Other people’s opinions can be pesky and pointless … (you’ll particularly empathise if you’re an avid reader of this column). As said avid reader of this column (I’m clutching at straws now) you’ll be aware of my pesky personal tirade against ill-founded, un-founded and un-factual sentiments, often the result of an erroneous extrapolation of our democratic rights and an innate need to feel part of a social democracy that can often seem to deem all opinions as equal, regardless of merit.
That (perhaps pesky and pointless) opinion having been nearly flogged to death*, I thought I’d explore some conversational point-of-view antidotes and share with you some of my favourite strategies to deal with (ugh) other people’s opinions (meh).
Ok, this is a hard word to say, but luckily an easy tool to use, particularly when you don’t have a clue about the topic/issue/concept your opinion-holder is on about. Roughly from the Latin ‘to darken’ or cloud-over, this is the language of the politician and pleb alike. An example might be ‘Do you believe man-made climate change is real?
Answer: ‘Climate Change has happened for millennia and we, as humans, need to ensure that we make the most of our ecological heritage as an imperative, as we only have one planet and… [insert some more topic-related jargon and something about jobs, the economy or working families here].’ If you’re like me, you’ll be too busy thinking ‘What the?!#*! are they on about’ before I realise that they have gone off on a tangent and not actually responded to the question… and what was the question anyway?
This example also exploits another nifty conversational sleight-of-hand, and a personal favourite of mine, the Platitude (see ‘we only have one planet’ etc.)
Why take the risk of having a personal, independent or nuanced opinion on a topic (opening yourself up to having to defend your position) when you can simply state the obvious! The perfunctory platitude allows you to sound accurate and agreeable without saying anything. Try ‘Everyone is entitled to their own opinion’, ‘It is what it is’ or ‘Live and let live’ the next time you want to suck the life out of a meaningful interaction.
Lastly, use a non-committal contrariness as a foil to any purposeful point-of-view. For example ‘Same-sex marriage is essentially about all Australians having the same freedoms and rights.’ Your response ‘Not when the it affects people’s freedom-of-religion and rights’. There, you’ve effectively rebuked someone’s point of view without committing to a point of view yourself, all the while seeming fair and balanced in a ‘there-are-two-sides-to-every-story’ equivocal kind of way.
Armed with these linguistic life-savers you’ll be able to fend-off any assault on your smug sensibilities and, perhaps more importantly, point them out purposefully next time they might be used against you.
Real, rational, and reasoned opinions may be pesky but they are paramount to our success as a society; our ability to call out the pointless and get to the truth is now more important than ever.
THE WINGATE DUMBOCRACY: Peter Wingate immigrated to Yarraville from the leafy East before it was even trendy and likes to spend his days studying education (don’t get an education, just study it), cooking, avoiding making art, and pondering fantasies like living in a representative democracy that is one and, having his hands around the neck of <insert name of particularly inane politician here>