I was beginning to get a bit bothered yesterday when I thought that I can't have opinions. That's not because I have to wait until I'm told by SWMBO what my opinion is, rather it's because I seem unable to make up my mind. This all came about in connection with the suspension without pay of a community nurse who asked a patient if she (the patient) would like the nurse to pray for her, the nurse being a practising Christian. This was reported by the patient and was deemed by the nurse's employers to be unacceptable behaviour, hence her suspension pending disciplinary proceedings. The matter has reached the ears of the national press and both journalists and readers, through the letters column, have expressed diametrically opposing views. As I read one column supporting the nurse I found myself nodding in agreement; then I read the opposing view — and guess what, I was nodding in agreement! That was when it occurred to me that I always seem to be swayed by whichever side of the argument I hear last and I can never have an opinion of my own.
It's just the same with opinion polls or market research questionnaires. The question might ask me to rate a number of things on a scale of 1 to 5, great to awful. I always seem to tick the middle box, neither good nor bad. One thing I can do is place in order of preference/importance a list of things. For example, place the following fruits in order of preference: apple, pear, orange, grape, plum, etc. One of the few things I remember from school is being told how to do this in a vaguely scientific way. Take the first two things (apple and pear) and decide which I prefer (apple). We now have a list of two items in order of preference. Then take number one and compare that with number three. Again, apple. Select orange or pear: orange. We now have a list of three: 1 apple, 2 orange, 3 pear. Continue. When I first heard this I thought what a genius the man was, and I still think it's pretty clever, but to most people it's probably common sense and they just do it without thinking. You see — I still can't have an opinion!