The art of having an opinion

AUSTIN SMITH, Staff Writer, Copy Editor

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There may be nothing more annoying to me than having somebody’s opinion abruptly shoved in my face.

That’s not to say that stating one’s opinion is always a bad thing. If you’re specifically asked about your thoughts on a topic, or if you are meaningfully adding to a conversation, then go right ahead. State your thoughts loud and proud.

But if I’m having a conversation with a friend, don’t latch onto a random statement and use it to flout your political views in my face. If I’m not directly speaking to you about your politics, then don’t bring them up.

One of the worst places this issue tends to crop up is in the classroom. Any given class is filled with young, passionate people who want to express their opinions everywhere and anywhere. If such opinions relate to the topic at hand, this can create interesting and valuable discussion.

But if somebody mentions the government in passing, shouting about how much you hate capitalism isn’t helping the discussion. It’s just you derailing the conversation just to shove your opinion down everybody’s throat.

There are so many better ways to express your opinion these days, with the ever-evolving power of the internet. Writing something online, or finding people to discuss with online is easier than ever and less intrusive then brazenly shouting.

Creating a well thought out piece of writing and posting it online is much better than yelling at people, and tends to get less people annoyed with you.

Instead, classes are disrupted by unrelated word-vomit that nobody wants. The people doing this don’t even seem to realize that they’re being rude, and that’s the worst part. Nobody wants to shut down somebody’s opinion entirely, but if it is negatively impacting our learning environment, it needs to stop.

On the other side of the spectrum, don’t feel pressured to state opinions you aren’t comfortable stating. People these days seem to have problems wrapping their heads around the concept of an unexpressed thought.

This is not helped by the current political climate. Now more than ever, people pester each other for their opinions on the latest scandals, on divisive political issues, on specific politicians, the list goes on. They act as if they’re entitled to your opinion, so that they can judge you.

They are not entitled to this. If you have an opinion you aren’t comfortable expressing, then don’t. There are plenty of times where expressing your opinion may create unneeded conflict with those around you.

And never be the one forcing somebody else to tell you their opinions. It doesn’t matter whether you think you’re being polite about it. If you ask somebody for their opinion, and they choose not to tell you, respect that.

Obviously, nobody is perfect. Everybody has probably done one of the above, myself included. What sets people apart is effort. If you’re passionate about something, find your own non-intrusive ways to express it. If somebody is actively talking about that issue, then join the discussion. Don’t shout in somebody’s face or interrupt their class time because they mentioned something barely related to it in passing.

Don’t pressure others to give their opinions to you. If you ask somebody about their opinion, and they choose not to give it to you, respect their right to privacy. Don’t continually pester them until they give in out of frustration.

Finally, be respectful of the opinions of others. If somebody shares their opinion respectfully, and it differs from your own, don’t attack them. Different does not equal bad. They aren’t attacking your beliefs by having their own beliefs. This should be the easiest of the guidelines I’ve written here, but it seems to be the one that trips people up the most.

Everything comes back to respect. We need to all try to stop forcing our opinions on others, stop forcing out the opinions of others, and stop attacking people for their opinions. If we could all have respectful and productive debates rather than annoying shouting matches, we could make the world a much more pleasant place.

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