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  • rlambakis

Opinions Versus Facts

Why are so many people so stupid?

Image of iceberg illustrating that Opinions are what's visible above the waterline, and beliefs, values and experiences are what's not visible below the waterline, and underneath all of those are actual facts.

People seem to be stupid because we have conversations about our opinions. At the opinion level, it's hard to see eye to eye with someone.

Opinions are based on someone's beliefs and values. They are personal to each person, and cannot be wrong.

Beliefs and values are created based on someone's past experiences. The pattern someone sees in their experiences over the years leads them to create beliefs about people, things, places based on those experiences. Everyone's experiences over the many years of their lives are different, so each person sees different patterns in those experiences.

Experiences are what someone perceives about facts around them and how those facts influenced them.

Facts are common between people, indisputable. They are what two people would agree on.

Take this example:

Facts: "The door opened. A man with a red bandana walked through the main entrance door to an apartment complex. It took the man 2 seconds to reach the girl who was 50 feet away, he went passed the girl and it took him 2 seconds to reach the top of the stairs."

Experiences: "The girl saw man with a red bandana burst through the main door, walking very quickly aggressively towards her, even though he was only going up the stairs. This happened five times at the apartment complex she lived in over a few months. The girl was also physically assaulted by a different man not wearing a bandana some time in her life."

Beliefs: "Men wearing red bandanas are aggressive. I need to protect myself against aggressive men."

Opinions: "Men wearing red bandanas cannot be trusted. They are aggressive and may hurt me and other women."

Statements: "Men wearing red bandanas should be banned from (wherever)"

If you want to reduce conflict with people, stop having conversations with them at the opinion level. Opinions are what's visible, like the tip of the iceberg, and it's easy to keep a conversation there (and never make real progress) because people tend to treat Opinions as Facts, or assume they are the same thing.

Get deeper. Ask questions about how they formed their opinion, what experiences they had. Ask questions to better understand their perspective, their beliefs. Explore the rest of the iceberg that isn't visible. Maybe even get down to talking about the actual facts that they experienced and start the real conversation there. Because if you can get down to the real facts, you will find you can both agree on them. Then work your way back up to understand how both of your experiences about those facts differ and how you both developed different opinions based on your different experiences.

Doing this takes practice. But you may be surprised how much less conflict you have in conversations with someone and how much less stupid they appear.

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