Column: Tips on how to cope with opinionated people
"I love how you're so opinionated. I just wish you were louder." -No one ever
"There's a fine line between passionate and opinionated."-Me, just now
Of course, I don't have the whole of human experience to rely upon, but it seems as if people are become more opinionated, obstinately clinging to opinions and mindsets, regardless of evidence to the contrary.
I do have my own opinions, of course, and on certain subjects, my opinions are very strong. It's human nature. But to have an opinion about EVERYTHING. It's entirely okay, you know, to be completely ambivalent toward some topics. For example, I am quite passionate about how ambivalent I am toward sports.
Politics is the worst. Apparently, any right-thinking person not only has to have definitive opinions on every issue, but also feels that members of the other party must hold a polar-opposite opinion, and must do so for evil reasons. It couldn't possibly be because the other person merely disagrees. No, it's because they are a) an idiot, and/or b) the Devil incarnate.
But people can hold the direst, most severe of opinions about some of the most mundane activities ever. For example, people who absolutely hate an actor in a movie. Why? Did that person kick your dog? Insult your grandmother? Appear in a movie that you decided was dreadful, and therefore somehow deserve your hatred? Because really, that's not a great reason to hate someone. They tried to entertain you and failed. How dare they?
Or people that foist their hatred on inanimate objects. I do not like the way ketchup tastes. But I don't HATE it.
I think these people feel the need to share their strong opinions at every opportunity in order to persuade, but if so, it has the exact opposite effect. In fact, even if I agree with someone who is loudly voicing their strong opinion, I find myself suddenly wondering if I might want to change my mind, so distasteful do I find incredibly opinionated people.
Still, I must admit a grudging admiration of the strongly opinionated. I can't imagine having the self-confidence necessary to think that everything that I think is correct, and that there is a wrong and right for everything in the world. Personally, I see to many shades of grey. But it does take guts to assume that your coworkers want to know about how enchiladas fill you with rage.
We must learn to deal with the growing number of opinionated people around us. Thanks to the internet, people can spew their opinions all day to millions, with the added benefit of anonymity. How does one cope in a world of opinions? Your old pal Casey wants to help.
The answer is deceptively simple. Those with strong opinions who feel compelled to share them want one of two things: a lively debate about the merits of their strongly held opinion, or polite concurrence. Honestly, haven't we all at some time agreed with some blowhard just to get the conversation over faster? It never works, of course. It only makes the blowhards think they have found a kindred spirit, so the opinions come fast and furious after that.
The way to deal with the opinionated is to merely sit silent. You aren't feeding into their desire for a lively debate, and you aren't agreeing with them. Sit there, maybe a little slack-jawed. You might come off as a simpleton, but isn't that better than being further subjected to the pros and cons of blue ink over black ink (This is actually a conversation that I've been in.)?
Or boxers over briefs? Or football over soccer? Or whether owning and using the Amazon Kindle means that you are a secret book hater? No. Fight the urge to respond and merely stare. Stare politely, of course. Lecherous glaring will communicate a distinct message, and your desire here is to communicate nothing whatsoever. Just stay mum.
Hopefully, the opinionated will find that you are not a willing recipient of his or her opinions, and will move on. That way, you will save yourself from all sorts of political or religious diatribes, or a denouncement of Thai food, or worst of all, maybe you won't have to listen to some windbag going on and on, denouncing opinionated people, all the while being completely oblivious to his own strong opinions about...
Wait a minute.