THE BLOG
08/14/2014 04:52 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Why Your Opinion Sucks: And Mine Does, Too

2014-08-13-opinionated.jpg

My friend, the purpose of this post is to simply demonstrate why your opinion sucks.

Don't worry, though. You're not alone.

My opinion sucks, too.

I actually don't have anything against your opinion. What I would like to demonstrate is that all opinions suck.

Or, more precisely, I'd like to suggest that attaching to any opinion is unskillful and will result in less than optimal outcomes in both our personal and professional lives.

It's Natural to Form Opinions

Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't have opinions. I'm not sure that would even be possible.

The formation of opinions is a very natural part of being human. When we perceive something through our senses, the brain naturally starts classifying what we perceive and putting it into categories.

It probably starts in the reptile brain with classifications like "threat or not a threat," "food or not food," or "potential mate or not a potential mate."

And, before we know it, we add on some variation of, "I like this," or "I don't like this."

There is no problem up to this point.

The Problem Is Attachment

The problems start when we attach to our opinions - when we become our opinions or allow our opinions to become a part of us.

There are telltale signs of when this happens.

One sign is that if someone shares an opinion contrary to our own, we'll notice some type of emotional response in our bodies. We might feel anger and want to defend our opinion.

If we experience an emotion like anger when someone expresses an opinion contrary to ours, we immediately become less effective.

Our decision-making ability is diminished. People don't want to be around us. And, we experience harmful physical consequences like the ones described in this article.

Another sign is that we identify with the opinion so strongly that we actually express it verbally. "My name is Fred, and I hate puppies and kittens."

Since many people are attached to their opinions, when we express ours we run the risk that we're going to create a negative emotion in other people, and alienate ourselves from them.

If we have a leadership position, stating our opinions can dramatically reduce our effectiveness.

If the people that work with us know that we don't like accounting, for instance, they are very likely to withhold information from us that is absolutely vital because they don't want to bother us.

If we unskillfully express opinions about the ideas people generate, we can eventually end up creating an environment where people don't want to share ideas. We can crush our capacity for innovation.

Skillful Speech

Instead of attaching to an opinion when it arises, the more skillful approach is to recognize non-judgmentally that an opinion has arisen.

We can mentally note, "The opinion 'I don't like this' has arisen." Then we can pause for a moment and just maintain awareness of the body and mind, observing thoughts come and go until the opinion is no longer present.

This accomplishes three things:

First, we see pretty clearly that the opinion is not what we are. It's not "me" and it's not "mine." It's just a natural phenomenon that arises and passes away. Thus, we don't attach to it.

Second, because we see the opinion more objectively, we have the freedom to refrain from expressing the opinion, and avoid the problems mentioned above.

With this increased self-awareness, we can also more easily apply methods for communicating more skilfully. (Here's an article on a great tool for skillful communication written by Jennifer V. Miller.)

Third, by not attaching to an opinion, we refrain from building up our egos any more than they already are. In fact, as we continue to see that opinions and other thoughts are just conditioned phenomena that arise and pass away, we can actually loosen up attachment to the ego.

When we're less ego-centric, we're happier, we're more kind and compassionate, and we're more effective in just about every area of our lives.

These things are pretty nice.

At the very least, I think they suck way less than our opinions do.

But that's just my opinion.

________________

Matt Tenney is a social entrepreneur, an international keynote speaker, and the author of Serve to Be Great: Leadership Lessons from a Prison, a Monastery, and a Boardroom.

Image credit: www.damncoolpictures.com