Opinions are like butt holes, everyone has one and they all stink. I heard that phrase for the first time in high school from a football coach. It was pretty funny hearing that at the time, but as I grow older (and, supposedly wiser), it has become an annoyingly truthful statement. Sure, everyone is entitled to their own opinion blah blah blah whatever. Just know that you are entitled to your own opinion, but I’m also entitled to think you’re a complete idiot for holding said opinion. Now, let me set one thing straight, I don’t hate people for having an opinion that conflicts with or is in direct opposition to my own opinion. I’m only annoyed by people that only carry an opinion because they’ve heard about it in the news, or their parents have that opinion, or their significant other has that opinion. If you have an opinion due to any of the aforementioned reasons, then I don’t really care to hear it. What I do care to hear is an opinion that is founded in either hard evidence or constant anecdotal reaffirmation. Whether or not they admit it, almost everyone else would agree with that. Except maybe hardcore feminists, but they don’t respect any opinion and the favor is returned to them. But that’s a whole other issue that, quite frankly, I don’t have the blood pressure to get into right now. I’ll give a few pointers on how I develop my own opinions on just about anything. This not only helps me to be educated, but it allows me to argue my opinion with hard evidence and, more importantly, maintain a certain flexibility about my opinion.
1. Choose your sources wisely
This should be obvious, but I wouldn’t feel compelled to include it if that was true. I see a lot of people argue opinions with fox news as their main source. That’s infuriating. This isn’t an issue of republican vs. democrat, it’s an issue of you only have one conservative source that’s run by people with absurd amounts of money. Choosing to base your opinion based on a single CNN interview would also be bad. You know what’s good? Choose both sides of your argument, and then go find the researchers that actually know what they are talking about and read their published, peer-reviewed articles that contain hard evidence. Now that you’ve completed that step, don’t do what most ignorant people do when they are confronted with something that challenges their belief and just reject it. If they had poor research techniques, or large flaws in their theory then the peer-review process would have weeded that out. This doesn’t apply only to political topics, but scientific theories/topics/applications as well. Scientific articles are usually fairly easy to obtain, and I would recommend reading them. You want to be, at the very least, quasi-informed about the field of research involved in your opinion.
2. Agree and amplify
If you’re developing an opinion on something, it’s likely that you came across it because someone else gave their opinion on that topic. With the modern advancements in media, opinions spread instantly and wildly. The reason I have most of the opinions that I have now is due to the fact that someone else had an opinion and I either thought that person was an idiot and wanted proof to the contrary, or I thought it was profound and sought to further my knowledge on it. Where most people go wrong is that they fail to develop their own opinion on a topic, but rather they just copy the opinion with zero knowledge about it. This is infuriating because those are generally the same people that are so grounded in that opinion and unwilling to neither accept another view nor budge in their stance. Your opinion should agree and amplify. Take an argument that has been presented for whichever side you choose, and add something to it to make it your own. If you don’t do that, you’re plagiarizing another person’s opinion and taking on the identity of that individual. Your opinion is not your own, but rather that of the person from whom you borrowed it. People don’t get remembered for plagiarizing, they get remembered for originality.
3. Be flexible and open-minded
Having an opinion means you stand for something. Standing for something is absolutely something every person should do, but standing for something and being a zealot are two different things. No one gains respect from anyone by claiming that only their opinion is correct and any opposing opinion is stupid and undeserving of their attention. A good rule of thumb is to always view your opinion as faulty and in no way absolute. By doing this, you begin to see your views from the inside out. This will allow you to fortify them with knowledge to patch up these “holes” in your own personal theory. Introspection will not yield all of the faults contained in your opinion, however. Several big faults will arise when someone challenges this opinion. Here you are so set in your ways and sure of your opinion and then someone comes and blows the top off of it. This is a good thing. This allows you to rebuild stronger.
4. Take criticism as constructive rather than destructive
This is perhaps the most annoying aspect of arguing. You try and be open-minded, and then you realize that the person with whom you’re arguing is sensitive to everything. When criticism arises, know how to take it. Always assume it to be constructive. Even when someone calls you an idiot for having a certain opinion, there could be some truth there. Introspection could yield an answer, but I have a more fun approach. If you have someone who radically confronts your opinion, then they likely are only reacting to it on an emotional level rather than a logical level. To undermine that form of asinine thinking, I always ask what they suggest I do to improve my view. They usually don’t have an answer, or they have an answer that is strictly emotional. I then inform them (usually in a not-so-polite manner) that if they don’t have anything of real value to add, then their criticism is useless, and therefore unwanted. Having a positive, constructive attitude about your opinion shows that you are not only confident, but someone worthy of respect.
Everyone has an opinion. No opinion is wrong, but some definitely are stupid. What makes an opinion stupid is not the content, but the information used to back up the content. Knowing how to treat your opinion says a lot about the type of person you are. Your opinion is not absolute. Your opinion is not perfect. Your opinion IS yours. Your opinion IS your identity. A good way to garner a high level of respect is to confidently display your fact-based opinion, and receive criticism as a man. Meet criticism with class and introspection, but don’t ever let someone undermine you because of your opinion. You’re better than that. Differentiate your opinion from your butt hole and make your arguments smell a lot nicer.