I must confess, this is a bit of a pet-peeve of mine. I am okay with people having an opinion. I am okay with people whose opinion differs from mine. I just get a little frustrated when they state and defend their opinion as if it were a fact.
I can accept it is a fact that they have an opinion. I just struggle with accepting their opinion as a fact when all they have to support it is their assertion that it is true.
As I said in Why You Shouldn’t Take Conflict Resolution Advice From Politicians, this behavior would hit my top five list for mistakes to avoid in conflict resolution discussions.
Since this blog is about getting over yourself and learning to take a critical look at how your own behaviors might contribute to the communication, conflict, and relationship problems you face in life; I have to come clean. I am guilty of this behavior on occasion, and I hate it when I do it as much as I hate to see others do it. With that confession out in the open, let’s take a look at the problem.
Stating opinions as facts can be a subtle and insidious conflict conversation practice. It can sneak into your communication patterns in little ways. For example, you might state your viewpoint and support it with “I think everyone would agree that…” (At least that’s how it sounds when I say it. A more people-oriented person might say “I feel like everyone would agree that…”)
With that one little statement, we rope everyone into our perspective and we attempt to use the weight of majority rule to make our opinion a fact.
At other times, we might state our opinion and then follow it up with a “That being the case….” With one comment, we build a whole argument on our perspective.
I believe that each of us has a perspective and that each person’s perspective needs to be heard. It’s just dangerous to assign factual status to an opinion statement.
In my experience so far, I have never observed a conflict conversation that turned out well when both parties insisted on arguing their respective perspectives as if their opinions were facts.
If you want to win the argument, go ahead and state your opinion as a fact. If you want to resolve the conflict, carefully consider which of your positions are based in fact and which are based in your opinion or perspective.
It’s okay to have an opinion. I just encourage you to recognize that it is your opinion and not necessarily an objective fact.