Why You Should Practice Not Having an Opinion

Imagine bringing up a photo of the universe on your phone. As you begin to zoom into what you perceive the middle of the photo to be, you find that you continue zooming in to no end. The picture of our alignment with ideas seems to be much the same; of an infinite resolution. We can thereby come close to being in the middle, but seem to constantly miss the mark by just a little bit.

This article assumes there to be a difference between not having an opinion and having an opinion which is indifferent. This is written to motivate you to practice, as best you can, not being on the spectrum of all possible opinions on an issue or topic of your choice. Being “on the fence,” or, “ in between,” is often used as a claim to being impartial and objective. What’s missing from those claims however, is the understanding that the “middle,” is perhaps in a state of endlessness, without a precise location to be found.

With that out of the way, this article seeks to communicate the benefits of not aligning yourself with any one opinion about certain topics / issues. The hope is to connect the tendency of not having an opinion, when others look to you for one, with certain benefits as they relate to influencing those around you. Rather than claiming to be objective, try not claiming to be anything at all once in a while. Observe those who claim to be on one side of an issue, and those on the other. Observe those who claim to be holding an impartial opinion of certain issues and observe those who, just like you, observe this spectrum of opinion from a bird’s eye view.

The following, are points which attempt to communicate the effect you’ll have on others if you make an exercise out of not having an opinion when others expect you to.


Discovery and Realignment Are Different in How They’re Perceived

It seems easier to teach a person something brand new than it is to realign their position on something they’re already opinionated about.

As you practice freeing yourself from holding an opinion on trivial topics of conversation, those around you will view you as a blank canvas to paint on. Rather than attempting to sway your opinion, they’ll operate from a place of trying to form it. It seems that people are less pressing in their attempts to spread their own opinion when they don’t view you as already holding one. As if attempting to guide you on a discovery of truth, they’ll tend to be more tender than if they were attempting to prove your already formed opinion wrong.

The exercise consists of thoroughly attempting to be free of an opinion on certain matters of your choice. Try not to fall anywhere on the spectrum of all possible opinions. As if zooming out of the map of all opinions, envision yourself levitating away. Zoom out of the map until the map of all opinions people hold on a matter of your choice becomes a simple speck. Realize just how much extra space there is out there to be explored; space which those navigating the map of opinions seem to constantly forget about.

As those around you come to understand your thorough lack of possessing an opinion they so desperately want you to possess, they’ll begin to work you. They’ll massage you, and they will mold your malleable perception. They’ll try to bring you comfort, and they’ll maybe try to elicit fear. Notice the ways that people try to get you to agree. Perhaps the most important finding that this exercise shines light on, is the clarity with which you’ll analyze people operating with bias, and just how desperate others are to get someone to agree.


Admitting to Not Knowing Enough vs. Insinuating to Knowing a Lot

You’ll be asked why you don’t have an opinion on certain things. When you do, simply say, “I just don’t know enough about the topic / situation.” That reason is a simple, yet powerful, evoker of respect from others. Especially if they’ve anticipated you to hold a vehement opinion, that answer would come as a surprise.

The ones we anticipate to know a lot, gain our respect when they admit to not knowing enough to hold a valid opinion on a topic. “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know,” is a quote you’ve likely heard. The admission of not knowing is often misinterpreted as a disclosure of not learning. The exercise of ridding yourself of all opinion surrounding a specified topic will teach you that admitting to not knowing is a necessary step in many parts of life. It’ll teach you to become okay with that admission, and will entice those around you to consider you as a careful thinker.

You’ll earn the respect of those who’ve known that they do not know, but failed to admit it in the past. They’ll respect your intellectual humility, and will be enticed to follow suit. You’ll notice your conversations with them begin to balance out, from an opinionated standpoint. Rather than forcibly pulling them in, you’ll serve to subtly entice them toward the happy medium of opinionated conversation. By not having an opinion, and by admitting to your lack of knowledge, they’ll be encouraged to smoothen the edges of their own opinionated rhetoric. Being around someone who is wise enough to advertise their lack of knowledge entices us to wisen up ourselves.


Next in line:

Why Attacking the Person Behind an Opinion Is an Automatic Loss


Book Recommendation: 

The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living

Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims in any way.