5 points on how to be opinionated without sounding arrogant

Think back to how many times you hold back your opinion in the fear of coming on too strong. Too cocky. That happens to me often.

I went experimenting, reading and practising on how to express opinions without sound like a huge jerk. I found five points of focus that can help you express your opinion without being negative.

Before expressing your opinion, consider:

  • Is it really worth expressing? Does the reader benefit from it?
  • Are you sure you’re not overreacting?
  • Is your opinion really that well thought through?

Dilbert's brilliant comic on opinions.

Inform yourself before expressing yourself

The biggest fallacy is to condemn opinions before educating yourself. Most of our opinions merely come from what media we consume, our cultural background and the people we hang out with.

You probably already have a strong opinion on what smartphone operating system is better. However, did have you really checked out both systems? Understood the design decisions? Discussed the company’s business goals?

Without investigation, your opinion is probably without any objective facts. You want objective facts to anchor your arguments and opinions.

Acknowledging other opinions

You’ll let the person listening know that you took a lot of time to form your opinion by recognising that there are other opinions! Briefly stating these opinions will not hurt your assertion: it will strengthen it.

Don’t be a dick about it

Avoid being condescending. An attitude that we often assume is to talk down on the one that has not had time to form a belief about something. Sarcasm is even worse. Do not use sarcasm in your assertion if you want your opinion to come across.

Debate on point

Do not get sidetracked or use conversational sidesteps to mislead the listener. Keep expressing your opinion on point. If you start feeling that your opinion is not as strong as you thought, be open to the possibility that you are wrong!

Psychological power moves and manipulation tactics

Using tricks to express your opinion and hoping of convincing the listener is the worst.

  • Cutting off people criticising your opinion,
  • talking fast so they can’t interrupt,
  • standing your ground even though you’ve just realised you were incorrect just to win the argument…

All of these are power moves by people that have great conversational skills and are close-minded. Being close minded is a bad idea if you want to be heard and taken seriously.

With this new blog, I will try to challenge some status quo. Not because I want to be right. Because I want to learn.

Keep learning:

Geffrey van der Bos is a cognitive designer with focus on User Interfaces and Front End Development. Currently working in Stuttgart Germany, for Bitfactory GmbH.