We all have an opinion on something. We have opinions on politics, people, places. You name it, and someone will have an opinion on it. But there is only one opinion that matters. The opinion you have of yourself. And even that doesn’t matter too much.
Look, opinions are fickle. They can change in an instant. Like how some people feel happier about their lives when the sun is out. The Cambridge dictionary defines an opinion as ‘a thought or belief’ or ‘judgement’ about something or someone. An opinion may not even be based on facts. So why do we get so concerned about someone else’s opinion of us?
Other People’s Opinions
The opinion someone has of you can be based on one encounter, or many. It doesn’t matter what it is based on. That opinion is going to be based on very little information in comparison to the complex person you really are. You have more depth in you than a few encounters will ever reveal. There is even more depth in you that you might not even be aware of yet. There’s certainly more depth in you than can be written in 1 word, or 100, or 1,000.
I’ve written before about the sentiment that’s often thrown around: ‘don’t care what other people think’. How it’s a matter of knowing when to care or not. How it’s easier not to care when it is a stranger giving their opinion on you but a bit more difficult when it is someone close to you, someone who knows you better.
These past few days my opinion on that has even changed. Which, before we go any further, says it all really. Opinions change.
Everyone Has An Opinion And Thinks It Is The Opinion That Matters.
We can’t help it. We all think that our opinion on things is the only opinion that matters. It’s in our nature. It’s what gives rise to debates, arguments, fights. When our opinion clashes with that of another.
The problem with today’s world is that it is so easy for everyone to voice that opinion. We have the internet, social media, smart phones. We put our opinions out there and when challenged on them become defensive. Even when presented with facts contradictory to our opinions we have the old fallback of ‘well, it’s my opinion’. As if that justifies it. It does. But only to the person saying it.
An Encounter With Opinion
I had a debate with someone the other day. In a blog post they made the claim that vaccines may cause cancer. I questioned this and provided a link to a Cancer Research Institute article which specifically stated ‘vaccines do not cause cancer’ and asked them to provide proof of their claims. This debate descended into me equating their opinion with that of someone who believes in a flat earth. Ill-informed and wrong.
They became defensive. Said I was rude. Then asked me to leave their blog. It wasn’t the fact they were putting information out in the public domain (A blog might be yours as in you are the author of it. But if you have it open to the public you should expect debate), it wasn’t their questionable sources, or their opinion on the matter of vaccines and basically how they may do more harm than good (when all the evidence says otherwise) that struck a chord with me. It was their opinion on my rudeness.
You see, to me, being rude would be if I said: ‘That’s a really f**king stupid thing to say’. To me, questioning the validity of someone’s argument, or opinion, without cursing at them, is perfectly fine and not rude at all. But that’s just my opinion. The whole thing reminded me of a cup a Dr friend has that says: ‘Please do not confuse your Google search with my medical degree’. It started me thinking about opinions and how unimportant they can be.
Opinions are easily swayed
Do you know how easy it is to change a person’s opinion? It can be done with something as simple as a hot drink or the right word. That’s how fickle opinions are. That’s why you shouldn’t care so much about someone else’s opinion of you.
In an experiment by the University of Colorado, Boulder, in which participants were given either a hot drink or a cold drink to hold prior to meeting someone. Those who were given the hot drink were of the opinion that the person they met had a ‘warmer’ personality and were more competent in their job. And vice versa. The warmth of the beverage affected the warmth of their opinion.
A separate experiment by a Professor of Psychology in Harvard, in which a person cut in front of a line of people waiting to use a copy machine at a library, showed the remarkable effect the use of one word could have in whether that move was accepted.
In the experiment the person offered 3 reasons for wanting to get to the front of the line. “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine?”. “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine, because I have to make copies?”, and: “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”
The first reason saw 60% of people letting the person jump in front of them. The second, 93%, and the third, 94%.
So basically, people’s opinion, on whether they would let someone cut in line in front of them and would be ok with that, changed if the simple word ‘because’ was used. It mattered very little what the reason given was (only 1%) difference. Everyone was there to make copies but saying ‘because’ made all the difference. It only mattered that they used that word.
Obviously, some opinions are much harder to sway, are more ingrained in the person that holds them, but it is clear we can be easily manipulated into thinking or behaving a certain way.
How Testimonials Influence Opinion And Action
Just look at the field of advertising and marketing. There are many ways in which we can be influenced. Take testimonials for example. Where someone gives their opinion on a product they bought or service they received. In a 2017 survey on how important reading online reviews was before purchasing a product it was discovered that a whopping 98% of respondents thought they were important. With 38% saying they were ‘very important’ and 19% thinking they were ‘extremely important’. So someone else’s opinion, a strangers opinion, on something mattered a lot.
Another 2014 survey shows that customers are more likely to spend 31% more at a business that has ‘excellent’ customer reviews. With 72% saying that positive reviews make them trust a business more and that the same percentage will only take action after reading a positive review.
That shows how much we value other people’e opinions. We would even spend our money based on the opinion of someone we don’t know. The reality is we shouldn’t. Opinions are plenty. And contradictory. Why do we put so much faith in what other’s say? Why are we so willing to let other people’s opinions determine our action or our outlook? Why should we even think twice about someone’s opinion of us?
“Opinions are the cheapest commodities on earth. Everyone has a flock of opinions ready to be wished upon anyone who will accept them. If you are influenced by “opinions” when you reach decisions, you will not succeed in any undertaking.”Napoleon Hill ‘Think and Grow Rich’
Your Opinion Of Yourself Is The Only Opinion That Matters
People are always going to have an opinion of you. Let them. It doesn’t matter. Someone else’s opinion of you is just their reality. Don’t let their reality be your reality. They don’t know you. You probably don’t even know yourself completely. There might be more to you that you have yet to discover. Value your opinion of yourself more than anyone else’s. But realise that even that may be susceptible to change.
Don’t take anyone’s opinion to heart. Even your own opinion shouldn’t be taken so seriously. As stated, Opinions change. They can change because new information has come to light. They can change because you realise something new about yourself. They can change because you can change.
Even I have changed. The person I was a year ago is far removed from the person I am now. I’m still not perfect though. No one is, or ever will be. I can be loving and kind. I can also be an in-your-face asshole. Whatever day you meet me on will determine your opinion of me.
The only difference now is that I know it really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t even matter if you disagree with my opinion on opinions. The irony of this opinionated article about opinions is not lost on me. Thing is, I’m sure of what opinion matters to me and you should be too. Your own.
I’m not saying be egotistical. I’m not saying not to listen to someone else’s opinion. What I am saying is that opinion, is only that. An opinion. That doesn’t mean it’s true. it doesn’t mean it should matter to you.
In the grand scheme of things it means very little. So don’t let someone’s opinion of you get you down. Don’t dwell on it or even give it another moments thought. There’s only one opinion that matters. And it only really matters to you. Your own opinion of yourself.