Premature Opinionation and Three Considerations on How to Deal With It

02/19/2014 03:09 pm ET | Updated Apr 21, 2014

Woody Allen glases
Image: iStockphoto

This posting is not about Woody Allen's child molestation accusations. It is about me. And maybe you.

I liked some of Woody Allen's movies. After reading the recent letter of his adoptive daughter accusing him of sexual abuse, without much questioning I silently joined the public outrage. I "liked" scornful Facebook commentary and vowed to never watch another one of Allen's movies again. The guilty verdict was irreversibly apparent.

Then I read "Woody Allen's Allegations - Not So Fast" by Robert Wiede, who produced and directed a documentary about Allen. Not only did I not know much about the man, but even what I thought I knew was not true. For instance, I was sure that Allen had married his adoptive daughter, and that made me cringe profusely (especially now as a father of two adoptive daughters), while in reality Soon-Yi was adopted by Mia Farrow and one of her previous husbands. Among other facts, the article shed light on aspects of Mia and Woody's relationship as well as the investigation that came out from the original accusations back in the nineties.

After having read the article I became very clear about one and only one thing: I had no idea what Woody Allen did and what he didn't do. And as I mentioned earlier, this posting is not about Woody Allen. The disturbing behavior that I had to face is my own.

There was a moment, literally a point in time, when without much deliberation I jumped into a judgement (see also "A judgmental jerk") and formed an opinion about the matter. Let's call this phenomenon premature opinionation. I didn't have much information about the topic; I didn't do any investigation on it nor was I going to research it in the future. Moreover, I didn't plan to take a single action based on my opinion (e.g. counsel sex abuse victims or bring peace to the Allen-Farrow family). In other words, my opinion was for the sake of the opinion, purely.

The humanly natural process of creating opinions, even premature ones, would be merely entertaining, if we didn't relate to our opinions as the truth. And should one person fall into a trap of premature opinionation, it would be a non-event, but imagine what kind of a mess we end up in when this happens with hundreds, thousands of people, including TV hosts, radio personalities, celebrities and maybe even you.

So before you ever become a victim of premature opinionation, here are three considerations to keep in mind:

1. Before forming an opinion, pause and ask yourself: "What if I don't come up with an opinion now?" If you think that the world order will stay intact, just give yourself time.

2. If you feel utterly compelled to form an opinion right now, allow yourself to do it. But if there is more than a one-percent chance that it is premature, keep it to yourself for now -- do more research, sleep on it, give it time.

3. If you consider sharing your opinion, a good question to ask is: "Who really cares about what I think about this topic?" Just be honest here. Remember that even those who get into a dialogue with you about your opinion most likely care about their opinion way more than about yours.