counseling, psychology, self-help

Your Opinion is NOT a Fact

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Is anyone else thrown by how many people confuse  OPINIONS with facts?

Our opinions are NOT facts.

For some of us, this is just stating the obvious.

However, it has become alarming, how many people believe that their opinion is fact. We incorrectly believe that IF we believe something, it is correct.  I mean, if WE believe it, it must be true. It holds true for us and we are ALWAYS right. Right!?!

Not so fast there. Looky below.

o·pin·ion

/əˈpinyən/
noun
  1. a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.

Key words there: NOT necessarily based on fact OR knowledge.  Yet in American culture, society as a large has this tendency to focus on ourselves. Yes. Ourselves. The “I KNOW best” mentality has been perfected by many who walk among us. Some people who even lead our nation (not mentioning any names, hint, hint) hold this close-minded perspective. Some people view their opinions and views as Gospel.

Even worse, people feel ENTITLED to offer up their opinion. Their UNSOLICITED opinions. To you. Me. Anyone who will listen.

And we know what they say about opinions….

Over time, this universal bad habit of speaking our opinions as facts has developed in our culture. I know I fall into this trap myself when I am passionate about the subject. I try to catch myself when I am doing it. And sadly in this political climate–actual facts are being refered to as opinions. It is a WILD time to be part of the political discourse.  People are no longer swayed by facts, JUST opinions.

In this day and age, people outright refuse to BELIEVE facts.

It is not just in the political landscape this is playing out. People state their “opinions” as truisms of how others should live their lives.

People use their opinions as weapons to HURT other people. To belittle them. To make them feel less than.  (they even defend themselves for doing such by saying it is just THEIR opinion so you have NO right to be offended as they are “entitled” to it–even if their opinion is an INHERENT insult on you).

Gone are the days when parents tell kids to keep their opinions to themselves. Even in polite company adults do not keep their opinions to themselves. Many people just let whatever they think rip.

Whenever someone tells me what they “think” or “believe” as a directive, I already know the type of individual I am dealing with.  A person who most likely does not follow the “let’s agree to disagree” mindset I try to embody for the most part. Instead these sorts of people try to convince you how wrong you are for your views. The sad truth is we are living in increasingly intolerant times.

Many people are confused about what tolerance is. The word tolerate means to allow or to permit, to recognize and respect others’ beliefs and practices without sharing them, to bear or put up with someone or something not necessarily liked.

The tolerant person occupies neutral ground, a place where each person is permitted to decide for himself. No judgments allowed. No “forcing” one’s personal views on another. No belittling or demeaning a person who does not hold your views. Being tolerant entails taking a neutral posture towards another’s convictions.

Tolerance, then, involves three components: (1) permitting or allowing (2) a conduct or point of view one disagrees with (3) while respecting the person in the process.

Sadly America is becoming an increasingly INtolerant society.

As a mental health clinician, I gently work to help clients who struggle in their interpersonal relationships with intolerance and the ability to tolerate differences. I point out to my clients that what they feel and think is not universal. It is not healthy to measure others against our own values and viewpoints because we all have different values–different does not mean better or worse JUST dissimilar. We cannot hold people to our own beliefs and opinions if we want to have healthy, enduring relationships. We have to be tolerant of differences and give people the freedom to be who they are, without our unrequested judgement.

On the other hand, I know I tend to be INtolerant of intolerant people. I just don’t like to spend my time with people who feel the need to judge and denigrate anyone who does not live according to THEIR standards and beliefs. I feel life is TOO short for that negativity.

If we want healthy relationships with others, we need to be tolerant of others and their dissenting opinions.

As a counselor, people often as me for my opinion or advice which I tell them is not my role.   The role of a therapist is to present clients with a better comprehension of what motivates or causes them to act or think in the way that they do.

Psychotherapy should be a tool that guides people in making their own decisions.

The reality is many of our opinions are often not based on data. Or research. Or any absolute truth. Do you ever question how you reached your conclusion? Our opinions are often based on our feelings and emotions–both which are notoriously irrational and unreliable.

As a therapist, I often hear people diagnosing other people with mental health issues–playing armchair psychologist and flippantly diagnosing friends, family members, and politicians–anyone they DISAGREE with. Frequently I hear about people giving their “opinions” of the mental health of other people as a way to pigeonhole and categorize them—with no background or training in psychology.

This is just another reflection of intolerance.

Why does it matter to understand the difference between fact and opinion? Because although everyone is entitled to an opinion, not all opinions are equally valuable. This is precisely why opinions by “experts” are more valued in court testimony and evaluative reporting because they are more likely to provide opinions based on facts. Based in knowledge.

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People often try to shut down another by saying, “That’s just YOUR opinion” as in to say what you are saying is a statement of opinion but in contrast what they are saying is a statement of FACT. A pernicious statement to make to say the least.

It is not always good to form an opinion on everything AND anything because in turn you feel internally compelled to share it with everyone and anyone.

For instance you may:

  • You spend time thinking imaginary arguments with others about how horrible they are.
  • You may actually engage in those arguments, in REAL life, wasting even more time.
  • You look for arguments and debates to get into.
  • You make other people feel bad. They either feel annoyed by you, angry with you, or offended about what you say.

Unless your goal is controversy and outrage, you should limit your opinions to topics that truly matter to you and topics you are INFORMED on. Opinions should be educated and based in evidence. Not just emotion BUT also logic and FACTS.

We need to stop having an opinion on everything. I don’t have opinions on MANY things–from stock portfolios to cooking to football to how to do anything crafty on Pinterest: I am opinionLESS (my lack of knowledge in football=pointed our frequently by my hubby). You need to be confident in what you know and be humble about what you DON’T know.

It seems as though intolerance of other people’s opinions infiltrates all different aspects of our lives. Here is to hoping we can someday grow more tolerant of our differences. In my “opinion” the growing intolerance in our nation is concerning. It is OKAY if someone disagrees with us for our opinion has the right to be expressed, but it has no rights to be imposed on others.

But, hey, what do I know?! These are just my “opinions.”

 

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