How To Form An Opinion


Age and maturity have brought about the realization to me that most people have little idea what they are talking about. Or if they act as if they know, there’s a good chance they are faking it. This point came home to me after recently attending a social media event where a lot of really smart people involved in technology got together. As I sat in conference rooms and listened to vendor presentations and dialog back and forth, I heard two types of people speaking: those who have a knowledge base built on study and personal experience, and those who just like to hear themselves talk.

I tend not to talk much, in general because I’m an introvert, but also because I don’t like to say much unless I’m very confident in what I’m saying based on a very defensible and studied position. I also need to believe that the other person is actually interested in what I’m saying, or I just won’t bother. Lots of people like to talk over others, which is fine for an introvert. I’ll just terminate whatever I was saying and let you talk if you feel the urge to run me over. Or let you keep talking if I never got the chance to start, as the case may be. I’m a decent listener. (As an aside, I think that’s why I’d rather blog than talk most of the time. I don’t get interrupted. ;-) )

So whether you’re a talker or a listener, a lurker or a debater, I have a few simple opinions points about forming and holding onto opinions:

  1. Don’t form an opinion based on someone else’s opinion. Go to a truly authoritative source on the topic you want to have an opinion about, read up, and think about how it applies to your existing knowledge and experience. Then decide where you stand with the weight of facts and logic behind you. Then you’ll know what you’re talking about, at least until new information comes along.
  2. Remember that you don’t have to have an opinion. Most of the things that wind people up or that people get passionate about aren’t worth the emotional energy expended. I reserve far more opinions than I actually form. Most of the time, I neither know enough nor care enough to have a strong opinion about most things I find people excited about. From my perspective, sensationalism is tedious. In addition, there’s too many things to know about. You’re under no obligation to have to care about everything that comes at you in this busy world.
  3. You’ll understand an issue better by learning to argue both sides of the debate. In technology, there are endless little wars about what solution to a given problem is superior to another. So learn both sides of the story well enough that if you wanted to, you could take either side of the argument. That’ll take the wind right out your opinion sails, because most of the time, there’s good reasons for the opinions that have formed either way.
  4. Things change, and therefore opinions have to also. So, it’s usually better to be a moderate than a radical. Be persuadable, reasonable, and balanced more than outspoken. For example, naive fans of the Apple Macintosh’s OS-X have bragged vociferously and frequently about how much MS Windows sucks in comparison. Being nearly insusceptible to viruses was one of the big OS-X talking points, so much so that many Apple users have told me that they do not burden down their systems with anti-virus software. That is, until over half a million Macs became infected with a pretty serious botnet trojan. Maybe its time to come down from the mountain, be a responsible netizen, and run anti-virus now? Perhaps?

People with opinions are not smarter than you. About 90% of them are just hot air balloons with little more than a tiny clue and tenuous grasp of reality hoisting their opinions aloft. They rise into the air with great pomp, and then drift away wherever the wind takes them – preferably, away from you. The remaining 10% are merely better read, as opposed to being “smarter”. The only way you can form an opinion worth having is to think for yourself while considering the facts.

And now I must to go read something. I have some opinions to form in preparation for a test I need to schedule in next week or so.

About the author

Ethan Banks

Most people know me because I write & podcast about IT on the Packet Pushers network. I also co-authored "Computer Networks Problems & Solutions" with Russ White.

Find out more on my about page.


  • Great points Ethan. I was recently involved in a Twitter argument over a technology and decided that it was easier to just stop replying. Often times I feel like I’m on a totally different plane than most of the people that listen to PacketPushers simply because my networks are mainly smaller enterprise where I have trouble scaling solutions DOWN instead of UP like others. To me TRILL is still something I do on my trumpet, not my network. :)


Most people know me because I write & podcast about IT on the Packet Pushers network. I also co-authored "Computer Networks Problems & Solutions" with Russ White.

Find out more on my about page.

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