What I’ve Learned Editing Opinions

“Opinions are like noses: everyone has one,” or so the saying goes. Despite the variation of this saying that suggests otherwise, this is a good thing. Having an opinion usually means you have a brain and a heart–at least in my opinion.

When I started as the Opinions Editor, the first thing I learned was that people have different perspectives, and everyone has a different opinion. That may sound obvious, but sometimes it is difficult to remember: when we are accustomed to spending time with people who are like us–and this is the case for most of us–it can be almost jarring to realize there are other ideas and opinions outside of our spheres. Similarly, we are often not as tolerant as we claim to be. What constitutes being tolerant is certainly different in every person’s mind, but too often we are not tolerant even by our own standards.

I have also learned that we need to speak. At the time I entered this role, I found myself not wanting to speak for fear of saying the wrong thing. I was too scared to say what I thought, because I thought people would see me as misinformed, I would misspeak or seem inarticulate, I would provoke someone, I would be wrong. At the end of the day, I thought I should leave the speaking to those who already knew the answers.

The funny thing is that no one knows the answers. Not even those who think they do, or act like they do, or even do know more than most people. One thing is certain: no one knows all of the answers.

So, speak.

Just think before you speak. We all say things we later regret, though it is less often because we have said something wrong and more often because we have said it the wrong way. What we say is important, but how we say it is equally important. To be specific, we must speak in a way that is kind and respectful of others. Likewise, our words, our tone and our demeanor should invite further dialogue–which will most likely include disagreement–and create a space where people can be free to explore other opinions.

Of course, there is also wisdom in knowing when not to speak in order to better hear someone else. It is wonderful and important for us not to be afraid to share our opinions, but sometimes you can only really hear someone when you just listen, when you aren’t trying to determine what your next point will be and attempting to steer the discussion in your favor. Because it’s not a fight: it’s a conversation.

Over the past year, I have begun to learn that when you engage someone in discussion, and you are arguing a viewpoint, it’s not war. It’s a dialogue, a conversation, a dance. If it’s an ongoing discussion, it can become a lifelong dance.

Having an opinion means you think and care about things that matter, and you should never stop thinking and caring about things that matter.

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