21 Jun Poor decisions based on half-baked opinions can be disastrous, but there’s another good reason to prevent opinion incontinence (ROLF DOBELLI)
Recently a journalist asked me about my political beliefs. Apparently being a writer qualifies you to answer all the major world questions. Was I in favor of more or less state interference? Did I think a consumption tax was fairer than income tax? I looked him in the eye and said, “I don’t know.” He lowered his pen. His expression twisted into a pained smile, as though he didn’t understand the meaning of this simple sentence. “What do you mean, you don’t know?” “I haven’t thought it through,” I said. “But you must have an opinion!” “No, I don’t. That topic is in my ‘too complicated’ bucket.”
It’s immensely liberating not having to hold an opinion on all and sundry. And there’s no need to worry that opinionlessness is a sign of intellectual weakness. It isn’t. it’s a sign of intelligence. Opinionlessness is an asset. It’s not information overload besetting our era—it’s opinion overload.
Select your topics of interest very carefully. Why should you let journalists, bloggers or tweeters dictate what’s on your mind? They’re not the boss of you! Be extremely selective. Dump everything else into your “too complicated” bucket. When you’re asked to pass judgment on this or that, refrain. You’ll find, astonishingly, that the world keeps spinning even without your commentary.
But when you do want to form an opinion, how should you do it? Set aside some time to write about it in peace. Writing is the ideal way to organize your thoughts. A diffuse thought automatically becomes clearer when you have to pour it into sentence form. Finally, get external viewpoints, preferably from people who think differently from you. When you’re sure of your opinion, question it. Try to poke holes in your argument—that’s the only way to find out whether it holds up.
All in all, the fewer hasty opinions you hold, the better your life will be. I’d go so far as to say that ninety-nine percent of your opinions are simply unnecessary. Only one percent are truly relevant for you—for your personal or work life.
Imagine you’re invited onto a TV talk show with five other guests, all of whom are committed to the opposite standpoint from yours. Only when you can argue their views at least as eloquently as your own will you truly have earned your opinion.
The Art of the Good Life