August 2nd, 2014

“This is just my personal opinion, but …”

I remember one of the annoying things I used to do when I was younger was either start or end statements I made with a disclaimer. I was always so worried about stepping on toes or being misinterpreted whenever I spoke that I felt the need to constantly remind people that it was just my thoughts.

Now, in moderation, this is fine. It’s something I still do to a certain extent. I tend to say things like “I feel like” and append “this is what has worked for me” to advice I give, but it was a problem when I ended every other sentence or thought with a disclaimer. I realized that the reason I did this was not truly because I was concerned about others, but more about myself. It was more a sense of insecurity and avoidance of scrutiny. It’s great to be considerate and to mind others while talking, but at the time I was more afraid of the backlash I would receive should I say anything outlandish. It was a way to sort of excuse myself.

By reminding others that the statements I made were purely based on my own experiences or that they were my own personal opinions, I’ve realized that I was just being childish, and even redundant. It’s generally assumed among the educated that statements you make are based on your experiences and opinions you express are your own. There’s not much reason to remind others of that fact, much less to do so constantly.

I notice lots of people still do this, even amongst my friends. This is more of a tangent example, but one that I see as a direct result of this problem and is probably more easily relatable: deciding where to eat. You know how it goes; you and your group of friends decide to go out to eat (first mistake), but all of you first have to agree on where exactly you want to eat (second mistake, declaring you want to go out to eat without already deciding where). So you’ll go back and forth and everyone makes suggestions, but only suggestions. They’ll suggest or encourage going to a particular place, but then end it with “but I’m fine going anywhere”. However, when we do go to a different place they’ll be genuinely upset or visibly disappointed. They’ll be very obviously not fine with the location.

Like I said, it’s good to be conscious and mindful of others, but be sure that’s your true intention. If you’re doing it only to appear mindful or out of your own insecurity, please stop. It’s annoying. Trust me, I know, I have this trait; it’s one of the characteristics I hate about myself and have been trying to fix. Just state your thoughts and stand by it. If you really do want to be mindful, and notice others don’t agree, then ask them for their preference. If they have a preference, compromise from there (true compromise, that is, no attitude). Otherwise, stand by what you’ve said. Either stop throwing out statements without any support or stop talking altogether.

Part of me wants to put the blame on childhood experiences. I know I developed the habit because others spoke out when I said things that they didn’t agree with. But honestly, there’s no one to blame. As kids it was natural for you to speak your mind, among your peers anyways – can’t pull that kind of stunt at home. So if you didn’t agree you just said so. And as a kid, it was only natural to take any words spoken to you to heart. So it’s definitely not a problem that it came up. It’s just a problem to cling to those experiences and allow them to develop into a social habit that lasts beyond adolescence.

This is less of a problem for me now, but still not completely gone. It’s just difficult because not only is it a natural part of my speech, but it’s also reflective of my personality. Lots of progress though. This year I really took a stand with a speech I made during elections for a student organization. I stepped on many toes and there were no disclaimers attached; it was great. Don’t get me wrong, the point of this entry is definitely not to be a douche. It’s more to say … if you’re going to be a douche, then own up to it. Either stop pretending you’re not a douche or change who you are. Just stop trying to cover it up or excuse yourself because it doesn’t work.

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