Monday, November 24, 2014

If Nobody Ever Asks For Your Ideas You May Not Realize Some Ideas Are Better Than Others

Sometimes you read people on-line--you read their game blog or in a forum or whatever--and you think: this is the first time anyone has ever listened to you about anything, isn't it? Some handle it with grace, and it's cool to see. Some don't--but they don't in a very specific way.


If people often seriously ask you for your opinion and then go do something with your opinion that affects something, then you might start to think of opinions as affecting things.

If nobody ever seriously asks for your opinion, then you might not think of your opinion as carrying much weight or affecting anything.


If you think of your opinion as affecting things, you might be incentivized start to try to make sure it makes sense.

If you don't think of it as carrying much weight or affecting anything, you might not be incentivized to think too hard about trying to make sure it makes sense.

("Makes sense"--that is: matches what you know or could find out.)


If you try to make sure your opinion makes sense, you might think of opinions in general as things people have thought out and really believe.

If you don't think too hard about whether your opinion makes sense, you probably think of opinions in general as inherently provisional things that you usually keep to yourself because they're not thought out.

(Like: if you don't think too hard about your opinions or value them much, your opinion of who is smarter might be, in your mind, about as meaningful as who is wearing a better shirt. The idea that one might be a thing you could go figure out and check on and the other isn't might never occur to you, if nobody much ever did anything based on your opinions anyway.)


If you think of opinions in general as things people have thought out, you'll tend to think of sharing opinions as basically just polite.

If you think of opinions inherently as provisional things people usually keep to themselves because they're not thought out, you probably think of sharing one as a bold, confident act.


If you're used to thinking of opinions as things people have thought out, someone sharing an opinion is (baseline) helpful, good, productive, polite, respectful, necessary and…inherently to be challenged by other opinions. And all subject to fact and being thought out.

If you think of sharing your opinion as a bold, confident act then someone saying what they're thinking is risky to everyone involved--it is asking for things to be put at risk, it is asking for people to make themselves vulnerable. After all--everyone risks revealing their opinion is not thought out, don't they?


You see people who seem shocked and alarmed not just to have their opinion contested (which is strangely common) but to be asked at all. This is frequently followed by a diatribe about how unimportant they are--as if that were the point. 

If people often seriously ask you for your opinion you won't see that request as hostile and won't see why people do.

If nobody ever seriously asks your opinion you may be scared. It's not just that you can't handle a conversation about your ideas, it's that you misunderstand why you're being asked to have one.



Sean said...

I generally don't offer opinions because so many people love to ask your opinion then immediately tell you why you're wrong. More efficient just to keep my mouth shut...

Zak Sabbath said...

If you don't want to understand why people might disagree with you (and find out if those reasons are rational or not), then why would you voice your opinion in public in the first place?

Sean said...

I have no issues at all with people disagreeing with me (publicly or privately). I was more speaking to the situation where I am specifically asked for an opinion, then told I am wrong. If they already have all the answers, why are they asking my opinion in the first place? A spirited discussion, with thoughtful and rational arguments on each viewpoint, is a great thing.

Zak Sabbath said...

HOPEFULLY the idea is to confront you not with simply
"I think this"

but with
"I think this"

In other words: "telling you you're wrong" is indeed bullshit if that;s literally all there is to it.

If it's accompanied by facts or ideas the person is basing that analysis on, then the thing is to then pick apart those facts or analysis--or concede.

Sean said...

We are in violent agreement.

Matrox Lusch said...

Ha, this thread is on the verge of being gloriously meta. ;~)

anarchist said...

Sometimes when people ask your opinion- especially of something they've made- they want your opinion, and sometimes they want a round of applause.

Adam Dickstein said...

I love giving my opinion, hearing other peoples, discussing differences in opinion, and trying to get others to see where I'm coming from, and trying to understand where they are coming from.

Then I go on the internet. As a result, I try very hard not to say anything, or read anything, of an opinion-having nature outside of my own blog.

Zak Sabbath said...

If you read something but don't give your opinion if you disagree, then you're denying the author (and yourself) the ability to get into the subtleties of the matter and drill down to the underlying source of the disagreement.

It's taking without giving back--it's assuming the author's not smart enough to have an answer to your objections.

Now not everyone has the patience for that--but it rather defeats the purpose of reading other people if you don't get into it.

piles said...

In general I only post my opinion if it contributes to the discussion. This usually means a disagreement, but might also involve an extension of what has already been said (say, a link to another post), or a conclusion.

Even in the case that I believe my opinion will contribute to the discussion, I may not post it. Reasons include:
- The fear that on the internet a disagreement degenerates all too easy into a stupid argument, and that feels as a waste of time and effort
- The time to share my opinion could also be used to read interesting stuff
- When I post something, I would like to see how others respond to it, but do not want to check the same page several times (is there a setting that I get an automatic email when someone reacts on a comment?).
The common factor is time.

So, yes, I agree to have a fruitful discussion you should post your opinions and be open to responses, also in the case of disagreements. But it should outweigh other resources of which to me time is the most important one.

Zak Sabbath said...

I have a lot more sympathy for not starting a conversation you don't have time to finish than starting one and then not finishing it, claiming time has suddenly become scarce.

piles said...

I agree

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Opinion is a creative process governed by rationality. People, for some reason, relates it to identity. Sometimes even with reality. That's why discrepancy hurts.

John Evans said...

I try to back up my ideas with reasoning--I construct long, elaborate debates in my head about my ideas. But I KNOW that nothing I say will EVER change anyone's mind. Sometimes I get frustrated enough by something to speak out (like this post) but it never does anything. I'm just the kind of person who cannot have any effect on the world.

piles said...

This sounds like the liar's paradox (ie. 'This statement is false'):

I believe that you can affect the world.

Now, if I agree with you, then I contradict the statement by having changed my mind.
If I disagree with you, then I contradict the statement by not having changed my mind.

This may sound like a game of words, but I believe that this might be the source of your frustration: there is no logical answer possible on this.

In general: exchanging ideas and opinions is not about to change minds. It is about new insights (possibly, but not necessarily, with a change of mind as end result)

Pity Crit said...

While I'm sure this is general commentary about the internet, I'd love to know if/what it relates to in particular.

Zak Sabbath said...

It doesn't relate to any particular stimulus