Is it okay to have an opinion anymore?

As I read the traditional and social media headlines of late, I can’t help but to wonder if it’s okay to have an opinion these days, I mean one that runs counter to what any number of special interest groups may disagree with. Though the answer sure feels like no, especially if you’re the non-confrontational type, I’m going to argue that it’s a resounding YES.

It is okay to have a dissenting opinion and, in fact, it’s detrimental to the advancement of our culture when we become afraid to express it. After all, dissenting opinions ended slavery and gave women the right to vote. Prior to 1920, were men offended that women wanted to vote? I’m sure many were.  But brave opinioned women didn’t back down. And 95 years later, not only do women vote, each of our political parties has a viable female candidate for the presidency.

We wouldn’t even be the United States of America had not our founding fathers had opinions on the sovereignty of men different from those of England.

Today, thanks to 24/7 news cycles and social media, I think people are quick to maliciously and vehemently tread on the opinions of others, without even seeking to understand what that person or company actually said. Think about Donald Trump. Because people over-reacted to the headline version of his immigration-related comments, NBC pulled Miss USA from the airwaves and sponsors left. Donald Trump expressed his opinion and he backed it up with facts, by the way. But, how many people actually read the entirety of his comments. My guess is not many. And because of that 51 young women, their families and friends and the hundreds of companies that helped them on their journey to the Miss USA stage were hurt.

And, let’s not forget CVS Health. Their opinion is that a brand that stands for health cannot in good conscious sell tobacco. So they stopped selling all tobacco products. Are smokers offended? Sure. But, if CVS Health had decided to continue selling tobacco so as to not risk offending smokers, they could not genuinely be CVS Health, where–as their themeline says–health is everything.

I, for one, am tired of political correctness so run amuck that freedom of speech doesn’t feel free at all. Human beings, in general, are all not going to agree on every issue and I think it’s better to learn to express differing opinions respectfully than to hide them so deep inside that you no longer stand for anything.

In my humble (and unapologetic) opinion, if you’re planning to express yours, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Be respectful when you present a dissenting opinion. And, if you back it up with facts, all the better. It can go a long way to inform people why you believe what you believe.
  2. Make sure your opinion matches your values. If there’s a disconnect between what you say and what you do, dissenters will call you out and you probably deserve it. But, when you deeply hold a belief, you should also feel that it’s perfectly acceptable for you to express it.
  3. Have thick skin when and if you’re attacked. If you back down from your opinion when you’re attacked, you’re no different than the politicians we don’t trust because their opinions conveniently match what pollsters tell them is public sentiment. You may be attacked for your opinion, but it will pass.
  4. Don’t rely on traditional media or social media to gauge any reaction for or against you. Media in general are quick to jump on scant amounts of information just to fuel a fire that will attract readers and viewers. In many cases, irresponsibly so. If you want to know how well your opinion is being received, have real conversations with real people.

Feel free to express your opinion on mine. Even if you disagree, because I’m an adult and I can handle it. I value a variety of opinions. I know my own all day long. It’s the inclusion of the opinions of others that help ideas grow and spread.

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