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Community Voices (Helms): An opinion on opinions

My adult children are the best teachers to let me know my motherly advice is not needed anymore unless asked for. I have had to shift my way of communicating my love for them and nurture my connection with them. What they need from me is encouragement with my words and support for whatever they are doing in their own adult lives. The last thing they need or want from me is my opinion.

This life experience got me thinking: What is the intent of an opinion? What role does an opinion play in daily life in our interactions with our families, friends and the larger community?

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In Richard Grannon’s YouTube video, “What Social Media is Really Doing to our Culture,” he states, “We’ve fallen into our own mirror.” His statement expresses how I have been feeling lately about opinion and the role opinions play in our day to day experiences. The spirit of even conversation has changed.

Grannon mentions “serotonin technicians” who purposefully have created a system where people are encouraged to practice “pointless attention-seeking for its own sake,“ and when “the only profit in that particular system is time and attention ... where does compassion fit into this?” When our own opinion or interactions with other people become so important to feed our “own mirror,” I also ask, like Grannon, where is the compassion?

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There is an undercurrent of a shift in the way we communicate with each other that affects our ability to connect. Perhaps Grannon has his finger on the pulse of what I’ve been feeling. According to Grannon, social media has created “the environment and system (that) trains us.” Although we are by nature competitive beings, immersion in a world of social media has upped the ante, creating a world of competing vs. connecting when it comes to relationships.

When an opinion is held so highly, I’m curious at what cost? Do we lose something of higher quality for our lives and relationships? Grannon has it right when he states “it’s time to reset the intent.”

What is the intent of an opinion? If that was part of our thinking before we stated one, perhaps we would decide acknowledging, encouraging and hearing another person without judgment or input, might bring us closer and deeper interactions in the world. Perhaps empathy is more sustaining than an opinion.

A lot of times an opinion isn’t what is needed. I’ve been more observant of conversations I have with other people and I’ve noticed a trend: conversational content these days seems to be made up mainly of personal opinions.

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It’s one thing to experience this on an online platform that has created such a psychological effect on the general population that now there are talks of “likes” going away. Why? Because this group-think world that has been created causes anxiety and mental distress. Let’s face it, living out of the opinions of others diminishes self-actualization and takes away from developing one’s own sense of choice from within our own selves that creates satisfaction, serenity and authenticity in our connection to one another; a way to be true to one’s self.

The idea of social media seems counterintuitive. I would think in a society where people interact with a freedom to express our own likes, dislikes and opinions, we would be happier, more satisfied and feel more connected as a society. So, why don’t we?

There is something to be said about unsolicited opinion that we are exposed to repeatedly. Just because I state my opinion doesn’t mean it needs to be responded to by a counter or agreeing opinion.

I have observed in my own encounters that there is an element of human connection that is empathetic and compassionate in nature and intent. In other words, sometimes I don’t want to know what a person thinks in response to my sharing. I just want to know I’ve been heard.

But when two people are wanting to be heard, no one is listening. This becomes divisive in nature breaking down quality of communication and relationship. The book, “Power Listening: Mastering the Most Critical Business Skill of All” by Bernard Ferrari, reminds us that perhaps our focus has shifted to a place that doesn’t serve us well. Ferrari writes, “Although most people focus on learning how to communicate and how to present their own views more effectively, this approach is misguided and represents missed opportunities.”

Perhaps this is a good place to reflect on what those missed opportunities might be and consider that the intention of an opinion may determine the outcome for ourselves as individuals and as a society.

Kat Helms writes from Taneytown.

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