Facts versus Opinions

I’m an introvert and a very introspective person. That’s no secret to those who really know me.

Most of the time when I go out with people I find myself sitting back, watching and listening. It may seem like I am not engaged in the conversation, when in actuality, I’m probably more engaged than the people talking.

It’s fascinating. I enjoy doing it. I can do this for hours and not say a word, yet am totally absorbed in the entire conversation, not just what is being said, but how it is said and the true meaning behind it.

I’m listening, analyzing, watching mannerisms, expressions, analyzing those. Listening to speech patterns and tones while all the while analyzing the entire conversation.

I learn a lot about people this way, and about myself. That’s why one of my favorite quotes, I forgot where I got it from, is “I hear what is not being said.”

This brings me to tonight.

Tonight I was telling a story and got rudely interrupted in the beginning of the story by two of my friends who felt the need to voice their opinions as if they were facts, before even hearing the entire story.

I sat back, listened to them, analyzing everything, and waiting to see if they would be courteous enough to ask me to continue my story, but they never did. They were so high up on their self-righteous, egotistical horses, that they never came back to my story.

Some people would have found this rude, I found it a bit irritating, but mostly, I found it intriguing because I was learning so much about these people and how they think, even how they think and see me. I was learning more than I think they knew they were teaching me about themselves, which is the beauty of extrospection.

As I sat and listened, I realized that my two friends were making a mistake a lot of us make from time to time, especially in this political environment. They were mistaking their opinions for facts.

Naturally, we are drawn to information that supports our beliefs. Sadly we tend to stick with those beliefs even in the face of evidence that proves them wrong, and may even believe in them more, as a form of protest or as a defense mechanism.

In many cases, factual evidence seems to matter very little.

As I watch the political coverage, this is played out daily, but one doesn’t have to watch CNN or MSNBC to see this. We encounter this all the time, perhaps even within ourselves as I encountered with my friends tonight.

At one point when they were closing the restaurant we were at and we were the only customers left, they were still engaged in idle conversation, sipping their drinks as the staff was waiting for us to leave.

I told my friends that we should probably pick up the pace, but they told me I should just relax. I replied that I like for people to be respectful of my time and I like to respect other peoples time.

They quickly retorted that we were patrons, paying money and that they would gladly wait for us because we were given them business. They then went on a rampage that included something about the economy and the customer is always right, to which as always, I just listened and analyzed and then replied that I was sharing my opinion, not stating a fact.

They then backed off, but I realized that they were stating their opinions as blatant facts, that as long as a drink was on the table, the business should wait patiently for them to leave.

I didn’t try to elaborate on this with them, because like I stated earlier, even if I could present facts on why we should be respectful of the staffs time and leave so that they could clear the last table, I would have been met with more opinionated hostility, but why?

We all know what it feels like to be proven wrong and what that means to our sense of self and even our sense of credibility. It often gets us to question not just that one thing, but a host of our other beliefs and one thing many people are afraid of doing, and will sometimes fight to death before they do it, is to take a real examination of their self.

Many relationships fail or stall because one or both partners have different opinions and neither one is willing to reconsider, change or even tweak theirs. Instead they fight over and over about the same things, pointing the finger at each other.

These are of course largely unconscious thoughts, which make them that much more powerful. Still, stating opinions doesn’t make them right or facts.

People who are more self-confident tend to be more willing to re-examine their opinions and it’s important that fro time to time we all do this to become well-rounded, well-adjusted people who are able to have healthy relationships with not only other people, but with ourselves.