UNITED STATES—I used to be jealous of opinions because I was around people who were so fluent in opinions. I took it as a sign of their intelligence. They knew French fries were only good when eaten warm, or I should change my 666 phone prefix because the diabolical connotations may prevent some people from calling me. These things would never have occurred to me on my own.
A few more circles around the sun and I have grown cagier about opinions; they can really be helpful and at times harmful as heck.
Consider these ground rules for dealing with opinions:
Step 1 – Cherry-pick your opinionators from a qualified pool.
Step 2 – Be impersonal and coolly break down the benefits and drawbacks of an opinion in terms of time, money and satisfaction, etc.
Step 3 – If the opinion passes these tests, press the “enter” button on your heart.
Look at who you are listening to. This is step 1. Seek a higher quality of opinion. You want a source who has experience, who has paid their dues. Somebody who has never owned a house can’t advise you about owning a house the way a homeowner could. A person who owns 20 apartment houses, say, may offer valuable expanded perspective. They’ve been there, and done what you haven’t. When facing a bold new endeavor and fulfilling a goal, cherry-pick your opinionators on the yes side from the highest quality pool you can muster.
There’s a widespread opinion that red cars are pulled over more often by the law. So somebody hears this and they deny themselves the cute tomato-red Karman Ghia convertible they always wanted. This truth of this opinion can be weighed by talking to the owner of a red Karmann Ghia (step A) or, better yet, going into the analytic mode (step B). Handle an opinion by coolly weighing the benefits. When analyzing, break it down. What are the factors at stake? Look at opinions in terms of time, money, personal satisfaction, and who is best served. Digest and mull over your cumulative opinions. Naturally there are people we want to please, but we’ve got to detach and make the analysis impersonal.
As a matter of fact, statistics show that sporty cars, not red cars, are the ones most ticketed—at the top of the heap is the Mercedes-SL series, followed by the Camry Solara. A reporter in Florida staked out an intersection and found that gray cars accounted for 6 percent of the car population in St. Petersberg and pulled down 10 percent of tickets issued. So beware of gray!
Facts help sort opinion out, as in the case of the red car. Beyond that, there is personal will. This is where we get to heart or gut (step 3), which ought to weigh more than all the opinions put together. This is the realm of the person who wants the red Karmann Ghia, and wanting trumps all the pro-con opinions one is prey to. It is opinions—flimsy ones at at—that so often get in the way and form a wedge between the wanting and the having.
The supreme judge is your heart. People say go with your heart, and 90 percent of the time they’re right. You’ve got to see the movie for yourself. Buy the ticket, drive the red car. No armchair critic can sit there and do it for you. When confronting a swarm of opinions, and they do swarm, and drive me crazy, there comes silence and then, out of nowhere, comes the name of action and there’s peace.
But still, it isn’t always that way. When do you take your heart or gut a grain of salt? That is a tough question, but a real one. Go back to step 2. For a cool moment put your own heart’s voice as just one more opinion in the grinder, and go again through cool, impersonal analysis, while remaining aware of the place you started from before being tainted by any outside opinions. Then let the matter revert back into the heart’s court (step 3).
I wish you all the luck in dealing with an overload of opinions. It’s a very handy skill for dealing with the plethora of opinions we constantly face, both from others and within ourselves. Finally, I believe going on an opinion diet may seriously contribute to world peace. Spare you neighbors your profligate opinions and that alone will spread serenity. But hey, that’s just my opinion.
Humorist Grady Miller is author of the humor collection “Late Bloomer,” available on Amazon.com. Contact Grady at firstname.lastname@example.org.