“Do you like my new haircut?”
“Do you think this dress looks good?”
“What do you think of the current sociopolitical climate?”
You’ll notice that only one of these questions is easy…the others require a degree of assessment and thought that usually starts in the area of the brain that handles damage control.
These types of questions are usually phrased in two different ways.
The first type is someone who is genuinely seeking your opinion and wants to hear what you have to say, these I’m fine with. They’re asked by the kind of person who is open and willing to accept criticism amicably (if we have to give it), or as we’d prefer these things to go, would take a compliment or flattery with good grace and charm.
This type of question is generally asked by someone you feel comfortable with giving them your honest opinion to, as often they’re family members or friends that you’ve been acquainted with for years, during which you’ve seen each other at the best of times. Be it celebrating on a night out together and the worst of times like that time you sat there in silence and drank beer together after their messy beak up (so you’ve connected/bonded) through a shared moment of elation or have endured some form of adversity together.
This is to say the people who are good for you and both deserve and desire your honesty.
Then there is the type of question where the questioner is seeking affirmation or credit for their ‘good taste‘. There is always a tone or inflection in the wording that hints at its true purpose. These people already have everything sorted out and are simply looking for an audience to bask in their glorious wonder, having no real interest in your opinion they simply care if it differs from theirs and usually become hostile or snappy if given the ‘wrong’ answer.
Why is this person asking you a question anyway? And more to the point, why are you even listening to them in the first place?
No one likes being asked this type of question and rarely do they give a sincere answer. Being put in a position where you have to compromise your thinking in order to appease someone or avert an awkward situation… which, more often than not ends up awkward anyway, is not the way forward.
If you give a disingenuous answer you’re cheapening yourself and giving away a valuable part of your integrity and stock as a friend, nor does it, I’m sure, reflect well on yourself, as you may appear malleable or easily guided.
Instead I’d suggest going for the no holds barred, brutally honest answer. This may lead to short-term discomfort as the result of telling someone their hair looks no different after the £50 haircut but in the long run you’re in much better stead. Being thought of as someone who can speak their mind and offer up honest critiques without the fear of upsetting someone over such superficial matters is a better place to be than an apathetic sheep
Now this isn’t to say this approach is applicable to all scenarios and I’ll leave you to be the judge of when and where to unleash truth bombs on people. But, next time someone is asking you a question, just take a moment to think about whether it’s worth sacrificing some of your integrity for such a superfluous question.
(In any situation where you are being asked for your opinion. I can only hope you try to answer honestly.)