Expressing Opinion: Asking and Giving Opinion Without Being a Jerk

From pizza to politics, from fashion to fitness, everyone has an opinion on something.

Throughout your life, you collect knowledge, information and experience – you’re even doing that right now! And when it comes time to share your opinion, you have a great opportunity to express yourself and start a conversation. But if you do it wrong, you can seem like a jerk or know-it-all. How can you express your opinion without being that person? Here’s the down low on giving opinions nicely.

Expressing Opinion: The Basics

I know this sounds like a pretty obvious question, but let’s make sure we’re on the same page, because opinions often get mixed up with facts and advice.

According to Auburn University, “an opinion is a self-report of feelings or personal judgment.” The two keywords in this definition are “self-report” and “personal”. When we express our opinion, we’re expressing what we think. We share our thoughts, feelings and judgments. The process is also a great way to take responsibility for your thoughts, too.

The Art of Asking and Giving Opinion

Let Others Have an Opinion, Too!

It’s important to remember that your opinion is your opinion only. So, it will probably differ from someone else. And that’s totally fine. Knowing and accepting this is probably the first step to expressing opinion like a pro. Everyone assesses their experiences through their own personal perspectives. So, if you encounter someone with a different opinion from yours, just accept it and allow it. You’re not the same two people; so why should your opinions be identical?

Context is key: Giving your Opinion

When it comes to expressing opinion, context is key. Are you talking with your boss, or your best friend? Are you talking about something divisive, or just the weather? You see, asking and giving opinions are a wonderful way to reveal who you are and share your personality, but they’re also a great way to feed your ego, or try to act superior.

If you’re conversing with an authority figure, it’s probably better to let them ask for your opinion. Or, if you feel like you have something valuable to offer, ask if you can share your opinion before spitting it out. This can help you from coming off arrogant or condescending.

On the other hand, if you’re talking with close friends, family and colleagues, the atmosphere is probably more casual. And they might even expect you to openly share your opinion. But even here, there are some good rules to live by.

Think Twice Before The Advice

If you have an opinion that relates only to you, it’s a lot easier. Things like, “I think this book is boring.” Or, “I love this scarf.” Or, “My job is mundane.” These are all fine. It’s your opinion, and you’re entitled to have thoughts about different things.

But what happens when you have an opinion about people you know? An opinion on their ideas, beliefs, diets or lifestyle? It’s inevitable that you’ll have an opinion about these things, but does that mean you can give your opinion simply because you have one?

The answer is a clear and resounding – No!

Giving an unsolicited opinion can be rude and hurtful. So, before you add your commentary, remember how important it is to be empathetic to other people’s feelings and sensitivities. Giving your opinion might hurt feelings, stir up negative memories or just be insensitive.

To help you be empathetic in your opinion-giving, ask yourself this question: “Would I want to hear this opinion if it was about me?” Sometimes opinions can be a disguise for passive aggressive advice. And sometimes, they’re just unnecessary!

Another good question to ask yourself is, “Would they actually want to hear this, and would they receive my opinion well?” This is especially true about lifestyle, religious or political opinions. If you know you’ll be able to have a respectful debate, then go ahead and share.

Just remember that opinions are not always facts. They’re usually your judgments and assessments. So, don’t share opinions with the intention of converting people or forcing something on them. You wouldn’t want them to do that to you!

Another great way to give opinions without being a jerk is to learn how to listen to other opinions without taking offense to them. Since conversations are a two-way street, it’s always good to practice hearing opinions just as often as you give them.

Opinion Examples: How to Ask for an Opinion

When you want to hear someone’s opinion, focus on being open and interested. And to help draw out their thoughts, you can ask questions like:

  • What do you think of / about…
  • What / how do you feel about…
  • What’s your opinion of / on…
  • In your opinion…
  • Do you agree / disagree about…

You can imagine that you’re a reporter or journalist. It’s fun to get curious about people. Asking other people’s opinions is like having a sneak peek into their minds and personalities.

How to Give an Opinion

Now, when it comes time to give your opinion, context and timing does matter, as we mentioned earlier. But giving an opinion requires some preparation, too.

1. Prepare your Opinion

Before you share your viewpoint, make sure you know what you’re talking about. Once you put it out there, you’re going to have to explain and justify it. You might also need to debate and defend your perspective, too. All while keeping an open mind, so a little preparation can go a long way!

2. Be Objective About Your Opinion

When it comes to opinions, no one has to win. You don’t have to be right in order to prove someone wrong. If your intention is to express, share and discuss, your opinion will probably add a lot of value to the conversation. But, if you’re hoping to prove someone wrong and get the one up, keep your opinion to yourself, please!

3. Voice Your Opinion

When you’re ready to give an opinion, you can say things like:

  • I think that…
  • I feel that…
  • I believe that…
  • It seems to me that…
  • In my opinion…
  • As far as I’m concerned…
  • From my point of view…
  • It was interesting, but / and…
  • I’m not sure, but…
  • I didn’t think of that, but…

Remember, giving your opinion is your time to shine, so don’t give boring feedback. Opinions are how you reveal a little bit about yourself. It’s a chance to really inform people about what you think and why you think that.

So, make your opinion comprehensive by backing it up with some relevant examples. And once you state your opinion, other people will probably respond with an opinion of their own, too. As the conversation evolves, try to keep an objective, open mind, and you’ll probably have a very cool discussion on your hands.

Opinions can be great ways to engage with others, or they can be a great way to act like a jerk. And nobody wants that! So, follow these tips and start speaking up, and just remember that being open and curious is way more important than winning.