it (experiences, news articles, opinions of people you value) and like magic you now have an opinion. Wonderful.
There is No Wrong Opinion
If we consider every opinion from the frame of reference (showing my nerdy side here) in which it was created then there is no possible way for an opinion to be wrong. For example, I might have the opinion that blue is the best colour ever, which I based on a random internet survey I conducted where 5 out of 6 people agreed that blue was awesome. Therefore, I believe we should paint the whole world blue.
OK ok, this is a silly example but it shows my point. The opinion was formed because I believed that I had the proof that supported it. Therefore in my frame of reference (i.e. my own mind) the opinion is 100% correct. Of course everyone else has their own opinion on which colour is the best, all of which are equally true.
When dealing with the opinions of other people you need to consider what their frame of reference is and what experiences or “evidence” they have as support.
Dealing With Others’ Opinions
There is a saying people like to use which goes: “You are entitled to your opinion.” This is strange on two levels. First, it’s normally followed up with a big fat “BUT…” and then the person tries to force their opinion on to you. Secondly, we do not need someone to give us permission for our opinions. The very nature of opinions means that we are ALWAYS “entitled” to them.
The best way to deal with the opinions of others is to listen and ask questions. Find out what evidence, real or perceived, they have that led them to their opinion and you will gain wonderful insight into their thought process. Then question the basis for your own opinions. If you honestly believe you have some evidence that could help the other person then explain it to them. But do not expect them to always be receptive. Try once and move on, unless you find something soothing about hitting your head against a brick wall.
Of course the best thing you can do is simply respect the opinions of others and try to understand their point of view. You never know, it might lead you to change your own opinion.
Changing Your Opinions
It is OK to change your opinion. In fact the ability to change your opinions shows great strength of character. It means that you are aware of your own thoughts and opinions but are open to receiving information contrary to what you currently believe. When something of value is presented you can process it and analyse your own opinions to determine if they are still valid. If this sounds like you then you deserve a big pat on the back because this is not an easy task. Well done.
I encourage everyone to remain open, at all times, to receiving new information but also remember to question the “why” behind it. Not everything you hear is true and some people have ulterior motives for trying to change your opinion. Listen to all information presented, assess the validity of it, and make adjustments to your opinions as necessary. But only if you want to. After all, they are your opinions.
But of course all this is just my opinion. It is right for me and it may or may not sit right for you. That’s the beauty of opinions.