Have you ever listened to the pharmaceutical adverts on TV? As the soothing voice says
“Absolv, when taken immediately after upsetting your partner can bring on expressions of contriteness that a puppy would envy. Clinical studies have shown that 77% of users of Absolv are forgiven for extreme transgressions including not sharing with housework, coming home drunk, forgetting an anniversary … etc.”
Then as the voice-over fades and the images of couples hugging fill the screen, the rapid-fire disclaimer-voice kicks in
“Absolv has been linked to murder, child molestation, kidnapping, graffiti, flatulence and Turrets Syndrome. If you are healthy and have a conscience you should not take Absolv.”
We need the same disclaimer voice for the opinions that people swallow as truth. After someone states an opinion “Well I think that the government is blah, blah, blah, and that the minister (Congressman), blah, blah, blah, because he was guilty of blah, blah, blah.” We should have a recording come on like the drug commercials. In the same rapid-fire drug commercial disclaimer-voice it would say,
“The stream of consciousness you are hearing is based on conjecture, hearsay, and the utterances or writings of other individuals who may have a personal or political agenda in having people accept this position. The speaker is speaking with an authority he does not possess; in fact he has no evidence whatsoever to back up what he’s saying, and he is unwilling to even consider that his statements could be even slightly off the mark. You should challenge the viewpoints you are hearing or at least have the speaker acknowledge that he is merely stating his opinion.”
People would probably ignore them in the same way that they ignore warnings that smoking causes lung cancer or that taking a particular drug might cause their penis to fall off, but it would at least be fair disclosure. Plus it would be kind of funny. Imagine the guy looking around for where the opinion disclaimer-voice is coming from.
You Are Entitled to Your Opinion – but Keep it Leashed
Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but not to let them roam free, unmuzzled and with not even a dog tag to let people know to whom this pit-bull belongs. Opinions become very dangerous indeed when trotted out as if they were based on truth, and not on the spurious assumptions that they usually stand upon.
Because people tend to state an opinion as if it were based on clear research and evaluation rather than the assumption that what they heard or read somewhere is true, opinions are only a step below gossip in their destructive power.
Instead of being clear that their utterances are merely their version of what they have heard others say, or how things appear to them at the time, people state opinions as the truth and implicitly link their reputations to their publicly stated opinions; making it very difficult for them to admit their mistake. In their minds a lot is at stake with the “truth” of their opinions, and they will go to great lengths to defend their opinions (reputation); even denying or attacking the facts as they come to light.
Consider the following:
- When you share opinions without regard for how they may influence the thoughts and actions of others, and without acknowledging that they are just your opinions; then you are engaging in a form of gossip.
- Most people share their opinions with the intention to convert the opinions of others to their ‘side’ and hence win advocates for their world view. That their world view may only be part of the truth or completely inaccurate is never considered or discussed.
- Our children are not taught the meanings and consequences of assuming, assessing, opining, and gossiping. Instead they are taught to accept authority and to value knowing the ‘right’ answers rather than developing the skill of asking good questions.
- Is this true or not?
- How can I know if it is?
- How does the speaker know it is true or not?
- Can I trust the speaker?
- What secret agendas might the speaker have that might make me question what s/he has to say?
Remember: just because everyone in the room nods in agreement, doesn’t mean it’s true.