The Perils of Being Too Opinionated


It’s safe to say I’m an opinionated person. No one would ever accuse me of being a shrinking violet (more like a shrieking violet) or someone who waffles about what they think or whether or not they should express it. But more so than having a steadfast opinion, I just like to have an opinion in general, and then I like to express it to anyone who will listen. Perhaps my mother was right, maybe I just like to hear myself talk.

When I think something is nice I don’t just like it, it’s the best thing ever since the invention of the wheel or gluten-free cookie dough and I want to tell everyone about it. And when I don’t like something, it’s not just so-so, I loathe it with an intensity that most people reserve for war, disease, and their mortal enemies. I feel deeply, both highs and lows, but this kind of extreme thinking (and opining out loud) has gotten me into trouble on more than one occasion.

The first example I can recall (and I’m sure there are many others that I can’t) took place during a student talent show at my middle school. I can still remember sitting in the cafeteria/auditorium (cleverly dubbed the “Cafetorium” by those creative thinkers at the school board), surrounded by classmates, when the next act was announced – a dance group performing to “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”.

I immediately started (rather effusively) expressing my love for Rick Astley and this oh so cool song. I thought I was the most sophisticated 6th grader around, sure that my classmates would be obviously impressed with my superior and worldly musical knowledge. Then the dance began.

And suddenly it wasn’t the deep voice of Rick Astley that came booming through the speakers, but the twangy rap of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, and the opening chords of TLC (keep in mind this was 1992). I wasn’t sophisticated. I was clearly out of the loop. And I was mortified. Not that I had attributed the song to the wrong artist (never mind that the original “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” wasn’t even from Rick Astley, but from The Temptations; oh my naïve and obnoxiously stubborn young mind), but that I had been so resolute in expressing my opinion, leaving no room to backtrack when it turned out to be wrong. Story of my life.

You would think that somewhere in the last two decades I’d have learned my lesson but it happened again recently when I found myself with a group of friends, railing against a newly opened barber shop in town, dubbed “Dirty Sanchez.” I spent 10 minutes explaining how obnoxious I find people whose only goal is to shock by any means necessary, and how any respectful man with a decent set of morals should boycott the shop based on the offensively sexual innuendo of the name alone (if you don’t know what a Dirty Sanchez is, Google it now, but be warned, it’s definitely NSFW). After letting me exhaust all my negativity a friend promptly informed me that a Dirty Sanchez is actually a style of mustache, and that it was likely that (and not the offensive sexual act) that the name was referring to. It is a barbershop after all.

For the record, after much Googling I can still only find reference to Dirty Sanchez as a sexual act (leading me to believe that the hipster barbers really are trying to shock, and leaving whoever looks at my browsing history to wonder what kind of kinky things I’m into), but I will also acknowledge that, once again, I left little room to negotiate my way out of an overly cemented opinion. There is a peril to being too opinionated.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t have an opinion and I’m definitely not saying we shouldn’t express it, but I can recall many sessions with my therapist discussing the benefits of a more moderate point of view; the usefulness of terms like “maybe” and “perhaps” in creating open, two-way dialogue instead of shouting my, often quite obstinate, opinions from my soapbox.

Maybe some of you reading this can relate. Maybe you’ve gone to bat for something that later turned out to be false or simply a subject on which you changed your mind. Lactose intolerance? Free trade? Britney Spears’ musical talent? I think perhaps the lesson here is that it’s okay to feel strongly about something, provided that you (i) know what you’re talking about, (ii) are open to other opinions, and (iii) can admit when you’re wrong. I’ve got a long way to go, but I used both “maybe” and “perhaps” with genuine intent in that last paragraph so maybe there’s hope for me yet.

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