- Brendan Stec
You Don't Need to Have an Opinion
"Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man."
– The Big Lebowski (1998)
I got sucked into a political argument with someone at a party few weeks ago. After a long week of corporate factory work, I really just wanted to sip my cheap beer and talk trash with my college buddies. Friday nights are supposed to be good for your blood pressure and psyche, yet here I was spouting my opinions and deflecting straw-man arguments... for what purpose exactly? To prove this stranger wrong? To feel smart or superior? To have the right opinion about an issue both of us couldn't even control?
The discussion was basically meaningless, which I started to realize after the following idea seeped through my head:
"You don't need to have an opinion."
That's what I realized: I don't need to have an opinion on this issue right now. I also realized I don't need to have an opinion about who might be the best blues guitarist of all time. Or about whether the Cowboys will re-sign Zeke Elliott. Or about gun laws, Taylor Swift's album, sushi restaurants, global warming, OJ Simpson – anything I might not fully understand, value, or be qualified to even discuss.
Of course, it's just so hard not to have an opinion, to not chime in to look educated!, to keep your ego in check. As you scroll through Facebook or Twitter, algorithms force feed you content to piss you off. News stories prod and poke. The uncle at dinner stirs the pot. Everyone is itching to hear your opinion, viewpoint, or argument, so they can serve theirs right back to you.
Here's the problem. Who says your opinion is any good? If you work as a public accountant, who says you know anything about coaching NBA basketball? Who says you know how to introduce a bill in Congress or run a country of 330 million people? And even if your opinion IS valid, who says it will change anyone's mind? My persuasive writing professor in college had a saying:
"You'll never change the minds of those who most disagree with you."
While your opinion may win over someone on the fence or someone with an especially well-developed frontal lobe, chances are it won't do diddly to persuade that idiot at the bar or that instigator in the break room.
This is what I'm NOT saying: You NEVER need to have an opinion. The United States was founded on the ideal of free speech and that anyone could have an opinion. Disagreements, strife, even war: that built our country, and many others too, into robust and free societies. It's good to have educated opinions about serious matters you truly care about.
However, we can all be more diligent about forming too many opinions on too many issues. Our emotions can get too invested, creating unnecessary stress. Without a jet-stream focus on a single important issue, we spray everyone with scattered arguments on Universal Basic Income, prison reform, and every issue in between.
If you're getting roped into a discussion you're not so familiar with, if you just want to enjoy your free time, if you know you have a big mouth: it's ok to sit this one out.
You don't need to have an opinion.