In some professional environments, opinions can be dangerous.
Holding a controversial opinion can damage your reputation, but equally holding your opinions back can be more damaging as you’re sacrificing part of your authenticity. Opinions drive conversation and change - but knowing how and when to give your opinion can be a challenging task.
Voicing your opinion can have a lot of benefits
Having an opinion at work can be viewed as controversial by some employers and colleagues alike, but it can also be an incredible superpower with a ton of benefits.
It establishes you as someone with good critical thinking skills
Opinions require you to have thought about a topic or idea in some element of depth before voicing it, and enables you to develop your critical thinking skills further:
“By practicing critical thinking, we are allowing ourselves not only to solve problems but also to come up with new and creative ideas to do so. Critical thinking allows us to analyze these ideas and adjust them accordingly.” - OUPeople
Critical thinking skills are crucial in the workplace - it allows us to dissect complex subject matter or scenarios and have a solutions-based approach to them! Without critical thinking, there is no opinion, and without opinion, you (and the business you’re working for) will struggle to evolve.
Confidence and not having a fear of being judged
Sharing your opinion enables you to build credibility and confidence - and will enable you to diminish the feeling of being judged (or worrying about being judged). If you’re in an environment where opinions are encouraged and celebrated, lean into that and work on sharing your opinions to build confidence!
Practice this with colleagues that you feel safe and comfortable around, and that way you can grow your confidence and in turn start to share your opinions in more challenging environments and scenarios.
Driving important discussions that would otherwise go under the radar
Finally, a key benefit of having an opinion at work is ensuring that discussions are encouraged and challenging topics are brought to the surface. There are so many things that can fall “under the radar” at work - whether this is a process that needs to be looked at or even looking at team dynamics and culture. Until opinions are voiced and conversations are had, these issues can fester and become worse over time.
When is the right time to give an opinion, and how do you do it?
There will be certain circumstances where opinions aren’t wanted or aren’t necessary, so if you want to give your opinion - ask first whether it’s appropriate to do so. Not only does this diminish any ill feelings towards you for giving your opinion in the first place, but it’s also the polite and correct thing to do. Simply asking “can I share my opinion on this topic” emulates consideration for your colleagues as well as the subject matter!
Be mindful of your tone and delivery
Especially if the opinion could be read by others as harsh or controversial, be mindful of your tone and how you share the opinion - sounding defensive or emotionally charged unfortunately, can be misread, even if it’s coming from a place of passion or care. Deliver in a neutral tone, calmly and slowly and back up with evidence where possible.
“Make sure your opinion is coming from a place of knowledge and do your due diligence before putting your point across. This also helps in letting you focus on the topic at hand instead of rambling, which is often what happens when you have a heated debate.” - The Economic Times
Try to give an opinion with a balanced view - seeing it from the other side really helps
Your opinion doesn’t always mean that you’re right - and recognising this will actually make your opinion more digestible by others.
Giving a balanced view (and recognising other points of view and opinions) is crucial and demonstrates your critical thinking skills. Someone who gives an opinion and refuses to even acknowledge others just won’t be taken seriously in the workplace. Having nuance and balance is key.
And finally, a good employer will encourage opinions - not shut them down
Although there is a time and a place for opinions - your employer should encourage you to speak your mind and ensure that your voice is heard. How incredibly boring would your work, life and career be if your employer made everybody talk, think, and act the same?
The beauty of having various opinions is that it can enable great things to happen at work. Sparking conversation is derived from opinions - whether they’re agreeable or not. If you’re in an environment where you have a fear of speaking your mind, then it may not be the place for you.