Recent poll conducted by Pew research and NPR found that people no longer think that the news is just . . . um . . . news. We don’t believe the news reports. We assume that what we’re hearing and reading isn’t simply facts. Rather, we getting heavily seasoned facts. Facts spiced, breaded, and sauced with opinions. And we’re finding it hard to swallow.
Now, news organizations know what they’re doing.
They don’t randomly season the news with left-leaning spices, unless they subscribe to left-leaning opinions. Same on the right. Nobody’s really fair and balanced.
Because they’re not simply doling out facts.
They’re appealing to an audience. They’re cooking up the news to appeal to the taste buds of their patrons. If what they’re presenting doesn’t taste right, you simply turn them off or change the channel.
The news spinners, on the left and on the right, consciously blend facts with opinions to please their readers/listeners palates.
The same thing happens in meetings, everyday.
Someone stands up to make a pitch. He fires up the PowerPoint and begins. In the first few minutes you can sense whether or not you agree with where he’s heading. Because you know he’s heading somewhere. That he’s not simply presenting facts, but building an argument, lobbying for a point of view, and making the case for what he wants.
Nothing wrong with that. After all facts, by themselves, are pretty sterile.
In order for facts to generate action, they need to be interpreted.
Facts need to be evaluated, assessed, interpreted if a decision is to be made. Otherwise it’s just facts. Lying there being factual. And begging the questions . . . “So what? What does this mean? What should we do about it?”
So, facts need to be interpreted in order for decisions to be made or for actions to happen.
But, first the facts need to stand on their own.
This is the problem with most meetings. The facts never get a chance to see the light of day. From the first PowerPoint, the facts are already heavily seasoned with opinion. Which triggers endless arguments and fruitless debates. People think they’re debating facts. But, they’re not. Because the facts are hopelessly intertwined with opinions – on both sides of the argument.
We need to untangle the mess and separate the facts from the opinions if there is any hope of having a constructive dialogue, again.
This is easier said than done.
Because, you and I tend to confuse our own opinions for facts. You’ve spent years refining your opinions about the world. You’ve navigated life based on your assumptions. And you’ve refined those assumptions and opinions into a solidly crafted vision of what’s true. Me too.
So, when I look at the world my experience is already being shaped, colored, and distorted (yes, distorted) by my deeply held beliefs, assumptions, and opinions. And it’s the same for you.
Even when we examine the same data – we’re not really looking at the same data.
I’m looking at Eric-colored data. And you’re looking at your-name-here data. We’re both living in more of a subjective world than we typically care to admit.
But, admitting to subjectivity enhances objectivity.
Insisting that your opinion is objective is a contradiction in terms. Opinions are subjective.
They’re your point of view. Not true. Not false. Just one way of looking at and interpreting the facts.
When you can separate out the facts from your opinions, you’re able to make your case more powerfully.
You can state the facts.
Facts are data that can be confirmed by anyone. No opinions are required. Facts are simple. Obvious. And not up for debate.
Then you can offer your interpretation.
You can explain how you interpret the facts. And why you think the way you do. You can openly share your assumptions – knowing that this is just one way of interpreting the facts (a way that makes sense to you). You can reveal your values, your beliefs, and your opinions without defensiveness or aggression. Because when you know the difference between facts and your own opinions – and make that distinction explicit – it’s easier for others to listen to you.
Separating facts from opinions makes it easier for me to listen to you.
When you separate the facts from your opinions – you help me separate the facts from my opinions as well.
We can then look at the facts together. And also clearly talk about how we interpret them. The more you are able to clearly and cleanly separate facts from your interpretations – the more others can understand and trust you.
Then, when you start talking, they won’t automatically turn you off or change the channel.