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Is an opinion always necessary?

Every once in a while, in some conversation which feels to be heading in the direction of a debate, I'll realize that I don't much care about the particular point being discussed at all. I'm just playing a game of some sort, trying to prove something... the superiority of my argument, the exceptionality of my intellect; and when I become aware of this, I unleash what is becoming a favorite phrase: "I don't have an opinion on that."

I make it a point to only say this when it is accurate. It shouldn't be used as some coy, condescending trope to silence another—but I find that when I say it, I often perceive a kind of shock in the other party.

This may be a human problem exacerbated by social media and cable news punditry, but it appears that we live in a world now where everyone is expected to have an opinion on everything... which is obnoxious and annoying in one way, but toxic and destructive in another—when you consider that most people conflate their opinions with their own sense of selves.

If I am not clear about the distinction between my personal self and my opinions then a disagreement with my opinion can legitimately be (mis-)perceived as an attack on my person.

I try to remind myself often that self and opinion are two separate entities, and that my self is not obligated to always have an opinion. I've actually found the awareness of "having no opinion" to be liberating. It makes me not only less annoying but a better learner. I can cultivate my understandings by gleaning the more developed insights of those with opinions that are informed by facts and experience.

I encourage you to try it: "I don't have an opinion on that." You too may liberate yourself.

24 July 2020


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