We have a habit of assuming that opinions are regulated by common sense, but if you’ve ever had a conversation with someone, read a comment thread on the Internet, or turned on the television lately, you’ve probably noticed that when it comes to opinions, common sense is about as common as a prince in Azerbaijan that actually needs your financial support or a public restroom trip that didn’t leave you questioning the integrity of all human beings.
Here are 15 important truths we should all keep in mind when it comes to opinions:
1. Much like your right to party, you might have to fight for it, but you’re entitled to your opinion. No matter how many people tell you differently, it’s your right as a sentient being to reach your own conclusions about everything, including ice cream flavors, celebrity divorces, and international relations.
2. You aren’t obligated to keep your opinion to yourself. People might prefer you keep your opinion under lock and key, and putting your opinion out there is likely to hurt a few feelings, step on a few toes, or provoke some criticism, but sharing ideas is how conversations start, communities are formed, and change happens. The publicity of your opinion is something for you — and you alone — to decide.
3. There are no qualifiers for disseminating your opinion; you have the right to tell the world how you feel about anything you choose, from weighty political issues to trivial partialities like hanging your toilet paper roll with the tail underneath.
4.“Sharing your opinion” doesn’t translate to “putting someone in a headlock until he or she agrees with you.” Being passionate about your views is admirable, but you should never expect anyone to abandon his or her own thoughts in favor of yours.
5. Expect some people to respond to your opinions as if you just made a “Yo Momma” joke.
6. Defending your beliefs doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re “weak,” it means that they’re important to you and that you care enough about discussing them that you want to clarify any misconceptions and help others understand them (regardless of whether those others ultimately agree with you).
7. The weakest arguments you could make against someone’s opinion are to say it doesn’t matter or that no one asked for it. All opinions matter, and if we all waited to share our opinion until we were asked, most of us would be dateless to the Opinion Prom.
8. What makes sense and is obvious to one person isn’t so transparent to someone else. Never assume we’ve all accepted the same truths. (For instance, I refuse to concede that whipped cream is an legitimate cake frosting solution.)
9. Dismissing someone else’s opinion doesn’t make your own opinion any more valid — instead, it dismisses your value as a discourse participant.
10. Don’t withhold your opinion because you fear being the only person who holds your views. Channel Sara Bareilles and be brave, because there’s probably a whole community of those similar to you who are just waiting to be discovered.
11. Being aware of how your opinion makes others feel should be important to you, but that doesn’t mean you should change your stance because someone responded unfavorably to your ideas. Take everything and everyone into consideration. Opinions always benefit from becoming more nuanced.
12. Opinions have a tendency to be bold, to stir pots, and to upset people — that’s when you know you’re onto something.
13. Acknowledging that other people do not agree with you doesn’t mean you’re not “sticking to your guns,” it means you’re a realist (and a pretty cool person).
14. Don’t be afraid to adapt. Circumstances change, individuals grow, and opinions are mutable. Don’t be afraid to dip a toe in the spectrum of thought.
15. Unlike tonsils or appendixes, everyone has an opinion, and being opinionated means you’re thinking, putting things in perspective, and trying to make sense of ideas — there shouldn’t be any negative connotation to that.