Everybody has an opinion.
And everyone is entitled to one.
But not every opinion is of equal value. Including mine.
With the advent of social media, we can state our opinion on platforms that can potentially be seen by thousands of people. Because of this, our opinion feels like it carries a greater weight, and it can sometimes feel like we have a higher obligation to offer our opinion than we used to feel.
This is still a relatively new phenomenon – and it’s one we’re not handling very well.
After having participated in online conversations for several years, including in this blog, I have developed four questions I ask myself before putting my opinion out to others. Online or in person. These are especially helpful when it comes to the controversial topics of the day and arguments in which people’s blood is running hot.
1. Am I Interested In This?
This seems like a given. After all, why would anyone consider commenting on something they’re not interested in?
Yet we all have circumstances in which we’re asked to comment by someone who tags us or gives us “that” look in a committee meeting as they wonder why we haven’t chimed in yet.
These requests have a way of making us feel an obligation to respond. But I’ve learned to resist that feeling.
With a few exceptions (like if your job requires you to speak up, or your spouse or kids are asking you to participate in a family conversation) you are under no obligation to offer your opinion on issues you don’t care about.
And you’re also under no obligation to care about an issue just because everyone else seems to care about it.
2. Do I Have Any Expertise In This Field?
Never have so many people had so many strong opinions about subjects they have absolutely no expertise in.
Just because you can comment doesn’t mean you should comment.
Before I decide to offer an opinion, I always ask this question. Do I actually have an expertise in this area, or am I just riled up about it? Sometimes we mistake one for the other.
Especially in the online world in which there are so many voices speaking out on every subject, I don’t want to add to the noise unless what I’m saying comes from a place of knowledge about the subject at hand.
Clutter is unhealthy. If I can cut through the clutter, I’ll speak up. If I’m just adding to it, I’ll stay quiet.