I think we can all agree that having an opinion is a good thing. After all, opinions form the basis of almost every conversation, they showcase a point of view, etc. I mean, one could argue that MIS (and other blogs) is one big blob of an opinion.
However, I think we can all agree that it’s also important to know when to share your opinion and when to keep your mouth shut. Just because you have a particular stance on something doesn’t mean it’s always appropriate to express it.
And this is exactly what I’m working on as part of my year of the pause.
I’m not exactly known for being a quiet person. If I have something to say, I’ll usually find a way to say it. And to be honest, I kind of like that about myself.
But as with everything in life, there’s are potential downfalls to being less selective when sharing your opinion. For example, the other person may not want to hear what you think at that time, and it may frustrate him/her that you’re interjecting with your own thoughts before they’ve had the opportunity to fully think about/state/feel whatever they’re going through. You can also come across as a know-it-all when sharing your opinion trumps hearing the other person out. And sometimes we really need to keep our thoughts to ourselves, even when we think them with the best intentions – this one is VERY IMPORTANT. For instance, if a friend of mine is venting to me about someone/something, it’s so easy to share the same opinion and perpetuate the thinking. But we all know this isn’t healthy – for our friend or us. Negativity only breeds negativity.
I only realized this was an issue for me when I asked my mom and Vishnu (separately) if they think I overshare my opinion at times and whether they find that helpful or not. Well, guess what…their answers were a gentle yes and no. They both said that sometimes they just want to vent to/talk through something with someone who won’t judge them. I’m that person for both of them, but I wasn’t allowing them to do so because my own thoughts would always surface to the top of the conversation. Lesson learned!
Now when I feel the urge to share my opinion, I quickly run through a series of questions in my head. Is sharing my opinion what’s best for the other person? Is the other person even looking for me to share my thoughts? Would it be better to share my opinion at a different time? By not sharing my opinion, am I be doing myself a disservice?
Based on the answers to these questions, I decide to move forward or keep quiet. And don’t get me wrong, this is absolutely a journey. It’s taken a lot of work (and will continue to take a lot of work) to get to this point. But by pausing and checking in to see what the right thing to say/not say is, I find that I’m slowly becoming a better listener (not my strongest attribute). I’m also able to separate myself from the other person’s issues, whereas before, I was unable to do so. Their problem became my problem. Not so much anymore.
In addition to (mentally) thinking through the questions I mentioned above, you can also get curious and actually ask the other person questions instead of sharing your opinion. Personally, it really helps me when the person I’m talking to asks thought-provoking questions. When that happens, I almost don’t mind when they share their opinion because it’s based on something a little more substantial.
Taking a pause before sharing my opinion has helped me help the people I care about. I obviously don’t have it all figured out (who does, right?!), but what I do know is this – having an opinion is important, but knowing if/when to share it is more important!