Everyone has opinions. They are formed based on information we acquire, life experience, stories people tell us, our individual perception of the world, and various other environmental and external factors.
Opinions are all well and good, but when they are disproven by fact, holding onto them can be the basis for division, strife, and circular arguments that do nobody any good at all.
Many opinions are harmless. They have little impact on the world at large and do nothing to hurt or otherwise disempower anyone.
However, some opinions can be extremely damaging. Take climate change, for example. You might disagree that this is a problem, but I am going to tell you now that science is not on your side here. Man-made climate change is happening, and denying this based on opinion is going to harm us a lot.
Same thing applies to anti-vaxxers. Science proves that vaccinations are important to public health. The concerns about vaccines and autism were debunked, and frankly, compared to the diseases vaccines prevent, autism in any form is not nearly as terrible.
Yet here we are, long out of the dark ages, and people are taking opinion as fact, and ignoring fact for opinion. Yes, I recognize that this is MY opinion — and I will happily back down from it if you can disprove it.
Because this is where the biggest problem with opinions lie. When you cling them like a life-preserver, you don’t recognize that the water is shallow enough for you to stand-up in. The bubble you create for your reality ignores the absolute truth.
I have written before about the Three Brands of Truth: Yours, Mine, and the Absolute. Opinion is based on your truth — but when it stands in opposition of the absolute, why cling to it?
Opinions are like assholes — everybody has one
Much of the divisions that exist between people today are created by holding opinions. Certainly, there are going to be things we agree and disagree on in this world; but the way that many people hold fast to an opinion, in particular one based on sketchy to little or no fact, is astounding.
Opinion is a personal belief and held as a truth. But when you encounter someone with a personal belief that is totally different from the absolute of the truth, how do you work with them? How do you convince someone that they are holding onto incorrect information?
This used to be easier. You could present the facts. For example, show the scientific studies about climate change and how it has been impacted by mankind. Now, thanks in part to the internet and the ability to spread pseudoscience, someone clinging to their opinion can also produce “facts.”
As such, you can prove pretty much anything that you believe in. Anything at all. Hell, in 2019 there are still people out there who seem to legitimately believe the Earth is flat.
Worse, when you confront many of these people, they will not only deny that you have any credible sources, but that those sources are in fact biased. Thanks in no small part to Trump and his war on the media and science, numerous sources that lean towards the absolute truth are being disregarded, ignored, and denied.
Opinions are often a personal belief in things that are true. What can we do when those beliefs cause unnecessary conflict and divisions among us?
Unfortunately, there seems to be no way to reason with some of those who have strongly held opinions. No matter the facts you give them, they refuse to believe anything else. No approach gains any ground in cracking the shields they erect around their “facts.”
Conflicting opinions, conflicting facts
Is there anything at all to be done for this?
First, we cannot just give up. We need to do whatever we can to stop the spread of false opinion as fact. Not doing so can and will have some pretty ugly repercussions. Then we need to find as much empirical evidence as we can. No, it likely will not help in the short term, but having it in the long run is important.
Finally, we have to be mindful. Nobody but you is inside your own head. You are the only one who can think and feel for you. The same applies to EVERYONE. We all perceive the world around us uniquely, and as such we all develop our own sensitivities and understandings. You cannot force anyone to change their thoughts and feelings unless they are willing to change.
Recognizing this, the best approach is to appeal to whatever may open the person to altering their opinion. Chances are, they formed the opinion that they did based on someone getting through to a visceral emotion that caused them to agree with and hold onto that opinion.
Making ourselves crazy trying to get people with ludicrous opinions to change is pointless. You can only change yourself because you can only be mindful of yourself. If you reach a point where it is in the best interest of your mental health to step away from someone, consider doing so.
Everyone is worthy and deserving of free thinking. Everyone has opinions. The only person’s opinions you can change are your own. Do what you can to be the best you that you can be, and maybe that can help influence others to be better, too. No matter what their opinion is.