By: Julie Shipman, Career Coach

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What is the purpose of sharing an opinion? Opinion sharing comes in a variety of forms. Here are a few examples:

  • Interviewing someone for a job and then providing your feedback
  • Blog writers
  • Social sites where you share your recommendations or opinions about products and services
  • News commentators
  • Reference checks
  • Academic settings – groups discussions, instructor lectures, opinion papers
  • Dinner or drinks with friends
  • Judges or referees at a competition or sporting event
  • Party download with your spouse or significant other
  • 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 other 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 who was interviewing for a highly sought after Director level position. One of the names, the candidate gave me as a reference, asked several questions about the role and let me know if anything happened with the person she was providing a reference for, she would like a call about the job. She then answered my questions in a way that left some doubts about the qualifications of the person she was providing an opinion about. Her agenda was pretty clear and because I was new in my career I didn’t 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. But 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?

My opinion, is that we live in a time in history 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 that person. This is dangerous because it has real implications. Think about “Cancel Culture”. I like the spirit in which it came about, but as a small business owner, I concerned about how it’s executed.

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 sharing something I simply heard from someone?
  • 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 that bad or unhealthy to continue?

Ok, so what in the world am I talking about with the title of this blog?

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 counts doubly 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. and about people commenting on how fake news and the media are to blame.

We are heading into the political ad season that I’m dreading. The derisive commentary and reposting of opinions that seem to be missing fact. 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?