By: Julie Shipman, Career Coach

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What is the purpose of sharing an opinion? I think that opinion sharing comes in a variety of forms – note the opinion.

Here are a few examples:

  • Interviewing someone for a job, then providing your feedback
  • Blog writers
  • Social sites where you give your recommendations or opinions about products or services
  • Memes or other social posts and reposts
  • News commentators
  • Reference checks
  • Academic settings – group discussions, instructor lectures, peer reviews or opinion papers
  • At dinner with your spouse or having drinks with friends
  • Judges or referees at a competition or sporting event
  • The party download with your spouse or significant other on the way home
  • Moms groups chatting about the best teacher, best coach, best coffee place
  • Priests or Pastors delivering a spiritual message or homily

How important is it to be asked for your opinion before you share it? Do you need to be in a role where you are being paid to offer your opinion? If you aren’t being paid directly, are you benefiting in some way from sharing your opinion? How are your relationships impacted by opinions? Do you ever wonder what happens to all those opinions floating around in the ether?

Here’s a cautionary tale:

Early in my career, I worked for a recruiting agency. We did reference checks on all our candidates once they reached the second stage in the interview process. I was doing a reference check for someone interviewing for a highly sought after Director level role. One of references (a name provided by the candidate), asked several questions about the job and let me know if her colleague – her reference – didn’t get the job she would like me to call her about it. She then answered my questions in a way that left some doubt about the qualifications of the person she was providing an opinion about. Her agenda was pretty clear. I was new in my career and I missed the opportunity to call her on it. I just threw out the reference, requested another name from my candidate and never called the person who provided the lukewarm reference again.

What if I had given more merit to her opinion? My candidate ultimately received an offer, which she accepted. If I had provided the questionable reference to the client, would my candidate have received an offer? And was my opinion to throw out that reference the right one? An interesting question worth discussing the next time you’re out for drinks with friends. And God willing that will be sooner rather than later.

My opinion (said with a smile); we live in a time of unprecedented value placed on opinion. It doesn’t matter how the opinion was arrived it, it only matters who’s saying it and how much you value or credibility you assign to the person. This is dangerous. It has real implications.

Think about “Cancel Culture”. I like the spirit in which it came about, but as a small business owner, I’m concerned about how it’s executed.

What’s a thoughtful person to do? Use come criteria instead of using re-sharing.

Criteria to consider when giving an opinion:

  • What facts have informed my opinion and have those facts come from reputable sources?
  • Is the opinion I’m sharing based on first-hand experience? In other words, am I talking about something I witnessed, experienced or personally researched, as opposed to just re-posting something I heard from someone else.
  • What impact will my opinion have on the person receiving it? Will it add value or enrich them in some way? Did they ask for my opinion?
  • Am I sharing my opinion with the purpose of changing someone’s mind?
  • Am I sharing my opinion to shame someone?
  • If I don’t share my opinion, am I allowing something bad, dangerous or unhealthy to continue?

Ok, what’s my point in this blog? What opinion am I trying to convey readers? I am suggesting an opinion fast – or at least such a mass produced one.

What’s an opinion fast?

It’s exactly what you think. It is the kindness that comes from NOT sharing your opinion. I think it’s particularly important as we head into this political season. Sometimes the best thing you can do is keep your opinion to yourself. This is especially true in the social space where political comments, memes, angry Facebook posts, Instagram pictures of people harming each other, videos showing the worst of humanity, disparaging tweets etc. are at the root of derisiveness.

We are heading into the political ad season. I am dreading it. This derisive commentary, the re-posting of opinions with partial facts or no fact at all are driving deep fractures between friends, family members and colleagues. What if we “opinion fast” this election by not posting anything about politics except to say do your research, make sure you vote. I wonder, would it enable us to come together as a nation like we did following Sept. 11th?