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First of all, i have no clue if this site is the right context for this question, but i have no clue where to ask this, as it somehow also concerns IPS. If it is wrong, please migrate it to the right site.

I have read so many times in the past days that people worry how to say their opinion on something without offending the other person.

My most recent example:

I would like to come up with a way of expressing to him how I feel and what my real views on this topic are, without being offensive, and clearly stating that I won't try to change his opinion. I would like to keep this aspect of his life to himself.

In this example it's about two brothers. One likes bull fighting, the other one does not. They get along great with each other, but he fears to offend him by telling him that he is against bullfighting.

How could stating your opinion ever be offensive? I would no write this, if I read this the first time now, but I read that regularly here on IPS. I come from Austria, and in our culture, its not really offensive to state ones own opinion on a matter.

Is America (for example, because so many people write from there) culturally different in that regard?

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    "I come from Austria, and in our culture, its not really offensive to state ones own opinion on a matter." I don't buy that. – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica Dec 6 '17 at 18:54
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    @AnneDaunted Why that? Ofc not everybody is the same, but i for example come from a VERY honest family. My mum would sometimes tell me "You are getting chubby, dont eat so much" or "Your teeth are as yellow as a horses. Brush longer!" or my brother telling my mum sometimes still "Damn youve gained some weight ey? " So maybe because i have thick fur. But i dont think that the typical austrian is very sensible as well. (altough Ive met a fiew very sensible (for my taste) people) – MansNotHot Dec 7 '17 at 9:37
  • You have to differentiate a bit: 1) Prefacing anything with "In my opinion" even insults (popular tactic among trolls). 2) Honest but not always helpful if the recipient can't change the fact ("IMO, you are extraordinarily dumb!"). 3) Honest and detrimental (Imagine s. o. working hard to lose a lot of weight and you know that, but still tell them "IMO, you are very fat. You need to lose weight!" - hardly motivating, isn't it?). 4) Honest and helpful - 4.1) Expressed in a rude manner -> may have opposite effect, 4.2) Epressed in a friendly manner -> motivates people. – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica Dec 7 '17 at 14:42
  • "But i dont think that the typical austrian is very sensible as well. (altough Ive met a fiew very sensible (for my taste) people)" You mean Austrians are so honest, because they are usually not so sensible? – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica Dec 7 '17 at 15:47
  • @AnneDaunted I believe so yes – MansNotHot Dec 8 '17 at 16:30
  • What is the common impact of "Prefacing anything with "In my opinion," even insults" @Anne Daunted? As in, does it achieve any useful objective or is it just a 'style' used by trolls? Here in India, prefacing something with 'in my opinion' is intended and interpreted as "this is only my personal opinion, but..." and is meant to somewhat reduce the sting of the statement. – English Student Dec 9 '17 at 22:15
  • @EnglishStudent The case you describe is covered by my other points, what I was referring to in point 1 is a try to mask outrageous statements or insults that are not acceptable and then, when they are removed, to whine and state how one's right to free speech / their own opinion is oppressed by some "thought police". – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica Dec 10 '17 at 7:04
  • Very valid point; thanks for explaining @Anne Daunted. – English Student Dec 10 '17 at 8:43
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How could stating your opinion ever be offensive? I would no write this, if I read this the first time now, but I read that regularly here on IPS. I come from Austria, and in our culture, its not really offensive to state ones own opinion on a matter.

Well, it's probably also the way things are stated that is important here. And that IS an Interpersonal Skill, knowing how to say something...

If I were to say:

This is one of the dumbest questions ever, I don't even know why I'm bothering to answer it.

I'm only voicing my opinion. It will probably still sting a little though. It's at the very least rude, and you might very well take offensive if I take the language a bit further. Furthermore, I'm not stating that this is my opinion, I'm presenting the opinion as a fact.

So, the Interpersonal Skill that can be learned here is one about giving feedback, maybe refer the OP of this answer to the feedback sandwich method, teach them that it's very necessary the other person understand that this is an opinion, not a fact or personal attack.

Most of the time, questions that are asking to be 'not offensive when voicing my opinion' are about voicing pretty strong opinions, and do involve subjects that arouse strong feelings, as @apaul already pointed out. Such statements can and are likely to be seen as a personal attack or angry rant when not moderated by an IPS method.

In an ideal world, yes, everybody would realize when I'm just voicing an opinion. In the real world, things don't really work that way. Feedback or opinions can easily be seen as personal attacks when not done right.

Maybe in answering such a question, you could state something like what you stated in your question: You're from Austria, and you've voiced your opinions without people taking offense. What did you do? Did you outright say things were dumb? Did you state things as a fact, or make it very clear they were your opinions and yours only? How would you personally state your opinion on such matters?

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  • Good answer. Understandable that its not simply about getting the opinion across but HOW its brought across. And yeah you are right. I mostly state my opinion (at least i try) so that its clear that its my opinion and not-absolute/debatable because i didnt ate wisdom with the spoon. – MansNotHot Dec 7 '17 at 9:42
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It depends on what the opinion is about...

Using your bullfighting example, it's easy to see how this issue could tie into deeper feelings about issues of animal cruelty vs tradition or cultural heritage. It's unfortunate, but some things end up being somewhat polarizing.

I definitely have my own deeply held beliefs; beliefs that are so important to me that someone opposing them would cause a rift in my relationship with that person. I suspect that most people have at least one or two of these convictions, whether it be a social, political, or religious conviction.

Sometimes asking how to have a peaceful conversation about these kinds of issues is needed. People want to be heard and understood by the people in their lives, without causing undue upset. So learning how to communicate about differences of opinion on these big issues is an important interpersonal skill to develop.

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There are three different ways "just expressing your opinion" can be offensive.

The first is if you phrase it rudely, without any suggestion that it's an opinion. "That's useless!" "That's not worth your time!" "What a ridiculous hobby!" sort of thing. These can generally be fixed by adding "I think" or "for me" and making it clearer that you're not judging the other person, only talking about yourself.

The second is when even a polite phrasing expresses an inescapable criticism. "I just feel that it's cruel, more cruel than I can tolerate, and that anyone who watches it becomes a worse person, and is encouraging this horrible behavior from those who provide it as entertainment." Even though this is politely worded, makes it clear it's only your belief, etc, you can't get away from the person feeling that your opinion is they are wrong in an important way.

The third is when expressing your opinion carries the strong message that your opinion is important and should be acted on. Would you tell a friend your opinion of how long their commute is? How often they go to church? The colour of their bedroom carpet? You know these things are not up to you, so unless asked, you would never volunteer (even to say you think they are doing exactly the right thing!) your opinion on them.

No amount of careful wording gets you past the issues of politeness in the second and third case. That's why it's not always polite to "just say your opinion" when you haven't been asked.

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While Americans are well known for striving to be as polite as possible, and some cultures of the world are used to giving opinions more frankly and bluntly than others, it is a worldwide matter of human sensitivity to express one's opinions in the most diplomatic manner: whuch in a sense means mentally pre-assessing the effect it will have on the recipient of the comment. People who always try to do that are said to possess interpersonal talent, and many of our members are in that category.

Why should we worry whether our opinions might offend others?

The core reason is that human beings are a contentious species, and difference of opinion offensively expressed is sufficient to lead to emotional hostility or even physical violence.

More importantly from the IPS perspective, a person who offends others with tactlessly expressed opinions loses the opportunity to interpersonally influence those people in useful ways. Man is a social animal and most of our activities are collaborative. So antagonizing people with ill-delivered opinions can severely affect our ability to achieve our personal and social aims.

On the other hand, learning the craft and the art of presenting potentially or actually offensive opinions in a well-constructed "feedback sandwich" (thanks for the reminder @Tinkeringbell) leads to more of our opinions being taken positively and seriously, which in turn helps us to win friends and constructively influence people.


How to Give a Feedback Sandwich

Do you ever feel like your feedback is falling on deaf ears? Consider switching your style and giving a feedback sandwich. With this method, you start by giving a positive, encouraging statement. Follow that with constructive criticism, and then offer some more positive words. The positive statements are the “bread” of the sandwich and the criticism is the “filling”. Whether you’re a boss, a teacher, or a parent, you might find that this is the method that works for you!

Source: https://m.wikihow.com/Give-a-Feedback-Sandwich

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  • I hate the feedback sandwich. gregcons.com/KateBlog/… – Kate Gregory Dec 10 '17 at 17:50
  • The wrapping of praise can be entirely avoided if the recipient is open to frank and constructive criticism, but not otherwise, thanks @Kate Gregory. It changes from person to person although cultural differences might also exist. I know so few people who will accept a simple declarative sentence if it can be remotely interpreted as critical opinion. That makes it no so much about the "but" part of it at all. They are all too prepared to interpret a frank opinion as an attack, as noted by @ Tinkeringbell. Where possible we can drop what you rightly consider the tedious sugar-coating of praise. – English Student Dec 10 '17 at 21:09

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