In praise of not forming an opinion
Are you with me? Or with him?
I wake up with a point of view. (Today, it was all about Ratan Tata and Cyrus Mistry, and all the possible scenarios that might have led to the boardroom coup.) I’m one of those people whom we read about and feel sad for – I open my eyes, move my hand and grab my phone. And that’s how my day begins, early in the morning, thumbing through my phone, with a point of view already in my head. How could he write something so rude? Oh, this one hasn’t yet responded to my e-mail yet?
Skipping to Twitter notifications invariably ends up with, “How could he say this?” And then, “Oh, I love her; she is such an amazing girl.” Mind you, these views don’t form loudly in my head, but subtly in the back of my mind, where I can see these opinions form and dissipate.
Yet, these are baby versions of a point of view. This process happens inside our heads, and only we are aware of it. Quite like the morning sky where fluffy clouds move sedately, troubling nobody, and in a way enjoying their gentle movement.
And then comes the point of view, the one that we decide to share with the world.
Okay, so we all agree on one thing - an opinion/view is a very valuable thing. It is a stand. It is a view that is formed either because your heart tells you it is right, or because your intellect has carefully considered every aspect of the problem and arrived at that point of view. Either way, an opinion is a very personal thing, as is the decision to declare it in public.
In fact, the more you read and check out any sphere of life, you will realize that success is very much dependent on your ability to have a point of view. For job interviews, in academics, while building your organization, building your brand…for making these successful, you need to have a point of view that you constantly keep talking about.
And yet, today I’m going to petition to you against having an opinion. Well, at least against forming an opinion too soon.
Today, we live in a world where from TV channels and newspapers to the omnipotent social media, everyone seems to be shouting at top of their lungs, voicing a point of view. As if it wasn’t enough to have family members and relatives bombarding us with their point of view, we now have to contend with strangers bombing us with their opinions.
And so we are turning into a generation of people with an opinion on just about anything and everything. Social media has given us a voice. And yet, as millions of voices speak out, staying neutral, let alone silent and reflecting, no longer seems to be an option. The lack of a stand that is one of two (or multiple) options is construed as lack of courage, and in some cases, lack of strength of character!
It reminds me of the time when in the aftermath of 9/11, George W Bush announced:
You’re either with us, or against us.
He was referring to the fight against terrorism, and even with something as grave as terrorism, many nations said it was unfair to ask them to side with the US simply to show that they opposed terrorism.
Why then, is it important to pick a side instantly? Why can’t we sit back, relax, think, reflect and sometimes just not take a side? And feel comfortable with it.
More importantly, how can we make a tweet a weapon of mass destruction that shreds someone’s reputation? And based on somebody else’s assumption, form an opinion of that person? Do we realise the implications of a tweet or post that is triggered this way? Do we stop to think of the potential impact?
So the next time you come across a debate, know that you don’t have to pick a side. And when you do decide to join the debate it is not based on someone manipulating your sentiments to form an opinion but entering it with your own mind, after careful reflection.
And let me end this with a story I heard recently. An entrepreneur was talking to another: "Look at this publication. They have posted such an authentic, real piece of journalism on this company and its investors. Somebody had to tell the story, and this publication has finally done it." "Yes, it’s brilliant. They’re are really good,” responded the other.
Fast forward one week, the same publication wrote about one of the entrepreneurs who was part of the earlier conversation, and the conversation was: “How dare they write such nonsense? We should sue this publication. They are a bunch of idiots."
A third person, who has listened to both conversations, remarked: “This whole space is full of idiots."
Let's reflect a bit on this today before we form an opinion about anyone so quickly. I promise you, I will try.
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