2018: The Year of Living Thoughtfully
An open challenge to replace knee-jerk reactions with calm consideration and restraint
“I hate opinions.” This was the pronouncement of a new acquaintance at a large party hosted by a good friend. He thought it appropriate to proclaim this to me after asking what I did for a living. I told him I am a journalist and author who writes commentary and trains people to put their ideas — and opinions — out into the world.
So following his hate for opinions, I responded, “That’s an opinion.”
You can imagine how quickly the exchange went downhill and how fast I excused myself for the dessert table in the next room. I lingered at the eclairs and coconut cake for the better part of an hour before going home. For me, 2018 is going to be the year of — I am taking a big breath — reserving judgment. Being judgmental and intractable about your opinions is not a compliment. No one wants to read on his or her tombstone, “Here lies the judgmental.”
What I promise is that I am not going to react instantaneously to what I witness, read, hear or ingest. I am going to wait until more evidence arrives or until I have time to think. And if I do not have time to think at that moment, I am just going to wait until I calm down or until I have a chance to investigate further.
A lot of the ire and irrationality I see on social media as well as at parties, meetings, community gatherings, lectures, performances or public debates, and even on public transportation — are based on quicksilver reactions. Many just don’t think before they attack, act or judge.
I am one of them.
I read or watch something on the news and I react. I declare it right or wrong, and have an opinion about it. I realize I am the old lady on Clinton Avenue when I was growing up, always wagging her finger at someone. I am the crabby uncle at family reunions. I am the co-worker who only speaks in generalities and damnations.
OK, so I am a little more contemplative than that. But not much. And for sure not anymore.
Here is my plan, and perhaps you already do this, so God bless you. And if you are not already doing this, then let’s try it this year together. I am going to deliberately respond to new information with a call for personal restraint of my own.
This year, I promise I will not make blanket statements of dismissal. I will not say “nobody” or “never,” or the flip side of “everybody” and “always.” I will not pretend my biases are facts, and I will wait until I know more. And I will confess as much.
I will say, “I don’t have all the facts and I need to look into this more,” before I declare someone guilty or innocent or anyone of being a liar. I will not be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”
Because I think in the past few years we have emerged with a real crisis of civility, where everyone feels entitled to shout his or her opinions from the rooftops. Facts and information not needed or wanted. The louder, the better.
I am not saying I disagree with everyone’s right to his or her own feelings and opinions, but we do not have a right to be so darn rude about expressing what we believe.
And I know this starts with me.
Whether someone is pontificating on the radio, on television, or next to me at a dinner party, I am going to breathe deep and just listen. I will respond that what the person said was interesting and that I do not have all the facts to express an informed opinion. I will suggest I would rather think about it a little longer.
And if I have a clever retort, I will keep it to myself.
I am not saying that I prefer to be seen and not heard, I am only saying that I prefer to be seen as someone who is thoughtful in choosing her words. And I know I spent a lifetime telling my three sons when they were growing up to “Use your words,” but I am now shifting that directive to be, “Choose your words. And carefully.”
I think 2018 for me will be the year of living and speaking thoughtfully. And I think it will be a good move.
But that’s just my opinion.Edit Module