When you’re a child and under the care of your parents or another guardian, you don’t really have an opinion on most things. Sure, kids like and don’t like things, but often their minds change over time–most of us remember hating broccoli as kids, but now have no problem with it (or even like it) in our stir fry or as a side item. For the most part, your opinion reflects the opinions of those who raised you, and even into adulthood you sometimes find yourself having opinions that don’t really reflect your own views, but are carried over from your childhood.
Once you hit around 18 or so, however, you start to enter the world and form opinions that are different from your parents, even if you still mostly agree with them. Every so often, one of these opinions is unpopular, not only with your parents, but a lot of the world around you. Now, everyone is entitled to their opinion, sure, but you are not entitled to being a dick without facing some consequences. Since I have some unpopular opinions, I figured I’d teach you how to have an unpopular opinion without being a dick.
Step 1: Really think long and hard about why this is your opinion.
Wait, I’m not telling you to stop having your opinion, just hear me out. When you’re young, especially if you don’t have an amazing relationship with the people who raised you, you can start to form opinions simply because they contradict what those people think, and that’s no way to live.
The example I want to use for this step, and probably for the rest of the steps, is my conversion to veganism this year. When I made the choice to stop consuming animal products, I had to think, “Okay, why do I want to do this?” and I had to really have some concrete reasons, especially since vegans get so much flak on the internet and the real world. I didn’t go vegan because it annoys people, I went vegan because I care about animals. I can go into all the other reasons and use facts and science to back up my reasoning, and you should be able to do that too. If you don’t have a concrete reason for your opinions, popular or not, you need to do some soul searching.
Step 2: Focus on the positive aspects of your opinion.
So you’re confident in your opinion and you’re ready to stand your ground on it. You know it’s unpopular and you know you’re going to get shit so you walk into every conversation ready for a fight. Stop doing that. Again, for example, my vegan diet. Boy, are there a lot of memes trashing vegans, and a ton of people saying “For every animal you save, I’ll eat three,” and all sorts of disrespectful shit. I know the shit people give me isn’t fair, especially because I don’t every make comments about other people’s food, with the exception of telling them that their food smells good and I hope they enjoy it. These people are genuinely shocked that I do that because they expect me to judge and criticize them for the chicken and cheesy baked potato on their plates. They expect I’ll say some thing negative about their lunch and call it a carcass or something, which I don’t do because that’s rude as shit.
Approaching your opinion and your life with a positive outlook is a better way, hands down. If people ask me why I’m vegan, I usually say, “I started because I really respect all animals and don’t find enjoyment consuming their products, but I keep doing it because I feel so energetic and happy.” I almost never say, “I don’t want to contribute to the horrific abuse that happens to animals in factory farms or the destruction of the planet.” Both of those statements are true, but which one is less abrasive? If you have the unpopular opinion but you’re doing it in a positive way, people are way less inclined to give you crap about it.
Step 3: Be prepared for negative comments, questions, and “Devil’s Advocates.”
Whether or not you’re positive about your unpopular opinion, there will always be someone who says something nasty about it. Another vegan example, someone said to me, “I love meat so much, I almost like it to ‘moo.'” Now most people can see that a statement like that, especially given my previous statement about respecting animals deeply, is disrespectful and frankly pretty rude. Many people would have a snarky response to that, which is satisfying at the time, but it’s called feeding the trolls. My response, “I get that it’s not for everyone, but I’m really happy, enjoy your lunch!” Responding with positivity is the only way to keep from being a gigantic ball of rage all the time. Was I mad about that statement? Of course. Was I tempted to feed the troll? Sure. Was killing them with kindness almost as satisfying? Surprisingly, yes. If you are happy with your life and your opinions and radiate positivity, there’s no stopping you.
Step 4: Understand and empathize with arguments against your opinion.
You can be convinced your opinion is the one to have all day long, but understanding and empathizing with the fact that people think differently than you will go a long way in humanizing you. One more time with the vegan example, I understand that there are many reasons why someone wouldn’t want to go vegan. Some people have dietary restrictions already, which makes taking out meat and dairy more difficult, others can’t afford to be that selective with their food, and still others have nutrient deficiencies such that they physically need a certain animal product in their diets. I know that my diet isn’t ideal for everyone, so I know I can’t judge people for having a different diet because different diets work for different people. Unpopular opinions are usually unpopular for a reason, so if you are able to say “I understand why you think this way and even though I think differently I respect your opinion.”
Step 5: Follow the Golden Rule and the Thumper Rule.
The Golden Rule: Treat people the way you wish to be treated.
The Thumper Rule: (Y’all saw Bambi right???) If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
Basically, don’t be a jerk. If you follow just those two rules, it’s possible for you to have all the unpopular opinions in the world with little trouble. The other 4 steps were to help you deal with any negative reactions you may receive due to your unpopular opinion.