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Ask HN: How to be less opinionated?
91 points by pedrodelfino on Sept 28, 2022 | hide | past | favorite | 112 comments
opinionated person = having and expressing very strong ideas and opinions about things.

Great question - I've struggled with the opposite, not being opinionated 'enough'.

I've noticed I tend to have more faith in other people's convictions than my own, assuming, essentially, if they believe in something, there must be a great reason behind it

My own opinions tend to be weakly expressed & weakly held. It's usually been good, allowing me to listen and understand others. However, growing in career, I feel my opinions not taken as seriously because the perception of their weakness.

What I've tried, maybe the reverse of it might be helpful:

1. Consciously reflecting that other people have roughly similar amount of self-doubt, even if they don't express it. Even if they present opinions strongly, it doesn't necessarily mean these are right.

2. Lowering the bar for going from 'this might possibly be..' to 'i think this is..' to 'this is..' --- that has been very uncomfortable, and still is depending on the audience.

I love working with peers who don't over-sell their opinions, but have adjusted to have a more equal playing field with those who are more opinionated (both kinds are great people).

+1 to the mention of curiousity elsewhere in the thread - realizing there are many ways to look at anything, all 'right' to some definition of the word based on the person's background and context, can be quite liberating, a fight for being right becomes a journey to understand better how people work.

My 2c, not strong opinions :)

i think some people have a "strong will to dominate", it has nothing to do with how much thought they put into their opinions (although putting down thought does help a lot), i think it just a psychological/physical phenomenon (a function of ego, pride, hubris, wanting to be the center of attention etc...) . Throughout my life, i saw myself as an individual on a journey to fulfill my curiosity, whenever circumstances dictated that i push my opinion onto others, i would rather retreat than to convince people that i was right.

It's true that some people want to dominate others regardless what course of action would give the best outcome. I don't think the modern knowledge economy—especially Tech—is particularly rewarding for these folks though. Modern civilization is so complex that real expertise is required to drive meaningful impact. Of course there are still domains like politics where charisma and force-of-will are the primary factors, but I think there's more opportunity for those without those qualities than ever before.

On the other hand, being thoughtful and competent, but conflict-avoidant, is also potentially career limiting. I say potentially because you can still go quite far if the right people recognize your talent and you develop a reputation for being someone to listen to.

The sweet spot though, is recognizing the power and need for influence, but in pursuit of outcomes, not personal glory. In such a framework your idea is no more valuable to you than any other idea. You also don't need to directly convince everyone of what you know, you can simply make timely observations and ask questions to nudge folks towards the right conclusion independently. Finally, you want to cultivate the humility and self-awareness to realize your own biases and limitations. All paths are tradeoffs, all narratives are reductive and all outcomes are probabilistic.

To make matters worse, it's not just inner versus expressed confidence that varies. The confidence may or may not be warranted at all. Not everyone is aware of their own competency.

Similarly, many real world problems lack direct visibility. A person or group may not know enough facts to know what problem they are facing. Ideally, this is a multi-stage problem (i.e. troubleshooting) where you first diagnose the problem and then think about how to address it. (Edit to add: and diagnostics can be iterative, where you have to form a hypothesis and test with a low-risk or low-cost solution to help gather more evidence.)

But, a common group dynamics challenge is that members of the group may not communicate well enough and therefore lack a shared understanding. Once they diverge in terms of their belief about the problem at hand, subsequent debates can become mutually incomprehensible due to unstated assumptions. And, if one member realizes the divergence and tries to steer the group back together, they may face agitated resistance from the members who have already jumped to conclusions as "fact". They may not even realize that there was an earlier starting point and some of their "facts" are supposition...

> However, growing in career, I feel my opinions not taken as seriously because the perception of their weakness.

Hot tip, if you do have a problem it isn't the strength of your opinions and probably isn't your ability to express them either. Assess the situation to see if one of these 3 things hold:

1) You don't have a lot of experience in the domains in question.

2) The conversation is drifting away from how to reliably make/keep the situation good.

3) Multiple people don't see the things you think are obvious and would benefit from someone stating them - but you're focusing the conversation on things you are uncertain about rather than things you understand well.

Picking a workplace classic, someone really confidently starts advocating that we need to migrate the database from Postgres to NoSQLDb. And who knows? Maybe they're right. If you want the play for an unopinionated person it is to loudly say "wow, this is risky but might have a big payoff!", and get a feel for the boss' appetite for risk. If low, talk up all the problems with NoSQL databases and give him cover to say no, or alternative low-risk strategies to try and fix the problem. If high, start talking about ways to embrace the change while keeping risks low (+ make a friend of the NoSQL guy because you're supporting him).

Bam, everyone is a winner, particularly the dude with no opinion. The trap that was set is trying to take a strong position on something you don't understand. Workplace success comes from making the room better just by being there.

I think being a sycophant is rarely a good long term strategy. More importantly, I don’t think it’s an ethical one.

I'm intrigued. Why do you think that is being a sycophant? Which bit do you not like?

Advocating a particular position based on how you think your boss will react is the behavior of a sycophant and unprofessional. If you have a technical role, it’s your responsibility to advocate based on technical reasons. If you are highly uncertain, either do more research and experimentation or refrain from adding your opinion.

The premise is not having a strong technical position either way. It is advocating a consistent position - we should be effective at whatever we do next.

You'll notice that both scenarios involve a careful treatment of the risks involved, there is no point in looking for opportunities if the person responsible for choosing the level of risk tolerance doesn't want to tolerate the risk of looking. The only thing being modulated is enthusiasm for leaping into an uncertain situation.

I don't have much to contribute to your post but I feel a lot of these struggles in my life. With opinions relating to technology I think most of it comes to me not having an industry experience (still in university). With topics such as politics or history sometimes I feel I can't have an opinion unless I've read a book or done very extensive research on a topic or field. I've recently tried to use your second point of lowering the bar of what constitutes a good strong opinion, but like you said it depends a lot on the situation and audience.

Same here, I'm aligned with what you describe.

There are some exceptions, though (tabs are evil, etc…) where I have a strong opinion, and sometimes I fantasize about strongly holding it. I am conscious about letting any of those pet peeves become anything bigger.

As of late, I make an effort to evaluate the person in front of me and decide, case by case, if they have enough self-doubt about themselves. Many times it reflects back on my own self-doubt and helps me gauge it.

This is a American culture thing as well. It regularly surprises me how people that sounded like experts actually turned out to know less than me. I've come to learn to discount anything American-raised people say and double the assumed knowledge of a quiet person from other places.

I stopped being opinionated when I realized that the vast majority of what I'd be opinionated about pretty much doesn't matter enough at all, or doesn't matter enough to get worked up about. It's an ego thing, and being serious about relatively mundane things is pretty fragile. Not that opinions in general are bad, but even if one is very well-informed, one choice over another often just isn't very significant.

Especially in code, if there's a reason to pick one style over another and it seems preferable, I'll say that, but if someone does something else it's probably pretty negligible, and any sensible opinion should change over time anyway.

If someone on my team was very opinionated, I'd think of it as immature. In a non-professional context, I might argue for the fun but that's it. I like back and forth more than black and white.

Listen before speaking. Be willing to let another person change your opinion.

If you're only here to enforce your opinion, then don't talk about the topic. This is why religion and politics are usually not welcome in most parts.

There was an opinionated conversation on anarchy philosophy a few weeks ago on front page HN. Most of the comments came from people who obviously did not open the link at all. Some from people who copied snippets out of context to attack.

This happens because they were not planning to have a conversation. They were not open to the idea that anarchy could be superior to democracy. It's fine to hold firm opinions, but pointless going into discussions with them.

> This is why religion and politics are usually not welcome in most parts.

This is a very "American" view. Plenty of folks manage to have conversations about these topics in a respectful way - and yes, that includes conversations with strangers and in the workplace too. I don't know why they're so polarising in some contexts, as if everyone has to maintain complete loyalty to their "sports team" and has no time for anyone with differing views, but it's a sad state of affairs to me.

Personally speaking, I stopped sharing opinions around these topics once I saw people losing their livelihoods for carrying the "wrong" opinions. I'll still discuss with close friends and family. My sister and I have some very spirited conversations around politics, but I wouldn't do the same with my boss. I don't even know what my boss's opinions are and I'm fine with that. As for the "American" comment, there are countries where physical altercations happen in Parliament over political disagreements. Holding passionate opinions is definitely not unique to Americans.

There aren't many countries where you will get fired for supporting the wrong party, because in most countries you need to be fired for cause. USA is the odd one out here since employers can fire you for whatever reason they like, so managers are used to abusing that power while in other countries managers just learns to work with people instead of firing them at a whim.

I've always been interested in differing experiences with discussing politics and religion especially outside of talks with close friends and loved ones. Outside of that it's almost always uncomfortable.

> This happens because they were not planning to have a conversation

Interesting. Would you have a link?

The more you read diverse ideas, diverse political views, diverse paradigms, diverse worldviews, diverse literature, the wider your conscience horizon you'll have. That will make it more certain on where to be more or less opinionated and, more importantly, when is worth to express it.

I'm very opinionated in a lot of things that I don't give enough f*ks to really care about other people understanding. Removing them from their ignorance would be so titanic that I prefer to stay humble and go with the flow.

There is a line tho.

If "go with the flow" means to be a slave of peer pressure and corrupt yourself being a price for it, then that's a deal breaker and will require the conscience to reflect and reevaluate on life course and update decisions on things that might lead you to change who will be around you in the future.

The most powerful position is to be able to fire everybody if needed (specially employers) :D

May I ask you, what is a "diverse idea"?

Sure. By diversity of ideas I mean different models of reality.

It could be at different levels (more compartmentalized or more general). For example classic physics and quantic physics will give you 2 diverse ways to observe reality (one happens to include the other but that can be considered an accident).

When we're talking about more general diverse ideas, I mean the kind of diversity that leads to the understanding of different world views (or cosmovisions, as in having many different cosmic worldview of a society or civilization).

Had a manager who emphasized the mantra for our team. “Strong opinions, loosely held”.

Over time I’ve come to appreciate this more and more. The “loosely held” portion is important for allowing respectful differences of opinion and building a team together. But the “strong opinions” portion is equally important. You should be opinionated and understand why you hold those opinions and be able to defend them. But also learn to hear dissenting viewpoints and value them too.

This right here.

Be strongly opinionated, but be comfortable with updating that opinion once you have new information.

Updating is the hard skill to master.

You have to be willing to separate ego from ideas and thoughts and be okay saying I was wrong or my idea/thoughts are no longer valid / the most accurate with this new information.

You also have to be willing to be curious and open to new information and counter points that will invalidate or weaken your opinion.

Be opinionated, debate like hell, but once new information is available be willing and okay with changing and updating your view if it makes sense.

An important aspect of the "strong opinion" for me has been taking the time to do some self analysis and, as you said, understand why I hold that opinion.

Many of the issues I've seen in team engagements come from folks not being willing to dig deeper on their own feelings in an open setting. They end up passively resenting the path the team takes because their opinions are still very much a subconscious thing with poorly defined edges.

In a non-tech context, majority of people get very emotional about held beliefs or ideas based on their stories and personal truth. A challenge to these beliefs, even indirectly, is generally perceived as an attack on the individual. Listening to opinions diametrically opposite to your own without harboring any resentment takes a lot of mental training.

Very much this. I will have deep opinions, based in as much fact as is available. If new facts are available, I do my best to constantly re-evaluate what those opinions are.

"I was just now ruminating, as I often do, what a free and roving thing human reason is. I ordinarily see that men, in things propounded to them, more willingly study to find out reasons than to ascertain truth: they slip over presuppositions, but are curious in examination of consequences; they leave the things, and fly to the causes." (Michel de Montaigne)

I feel like open-mindedness is something you can practice. Strong and inflexible opinions are often the result of motivated reasoning, and motivated reasoning occurs when you feel that to believe certain things would harm your identity. But the thing is, it doesn't have to harm your identity unless you let it. You can feel strongly about social justice and equality, and still calmly read about e.g. minimum wage, all of the pros and cons and the results of empirical studies without, poof, instantly turning into a neoconservative.

The other thing to realize is that being very settled in your opinions also means that you're probably closing yourself off from other perspectives and new information – you already know everything there is to know, which is why you're so vocal about it. But again, there's really no need for any of this. You can eat meat but listen to a vegan explain their choices without feeling the need to defend your own opinion and without feeling that not to immediately make a counterargument would make you lose the argument and to admit to being a bad person. Who cares about winning arguments? Try to learn something new instead, even if only why other people think what they think.

When you think along those lines, over time you'll (hopefully) become less emotionally attached to your opinions, less tribal and less easily riled up whenever someone says something you disagree with.

Chestertone's fence

> In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, 'I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away.' To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: 'If you don't see the use of it, I certainly won't let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.'

Applying it more broadly, we have a tendency to reject things we don't understand. But isn't rejecting something you don't understand just plain ignorance?

So the next time someone has a opinion you disagree with, ask yourself why this person has the opinion. It is easy to say they are stupid and ignorant and that might be true but are you sure? Might there not be good reasons for their position?

If you show a willingness to understand the opposing side, people will be more open to you and your ideas and working together will go more smoothly. Your own opinions will not rest on ignorance but on well qualified arguments.

> But isn't rejecting something you don't understand just plain ignorance?

No. I should not have to know all of the reasons for everything a human has ever done before I act. Chesterton wanted to halt progress. I would call his view ignorant.

Do I need to deeply ponder all the reasons why someone deserves to be thirsty before I offer them water? No.

A lot of context lacks here. Is this in the workplace? In your life?

As other commenters have said, sometimes being less opinionated isn't good. There are some core principles that you maintain strongly.

But, if you really want to be less opinionated in a certain aspect, try to understand why would someone have a different opinion, in a compassionate way (that is, if your conclusion is "someone having X opinion must be ignorant/careless/evil" or something to that effect, you're doing it wrong). Usually, trying to put yourself in a mental situation where you'd have a different opinion will reveal arguments that you didn't consider before.

Read "how to win friends and influence people". You can be strongly opinionated but avoid the "expressing" part. If someone you're talking to is wrong it isn't your job to change their mind.

Paul Graham wrote a great essay that's related to this: keep your identity small http://www.paulgraham.com/identity.html

Not too familiar with this paul graham person but I've read a few really good essays from him.

What would you say are his top ones?

Also found this after asking: http://www.paulgraham.com/articles.html

I was moreso asking that person which were the best.

If it is your area of expertise (actual expertise not “I read a bunch about it”) then I’d expect you to have strong opinions. Linus Torvalds without strong opinions on C would be really weird.

If it is not your area of expertise don’t have strong opinions as they’d likely be wrong.

This has interesting implications for politics.

This is 80% a very good point; for the other 20%, I think sometimes about how experts in my field will still disagree, vehemently, about stuff in the field, and seemingly show all the same biases -- they're defending territory, they're viciously contesting for status, vs trying to get closer to "the truth" through the scientific method.

No one is immune, so whatever wisdom the OP gains on this quest will still be useful even if s/he attains the ultimate height of expertise on whatever topic.

Yeah, expert disagreement does occur (we can see it in real time on HN itself) and often it boils down to "I don't want to do more work" or "that is better but the cost/benefit isn't there".

But even then it's better than uninformed arm-chair quarterbacking. And for those watching from the sidelines, if you watch long enough, you start to get a "feel" for the various sides.

I suppose it at least narrows the points of disagreement? So that, e.g., economists will agree on a _lot_ of stuff, even though their points of contention are so magnified that it appears they agree on nothing?

The HN example is interesting. The one topic that comes up consistently on HN that I feel like I have expert-level knowledge of (bitcoin) reveals mostly tribalism / religion couched as rational discussion. It was the most visceral illustration for me of that construct (can't remember the term) about how you read about some topic in the newspaper where you have expertise and say to yourself: this is such crap, they've missed all the nuance. And then you go on to other parts of the newspaper and believe it un-critically.

It has interesting implications for philosophy too. Intelligent people often have strong, but uncritical opinions, despite a lack of training to defend their ideas rigorously.

I don't mean in this in any gatekeeping sense, but this is my view as a philosopher who has lots of experience watching brilliant people fumble through their fervently held positions.

If X is tied to your identity, you will have strong ideas and opinions about X.

To correct this, perform some analysis and see if it is not really a weakness.

Some probing questions:

- What do you "win" when you force others to understand X is right?

- Are you caught up in a relationship or para-relationship where someone else Y is actually winning because you are proselytizing X?

- If so, is this relationship a net benefit to you? Why are you supporting Y, is Y benefiting you directly? Are you dependent on Y? Do you want to be dependent on Y?

- Could Y possibly be using explicit or implicit consequences, fears, or money to manipulate you?

- "Warrior fallacy" - if you perceive yourself as "fighting" for a side, who really cares? Are you caught in social media outrage loops which is really a self-affirmation indulgence? How does your "battle" really affect important things like your paycheck or your mode/method of living up and above things you can do yourself?

- "Individualism fallacy" = "if only each individual does X then problem Y is fixed" when the real problem is an entity much more powerful than a single individual. Refusing to deal the true root cause always results in failure, but you may feel like you are "doing something." Don't be blind.

I kind of think of opinions as conclusions blended with personal values:

"This thing is X" + "some of X aligns with my personal values" -> "X is great, we should do X".

The trick is to untangle your personal values when they're not applicable. i.e. at work, it's a good idea to have a set of agreed team (and higher) tenets/values that you can apply instead of your own -- just don't join teams/orgs that fundamentally conflict with what your hold dear. This way, when there are inevitable disagreements, it's more about whether any particular idea is in alignment with the agreed values, rather than you perceiving them as a direct attack on your own.

Not a perfect solution, but if you don't have that foundational agreement on "what matters", every single decision has a much higher chance of becoming a personal conflict.

Do you mean opinionated or judgemental? I feel it's not bad to be opinionated. Of course, it matters how the strong opinions are communicated.

Don't worry. A lot of people who think they're very opinionated, are not opinionated at all. Rather, they adopt the views of their chosen media sources and have no serious opinions of their own.

First, figure out if you're actually opinionated. For example, are you a democrat or a republican (it doesn't matter which). Can you name a couple of big positions you vocally disagree with your party on? If you can't name at least 1 big position you disagree with your "team" on, there's a good chance that you might not actually be opinionated.

Empathy obviously as many have said - you have to see the other side to know that every choice is a tradeoff.

There's a pretty straightforward exercise you can try - spend a day pretending to be a true believer in something you just fundamentally don't understand or find truly ridiculous (not going to give examples because I may offend!). Start with the assumption that if you were born into a different circumstance you could have actually been this person. Avoid using stereotyping "I believe in X because I'm an idiot". Try it with a few different outlooks, taking smaller steps at first. Read a few blogs, if available, chat with a stranger who believes and see what makes them tick. Regardless of what your edgelord teenage self may have thought, people aren't stupid, they have reasons for believing things. But start with the belief/opinion and work backwards to justify it. Work yourself up to directly oppose your own opinions that you've found others disagree with, and try to falsify them.

In all likelihood this exercise won't change your own opinions, but you'll have a better understanding of WHY they are correct, and why others might think differently, and you'll be better able to convince people of your point of view if you understand what others see as leaks in your opinion.

Save them for when they really matter. I have opinions about pretty much everything, but quite often nobody needs or wants to hear about them. So I try to say little, abut have strong conviction when I do. That way I find people stop and listen. If I have an opinion which is not strong, I'll get involve din the discussion, but more passively. But yeah, strong expression of strong opinions is saved for when it really matters!

Exactly. Pick your battles / hills to die on

Don't care about everything. However, if you care about something, care a lot.

Over the years I've learned not to care too much about things I don't control, I don't know much about, or that I consider an individual choice. On the other hand, about the few things I consider myself an expert in, I care a lot. I have very strong opinions, and I don't hesitate to express them.

In Ben Franklin's autobiography (on gutenberg.org, I think), he points out how he learned to get along better by prefacing things with "I think..." or "It seems like..." etc. That and observing one's own blunders and learning from them :) can help -- I mean, recognizing that none of us knows everything, we are limited and can be wrong. Listening, realizing that others have perspectives and experiences that we don't always have, and their input can increase our overall understanding.

I've also found it very helpful to practice phrasing things as questions instead of strong statements -- keeps less egg on my face, in times when I just didn't know all the facts. I.e., instead of "that is a bad idea", say maybe "wouldn't that lead to problems [, like maybe x, y or maybe z?". Then people can reply to the question instead of feeling attacked and attacking back.

Having strong options isn't necessarily bad, it's how they're expressed that can be detrimental.

One of (the?) original statements of "strong opinions, weakly held" (https://www.saffo.com/02008/07/26/strong-opinions-weakly-hel...) was to tear apart your own thought process, not express it as fact then expect others to do that for you.

When forming an opinion spending time to think it through personally is a good practice. Be conscious that when expressing it though others may not be coming from a background where they may be comfortable to counter. Just because you speak more or louder than someone else don't let that reinforce your existing stance, or force that to diminish theirs.

I love your question! It’s a great place to ask it, because merely asking a question like that in a place like this immediately demonstrates the need we all have to develop these tools. Appreciate you!

Practice listening over hearing. Prioritize curiosity for its own sake.

In terms of 1:1 communication: If dialogue is a venn diagram, strongly opinionated people can sometimes look for opportunities of intersection and commonality to bring things back into their sphere of control. Communication can become territorial in that way, with opinions acting as a kind of currency that gets used to buy influence. Try to be aware of where you’re at, spatially, on this diagram. Try to be aware of what your intentions are in a given moment. If you lead with listening and curiosity, you’ll quickly find yourself spending a lot more time in the other person’s sphere.

Self examination is the only way really. Why do you feel the way you do about X? What are your own biases? What are your own baked in assumptions? What details do you not actually know, but are allowing yourself to assume? Think about things which you have a strong suspicion are true, but for which you do not actually have ironclad proof. For example, why did the person in front of you run a red light? Maybe they were late for work because they have poor planning. That might even be likely. But you don't know. Maybe their spouse had an accident and they are rushing to the hospital. Less likely, but still possible. Again you don't know. Why have an opinion about something which you cannot know?

I have strong opinions about some things. The best advice I ever got was to 'Stop re-litigating the past'.

This came after some contentious discussion with my product counterparts. (I'm a software engineer, but have thoughts on product design).

Discussions, sometimes even arguments, are a great way to explore the idea-space and try to find the best solution. However, once there is a decision, everyone needs to accept and internalize it.

Even when I disagree about what we conclude, if the consensus goes one way, I'll follow. I suppose if this happens enough, maybe it's time to find a new team that shares your views. (And note, I'm sure there are areas of security/privacy/etc. that maybe this shouldn't apply)

Listen. If you really listen to peoples opinion you’ll see the truth in their conviction after a certain point. I will often stay silent while listening other than confirming words to indicate I’m listening for uncomfortably long. People break awkward silence by continuing to talk. They longer they go on, the stronger or weaker their opinion point of view becomes.

Reflect. Revisit opinions you or others had in the past now. Are they still true. In my experience most opinions from the past end up being misguided. On this reflection I’m more skeptical while listening.

Write. Writing is thinking. Don’t start a newsletter or blog. Buy a cheap notebook and pen and write daily. That’s how you develop opinions.

Having and expressing very strong opinions isn't necessarily bad. But it is advantageous to still be open to new viewpoints and ideas ("strong opinions weakly held" etc). You should also strive to be effective at communicating your views while still be able receive feedback and continue to refine the topic with others, and try to ultimately arrive at the ideal outcomes and/or "truth" (and ideally perhaps achieve consensus with the other party around it).. Which part do you have trouble with or want to improve? (it spans lots of topics incl humility, introspection, intelligence, empathy, communication etc.)

First of all, what's the motivation for being opinionated: e.g. to seem knowledgeable and advance in position, or to develop deeper understanding of topics? What about opinions on breadth of topics: focused or broad? Not having an opinion doesn't mean lack of capability but could be lack of interest or relevance.

The only thing you really have to be aware of is having strong opinions strongly held without deep understanding or allowing your mind to be changed. Don't identify with your opinions--new information leads to new assessment and reformulated opinions.

"When my information changes, I change my mind. What do you do?" -- Keynes

For anything you are ready to go full-force on, first ask yourself:

- How do I know this?

- What is the basis on which I form my opinion?

- What facts that I can demonstrate independently are available to be presented?

- What are the counter-points to my position and what facts support them?

- What would disprove my position? (If it's not disprovable, then very likely it's pure opinion without a substantial backing)

- Are there any other feasible conclusions for the same item? Why do you consider them or why don't you consider them?

Basically you need to challenge your own biases. Why do you think the things you think? How did you reach that conclusion and is there evidence that leads to alternate conclusions?

Once you understand that there might be more answers or you have incomplete information, recognize it as such. You don't need to surrender your opinion entirely, but present it as opinion and explain how you got there. Acknowledge there are other possible interpretations, and explain why you find yours favorable. You should be able to do this for yourself, and when you're practiced at it, you can do the same with others. Suddenly, you're not highly opinionated, you're a lot more thoughtful and you approach items that require some interpretation/opinion with a lot more thoughtfulness and research.

It seems like a lot at first, but it's a skill that needs practice. I used to be very opinionated also without even realizing it (more I was arrogant, IMO, as I was used to being right). Then in University I lived with an incredibly scientific minded guy who was direct and questioning to a fault. It rubbed me the wrong way at first, but then I realized _I was the one who was forcing an opinion_, all he was doing was asking questions.

Very quickly, I became quite practiced at checking my biases and understanding and framed my statements and opinions a lot differently. I'm not afraid to have an opinion (I do so quite often), but it's far easier for me to bring someone up to speed on how I got there, and I'm much more receptive to alternative understandings I maybe didn't consider.

I am veey opinionated. I report that I don't think something is good at times, but I report that I don't have good rationale for that and as such, my opinion should be disregard unless I manage to put together an objective line of reasoning.

Sometimes, the line of reasoning is there but it's too small.

Other times, when I put it together and write it down is big enough to show that there is a lot of value in doing what I suggested.

So being objective pushes toward challenging your own ideas, if they are still ahead the "competition", there are usually really good reasons.

There's nothing wrong with being opinionated! Even strongly. But you need to have a strong sense of humility to go along with it.

Know that any one of your strong opinions could be wrong. Know that equally smart people could disagree with you. Know that the world doesn't care very much whether you're right or wrong.

If you're asking this question because you're finding you have conflict with people over your strong opinions, the problem isn't that your opinions are strong. It's that you're letting them control you.

Step 1: Recognize that you are wrong. Everything you think you know is, at best, partial and incomplete. Certainty is a lie.

Step 2: Recognize that other similarly mistaken viewpoints exist. Everyone, everywhere, is wrong about everything to some degree.

Step 3: Recognize that functioning and advancing human civilization requires a bunch of mistaken (typically committed to remaining so) people directly and indirectly cooperating to varying degrees.

Step 4: Develop a sense of perspective. Almost everything that concerns you is wholly irrelevant on almost every other non-local scale.

Really truly internalize the fact that you can be and sometimes are wrong when you are certain you are right. Internalizing this knowledge helps take the edge off being so opinionated.

Another thing is to realize that it is often much better for everyone if you can help other people come to the same realization(s) as you on their own rather than just persuading them to acquiesce. So when you have a disagreement, ask questions. Open ended ones, not leading ones, that address what you think are the problems with whatever they are proposing.

Be less invested, but remain involved. Be less sure you're right. Be more open minded. Summarize other's viewpoints and restate in your own words. Ask yourself when you hear or see something that doesn't make sense to you, "What would the world have to look like to someone for that to make sense?". Separate the "you" from the "view". Police your language: it's not you are "wrong" or "right", it's a view is "correct" or "incorrect". Maybe go even further: all these views are just pieces of the bigger picture.

Convince yourself that you win, not when you are "right" and prove someone "wrong", but when you learn something new. Rewire your brain. Seek first to understand, only then to be understood. If you feel you need to "say something to that", instead "write an email to yourself instead saying what you want to say" (and then ask: does this need to be said? does it need to be said by me? does it need to be said now?). Cherish the viewpoints of others as interesting aspects of the world. Distinguish between the view and "the truth" (whatever that may be), by using language deliberately: "I get that you see it that way", "I understand that's how you feel about it". Always keep in mind there can be multiple valid perspectives, at the same time, about the same thing, and their differences do not make any "wrong".

Finally...try some "awareness" experiments on yourself: your question and my answer, reminded me about this "awareness exercise" where you go into a large public art gallery, and walk around for an hour, but never ever look at any works of art. You only look at the empty walls, the space between them. It's interesting. You could see it as a way to get some space between a "compulsion" (of looking) and "you" (being deliberate). I think you can apply a similar thing to opinions: walk into a space (online or not) where there are lots of strong opinions you disagree with and practice not responding. Don't engage. What is that experience like for you? Explore that and similar things...push to some extent against the bounds of what is discomfort and unfamiliar for you.

Thank you!!!!! :P :) xx ;p I think it's a noble quest what you're doing.

If you ask it means having strong opinions came back to bite you and you don't want it to happen again. Keep this situation in mind, it's an excellent starting point to understand how you could react differently.

In most cases, strong opinions are only problematic if there is miscommunication around. You may have good reasons behind your opinion, but you need to make your case to the other people. They don't live in your head or share your knowledge. Explaining is the most difficult part: you have to put yourself in the shoes of the other person. What's their background, what do they know about the problem, where does their opinion come from,... It's essentially an endless list but the better you understand the other person, the better you will communicate. Never attack the person or be condescending, you are the teacher and they are the student.

... So, that was the case where you were right, but you will be wrong sometimes and you have to know. It's also a communication problem: you need to find the information you were missing when you made up your opinion. If someone comes to you and says "we have a new project coming, it's on an embedded chip and we'll do it in Python". You may want to reply that Python is slow and we should do it in Rust otherwise there's no point of even doing it on embedded. And you'd be right for certain cases, but this project was meant be as an introduction to robotic for children. Without all the info, you reach the wrong conclusion. Here, you have two choices to not be perceived as an asshat: seek the information/explanation first "oh Python on embedded, is there a particular reason (for not using Rust/C)?" or admit you were wrong right away "yeah, teaching children about ownership models seems like a stretch..." (if you're not in the mood for jokes: "ok, makes sense"). Do this and people won't blame you for having strong opinions.

If you are just holding strongly to your opinions without explanation, all the other person will hear is "I won't listen to you", "I don't want to change" and/or "I want to win". And I'm sure that's now how you want to appear.

Another poster talked about "Strong opinions, loosely held." and that's pretty much the summary of my rant.

1) Truly listen to understand… not to respond. 2) Try not to win through debates (high school debate mentality) but through your actions - how you express your opinions matter 3) Understand that truths are not necessary facts (be willing to change your mind) 4) Your strong opinion about something might be useful delusion to someone else (e.g religion) 5) Strong opinions often come from privilege (knowledge, money …etc) - so check your ego and attachments 6) Try to be a teacher

Learn to pause your train of thought and say, "I don't know, what do others think?"

I find myself sometimes realising that I am talking a lot about something and then I wonder how it must come across. e.g. "The only proper way to do this is with microservices, this other idea seems to be doomed to fail....I don't know, what do others think?"

Works wonders and helps you to realise something that you might not have thought about without sounding like a dickhead.

I would suggest reading Paul Graham essay about identity. You have to avoid identifying yourself with your opinions. At least that works for me.

Ancient wisdom says that we have two ears and one mouth to listen more than we speak.

It's perfectly fine to have an opinion, but in my 10 years of startup/big tech experience is that those expressing these strong ideas and opinions don't tend to share the stage nor listen to others. Sometimes their ego gets in the way of always wanting to be "right" or "first". Getting rid of that is a whole different question itself.

For me it has been about learning more through reading and conversations. The more I learn, the more I realize how little I actually know and how nuanced most things are. For the things that I do feel fairly confident in my knowledge level (again, still with the understanding that there is still a lot to learn), I find that mentoring is an excellent way to test myself and grow. Together, I find myself being less opinionated.

Being opinionated is a fine quality, but only if a healthy dose of curiosity is maintained. Otherwise, an opinionated and incurious person, which tends to be an argumentative person, adopts a pattern of behaviors that satisfy their ego, but which are also less selfishly beneficial. It is better to learn by listening than living and dying by fixed opinion.

I had a conversation recently with someone with very strong opinions. I quietly listened to their point of view. I concluded they were talking nonsense and don't plan to engage in any further deep conversation with the person. And this is my point, opinionated people can quietly lose their audience.

This doesn't answer your question directly, but some very lucid discussion about a closely-related topic that might be of use to you, if you haven't seen it, came across HN earlier in the week:


I try to keep myself so busy and focused that I lack the time and energy to have opinions about things that don’t concern me.

Debate people who have actually different opinions. This might involve discussions with people outside the Bay Area.

I assume you're asking this because being 'too opinionated' got you into some trouble, maybe more than once. There is a key distinction between 'having' and 'expressing', and I might add a 3rd: 'forming'. The process of forming an opinion is often done via expressing a "wrong" opinion and getting corrected by others.

- Are you willing to change your opinion given new information or convincing arguments? If not, you may have a trait that emphasizes rigidity. Searching around "rigid thinking" or "cognitive flexibility" terms might get you somewhere useful. Ultimately, it's something that CBT and DBT therapists focus on in therapy. They help you see opposite views of the same thing, and when you start to recognize that there are n valid perspectives on most situations. https://albertellis.org/2016/01/rigid-thinking-and-rational-... A purposeful therapy series (3-12 sessions) around some of your most conflicting issues can be an amazing investment.

- Are you expressing your opinions in times and places where others don't feel it's appropriate? This is a filter issue. Executive function, which can be impaired by disorder, distraction, and drink, is the part of your brain that help you control when you blurt things out. There are lots of different approaches to fixing different causes executive impairment, but the goal is the same for all cases: teach yourself to say less. Learning to listen is a big part of that, but active listening is expensive. If you feel like you NEED to say something but its not an appropriate time or setting to do so, try intentional breathing instead. It works really well in my experience when I remember to do it.

- Are your opinions wrong? Read more and listen more before you share.

- Are you hanging out with the right people? Probably not. If you're trying to make yourself less opinionated, you might be surrounded with people that just can't keep up with you. It's REALLY OKAY to express strong opinions about stuff with people who fundamentally accept and value you. And it's really great if someone else has a strong opinion, opposing opinion and you can debate the truth with them enthusiastically. There are people out there that are safe to be your self and share your whole self with, it's just a matter of finding them and building trust together.

The idea isn’t to be more or less opinionated, its to learn to respect other people enough that you can manage communication and relationships with others who have different ideas. Unless you can make space for other people, you can’t reasonably expect them them to make space for you.

I don't think this is useful to be opinionated, as long as you are able to debate in good faith. Here i mean asking genuine questions, trying not to strawman much opposite views but still be able to reformulate them for yourself, and follow good debate etiquette.

A friend once told me, “have strong opinions, weakly held”. Be able to accept the opinions of others even if you don’t necessarily agree with them.

Being less opinionated doesn’t sound all that great to me. Your opinion is the sum of your experience filtered by an idea. This distillation is the basis for your thought process.

Opinions seem to work in an almost bayesian sense: you have some opinion A and upon learning B you update your priors.

I’ve gone from basically shouting “you’re wrong” at people when I was younger to now I will listen to pretty much anyone’s seemingly wild opinion on anything. My curiosity has shifted towards learning why people believe certain things, seeing if they came to that conclusion rationally, and seeing if there’s anything I missed on the topic. You typically form new ideas even by hearing bad ones from other people. Seems to jog the creative part of your brain where we as humans are wired to be social and collaborate.

By understanding how other people think about things, it gives me a heat check on my own takes. It helps me form a clearer understanding of what motivates that person and where our irreconcilable differences lie.

Tl;dr have opinions on stuff, but most hills aren’t worth dying on. Listen to others and develop yourself and your thought process accordingly.

Perhaps is more about how to express opinions, than just having them. Different people have different maps of the world. To me it is about expressing opinions while acknowledging the valuable ideas in (and connections with) their maps.

I’m going to jump to the conclusion that being opinionated is somehow negative socially for you? Or do you have another motivation?

If that the case I’d suggest - Keep the opinions - but add in curiosity.

Be curious instead. Ask questions. Practice active listening.

Ironic question for this forum.

Don’t be less opinionated. Lowering your standards is like poisoning your own well.

The question should be “how to avoid sounding like an ass?” Opinions aren’t the problem, lack of awareness and sensitivity towards others maybe.

There are correct contexts and methods for everything, learning to recognize and adapt to these are imperative for social survival.

Having opinions however is a sign of a restless mind. An arrow of longing so to speak. What is crude and obnoxious while young may flourish into insightful passionate interests given time and reflection.

I think it is a fair question. The older I get I see the less opinionated I get. The opinions get replaced with curiosity as I become old. The reason I am getting less opinionated is that as years go by I come across contradictions to strong opinions I held before which weakens the fervor with which I held those opinions. So I don't think that being less opinionated is lowering my standards. I think richness of life experiences can make someone less opinionated.

I think in parts it's about how you relate to other people.

When I was a teenager, I assumed in every disagreement:

* I already know the truth

* The only conceivable reason someone could disagree with me is stupidity

* The goal of a debate is to defend the truth from ignoramuses, and pummel them into submission with superior displays of snarkiness and canned rhetoric

With age, this has morphed in this direction:

* I have opinions that may or may not be true

* If someone holds a strong opinion that disagrees with my experiences, this is fascinating (how could we arrive at such different world views, while living in the same world?)

* The goal of a debate is to examine how they could arrive at a different conclusion to mine and reconcile our disparate experiences

Do you eat less healthy food? Or hang out with more dangerous friends? Or spend time doing more wasteful activities?

Or do you have an inward peace which makes going on about such things impractical and irrelevant?

I hear what you’re saying, and I agree that restlessly over sharing is counter productive, though I also notice that society tries to suppress the standards of others in some attempt for bland conformity.

Your answer regarding richness in life, as well as self reflection are merely your standards coming to fruition.

Some amount also of "pick your battles". If you're viewed as loathing anything that wasn't your idea, people will wonder about your motives. Save it for topics that matter.

This is mostly just a cheap trick, but see if you can convert a statement into a question.

Then maybe think about whether you're curious about the answer. Do you want to know more?

It's good to be opinionated and share that opinion. However, it should be shared in a way to invite debate. Be careful not to tie your identity to your opinions.

Opinions are facts mixed with emotion. If you're able to, separate the emotional element when expressing your ideas and should be left with simple objectivity.

It's okay to have strong opinions, but it's not okay to not listen to contrary views and not changing your opinion once you realise you are wrong.

Read about Socrates and his approach to knowledge. In a nutshell, he was humble and readily admitted that there were many things that he didn't know.

Learn from other cultures. Of course most are 'banned' in some way or another, however, there is plenty of wisdom to be gleaned from the East.

“Bees don't waste their time explaining to flies that honey is better than shit.”

I really should try and live this a bit more.

If we're talking about social issues, easy... Study social philosophy. Will drive all your convictions to the ground really fast.

Do something a different way. Now you have two strong opinions. Do it again and again until you see all ideas as possible.

If you are very opinionated about a technical topic (X is always better than Y); you might not understand the tradeoffs or contexts.

Talk less and listen more. Ask questions instead of firing back your own opinion: ‘most people don’t listen, they reload.’

the more empathy you can learn to have, the more likely you'll listen and understand where people are coming from. if you find yourself leaning too much to one side of things whether it's politics or something else, then you might be in an echochamber and aren't hearing what the other side is really saying.

Have you tried shutting up? Like seriously. Just shut up. Abstain from the urge to talk.

Stand still and ask yourself these questions:

Does anyone care about my opinion?

Will my opinion have any impact on the situation?

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