Have you ever shared an opinion and regretted it? Did that experience make you think twice about voicing your opinion in the future? Or make you want to conform to other’s opinions because it’s easier?
I’ll be honest, I can answer yes to all those questions. Though it kinda makes me embarrassed to admit it. It would be great walking round saying “I don’t give a fork!”, but in reality, generally people do care.
However I also think that people have lost track of what opinions are. People are willing, and do, fight over someone not agreeing with their opinion and I think this is because they’re not completely sure what an opinion is. This can have a negative affect on mental health and society and I’d like to explain why I think this.
I hope I’m not coming across as having a downer on opinions. My view is that opinions are great, provided they are not discriminatory that is, and by this I’m meaning not negative towards age; size; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex and sexual orientation; or simply designed to cause someone harm.
In this blog, I’d like to explore with you:
- the definition of an opinion
- how people form opinions
- opinions can change and that’s ok.
Definition of an ‘Opinion’
“A view or judgement formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.”Google Search
So I typed in Google, “definition of opinion” and it provided the above. What do you make of that? What jumped out to me was that this definition states its a “view” or “judgement” and “not necessarily based on fact…”. So I take this to mean, they can’t necessarily be right or wrong. But that isn’t really how people act when it comes to agreeing or disagreeing.
Do you think it’s fair to say that in today’s world, when we come up with an opinion of our own, we have formed that opinion based on what we know and we think it’s correct? Absolutely. But the fact of the matter is, it’s not necessarily right or wrong, its just our view. It can become dangerous when we start to think that our view is correct and therefore everyone else’s are wrong.
Another question for you. Have you ever had an opinion (and I hope you have, otherwise it’s time for us to all pack up and go home 🙂 ) and people have disagreed with it? If so how did that make you feel? Did it:
- make you angry?
- make you think less of that person?
- make you think less about yourself?
- offend you?
- make you question yourself?
- make you feel withdrawn?
- make you agitated with that person?
All the above are bad for our mental health and could probably be avoided if we took a step back and re-learned (if that’s even a word) what an opinion is. If we think to ourselves, opinions are just that, they’re not fact and people will have different views to us, then all those bullet points above are avoidable.
How people form opinions
I’m going to start by linking back to my mental health. So I was terrified about people finding out I had mental health issues, I developed social anxiety around this very point. I wanted to shut myself off from the real world outside. A lot of this is to do with the stigma attached to mental health and in my case, being a man with mental health issues. What will people think of me? Will they think I’m weak? Will they think less of me? Now my own close friends and family have told me how much they’ve learned about mental health through their experience with me. Probably safe to say it has changed their ‘opinion’ on the matter. After all “if you (Dave) can have it, anyone can”. And that’s true by the way, mental health does not discriminate!
So lets look at this logically, they had an opinion, based on their lack of knowledge and limited experience. This opinion was possibly influenced by the environment, in this case the stigma attached. Now I don’t have an issue with any of that, after all that is what formed their opinion. I don’t have to agree with it, but I understand how they formed it.
OK, research shows us that our opinions are based on our experiences and knowledge. So we form opinions based on what has happened to us before, for example a good or bad experience, it will inform our future opinion. They can also be formed from our unconscious bias, as a sort of safety mechanism wired into our brains – we prefer things that are like us or that we like because we perceive them as being safer. So sometimes, people will form an opinion based on very little knowledge, but “its different” so they don’t like it. Hopefully this is making sense.
Opinions can Change and that’s ok
“You can’t say one thing and then say something different!!!”
Of course you can, just like with the example I gave above about my mental health and peoples perceptions.
Remember that opinions are not fact, they are views we make based on what we know. It’s perfectly acceptable for someone to have an opinion, find out some more information and change that opinion.
I’ve seen people, especially on social media, get ripped to shreds for it. In fact, there could be a view that someone who changes their opinion is weak and they should stand by it. I couldn’t disagree more, it takes courage to stand up and say “actually I used to think this, but now you’ve said that, I’ve changed my opinion.” It definitely takes the bigger person to do that than to stubbornly stick by their view (in my opinion by the way 😉 ). There is another reason people may change their mind and that is to conform to others views, which isn’t good.
So to sum up. My view is that opinions are great, they show that people care and can think for themselves. My issue is not with opinions, but with how we react to them. Just because someone disagrees with your opinion, doesn’t mean they hate you or think you’re stupid. It simply means that you have both lead different lives and you have a different view point, so respect that. If they hate you for your opinion, so what, chances are they’re not worth your time or effort anyway.
We shouldn’t shy away from having our own opinions, but at the same time we should not think that our opinion is right, it’s just right from our perspective. Less judgement and more acceptance is the way forward for me. If this was the case, the connection between people when it comes to opinions would be a positive one, which is always good for our mental health.
Take care of yourselves.