Opinion Vs. Experience

One thing that is important when writing about hot-topic issues like sex, sexuality, gender, women’s health, marriage, equality, and polyamory is understanding the difference between an opinion based on feelings and gathered information and an opinion based on experience and real life lessons.

Everyone is entitled to have an opinion. In fact, everyone should have an opinion on important issues. What is important is how we develop those opinions and how we share them with others.

I really enjoyed this excerpt from the book “Adulting: How to Become a Grownup in 468 Easy(isn) Steps” by Kelly Williams Brown.

She says that this should be the method for developing an opinion:

 Take in facts – – – Process/analyze according to your own personal value set and belief system – – – form opinion.

You can do this by watching the news, talking to people who have actually lived the experience, going through the experience yourself, reading news articles or research studies, reading other peoples opinions, thinking critically about all the different opinions you could have about something, and so forth.

The wrong way to develop an opinion, she says, is:

Take in opinion from media, parent, or significant other – – – regurgitate opinion from media, parent, or significant other to anyone who will listen, then sloppily defend it to the bitter end.

Often times we will develop opinions more passively than this. We may not even hear someone saying “I think abortion is wrong!” We may simply watch nothing but Fox News 24/7 simply because that’s what we grew up watching on TV and suddenly we find we are pro-life and aren’t sure exactly why. I would argue that many of our opinions on things are actually formed passively like this.

I think it is great to write about your opinion because it helps you strengthen how you feel about different issues and it allows you to talk to other people who might agree or disagree with you. One thing that is important when sharing an opinion is remembering:

1. You do not have the only right opinion

2. You cannot force someone to change their opinion

This should also be remembered when leaving comments on other peoples posts. Comments that revolve around “you are wrong” are not useful comments. Instead, try having some discourse with that person. Ask them about their beliefs openly, with curiosity. Read their thoughts and say nothing at all, just try to understand. Maybe say how much you appreciated reading what they had to say and then link them to your thoughts so that they may read them on their own time.

It is also important to remember that you can have opinions about things, but some things you cannot possibly really understand unless you have experienced them. This doesn’t necessarily have to prevent you from writing about those opinions, but I think it’s crucial to note, say, if you are writing about abortion, that you have never had an abortion. That you have never needed an abortion. That you would have access to and would be able to fund an abortion if you did need one. Those are all valid points that helped form your opinion on whether or not abortion should or shouldn’t be legal. If you are a man, that too, is a valid thing to point out. As you will never have an abortion.

I think the safest bet is to follow this simple rule: be respectful. Under that umbrella is all of the above. Remembering that you don’t know everything and you are not the great beholder of all that is truth. In fact, maybe you will change your opinion.

Remember that sometimes your opinion may hurt others who have more experience than you. Be willing to accept nudges from people who provide facts and lived experience. Sometimes your opinion can be factually wrong. And wouldn’t you want to know if it was?

Another safe bet *bonus* is only writing about things that you actually know. You can still write about most things this way. This is a work in progress for me, but for example, lets say I wanted to write about being trans*. I wouldn’t write a long winded post about how hard it is to be trans* and what that experience is like, because I am not trans*. I could, instead, try writing about different language that people could use to be more trans* inclusive. I could talk about what pronouns are and how they are used. I could link to outside resources. I could write about privilege and how being cis affects my every day life.

These are things you can and should write about and talk about. They are things you should try to be better about. You shouldn’t expect to be perfect all the time, but trying is what counts.When you are writing, leave open doors for new thoughts to enter. You (and your readers) will benefit all the more for it.

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