This post continues the thought I introduced in my last post – stating opinions as facts.
I have noticed that people often state their ideas in a factual way when they are actually only opinions or perceptions.
Here are some examples of perceptions stated as facts:
- “It's cold (or hot) in here.”
- “The iPod (or some other brand) is the best mp3 player on the market.”
- “Ford (Chevy,Honda, etc) is the best car maker.”
- “Avatar (The Hurt Locker, The Blind Side, etc.) is the best movie of the past year.”
- “The best way to solve this problem is to _____________.”
- “The best technology for _____________ is __________________.”
Let's take a closer look at these statements.
It's cold (or hot) in here.
It may be a fact that you or I feel cold or hot in a particular environment. It is not a fact that it is hot or cold in that environment. The temperature measurement is a fact, and the existence of our feelings about the environment is a fact. At extremes of temperature, most people would probably agree with an “it's cold” or an “it's hot” statement. But what happens in the mid-range where a temperature that feels hot to you feels cold to me (or vice-versa)? If we argue as if our perspectives are factual statements, we can never reach resolution.
I say, “it's cold” because I feel cold. You say “it's hot” because you feel hot. We will never reach resolution if we stay locked in that cycle of discussion.
The iPod is the best mp3 player on the market. — Ford is the best car maker. — Avatar is the best movie of the year.
If you and I have agreed on some objective and measurable criteria for making these judgments, these statements may be factual. If we have not agreed on objective and measurable criteria, we are merely stating our opinions.
With regard to mp3 players or cars, I'm looking at range of features. You are focused on cost. When evaluating a movie, I look at special effects. You look at the story line. When we use different criteria and discuss our conclusions before reconciling our criteria, we will never reach a resolution
The best way to solve this problem is to _____________. — The best technology for _____________ is __________________.
Most problems have multiple “good” solutions. Depending on the application, any given technology might be the “best” solution. In most problems and in most technology application decisions, “best” is simply a judgment based on a number of criteria. If we do not first agree on the criteria, we cannot agree on the definition of “best.”
Sadly, these examples of “fighting words” come from situations I have either been party to or observed in my work over the years.
Arguments of perspective rarely end well. They tend to become highly emotional with no good way to resolve the conflict. You have your opinion. I have mine. We discuss, push, prod, cajole, attempt to persuade, and then move to open argument without resolution in sight.
My point is not to dissuade you from having or stating your opinion. My point is that you should clearly know when you are speaking about your opinion or perspective. In those cases, make it clear by your words that you are stating a perspective.
- “I'm cold” as opposed to “It's cold.”
- “I think the iPod has great features.” as opposed to “The iPod is the best mp3 player.”
- “The fastest (cheapest, longest lasting, etc.) solution to this problem is ___________.” as opposed to “The best way to solve this problem is ____________.”
In most of the situations I have seen, clearly distinguishing between facts and perspectives has reduced the frustration level and lead to faster conflict resolution. I have also seen that people who are unwilling or unable to admit that they are arguing a perspective rather than a fact tend to escalate and prolong conflict conversations.