Reasons matter, so think before you preach

Perhaps it is the slow economy, the stress of midterms or even the inconsistent weather, but something seems to be putting people on edge. It is as though there is a virus going around that is causing people to disagree simply for the sake of disagreeing. So what’s the deal? Why can’t we all just get along?

First of all, I know the bright readers of the Technique are already thinking about how my entire Entertainment section is dedicated to doling out criticism and wondering how I could possibly be concerned with other people’s ways without looking at my own first. They are absolutely right. Every week we distribute praise or punishment in the form of words and little black stars to pass judgment onto something that people have presumably put time and effort into. Is that fair?

It’s hard to say. I’d like to believe that we do our best to judge things with an open mind and base our opinions on reasons that we have thought through.

Do we always succeed? Not a chance, and I’m not going to pretend that we do.

Biases and emotions (which can be helpful and make a critique personal and unique) are at times too influential and cause us to miss the point. For the most part, however, we attempt to write our reviews considering both the qualities that we find admirable as well as the aspects that we disagree with.

But I’m not talking about opinions that even attempt to be rational. My concern is with the profound negativity that is rooted in nothing. Disagreements have gone from “I think you are wrong,” to “you are wrong,” as though somehow one person’s statement is fact while the other’s is opinion (and an incorrect one, too).

I was recently talking with a friend of mine while waiting for class to start when we happened to reference a TV show that we both enjoy. An acquaintance of ours overheard us talking, and when my buddy asked this guy whether or not he also enjoyed the show, our acquaintance simply shook his head and said, “No, it’s terrible.” That’s it. Though we tried justifying why we enjoy the show, the conversation basically ended there.

But what is the real motivation to justify our opinions? Why should we have to say what we think and why we think that way? Because there are reasons you feel positively or negatively about the subject, and letting other people know your reasons gives them the information that you have at least thought through your argument, even if they still disagree.

To say something “sucks because it’s stupid” or “is great because I like it” doesn’t really mean anything. Why does it suck? Aren’t there possible reasons why it might not suck? Or conversely, what is it that makes it so great? Very brash judgments without hesitation are not as informative or as stimulating as opinions with substance.

Now, I’m not going to sit on some high horse and say I always give the best reasons for my beliefs; there are plenty of times when I pass judgment too quickly or dwell on the cons without seeing the pros. But I do know the importance of judging things fairly, and though conversations do not all need to be turned into borderline scientific discussions (especially on matters that are somewhat trivial, like TV show preferences), it still wouldn’t be a bad idea to explain why we think the way we do while keeping our minds open to other ideas.

Part of the problem could be that it is easier this way. It is so much simpler to just have an opinion without thinking about why you feel like that. And while it is nice to have a go-to schema to simplify everything, it also makes us more likely to base everything on that one thing we love or that one thing we hate. This makes for an inaccurate representation of whatever it is that you are arguing.

Or maybe the problem is that truly listening to others has become less and less common.

We focus on our own interests and are not listening to others’ responses to our viewpoints. The goal of being right is so important that it makes us lose sight of the possibility that other opinions could be just as valid and reasonable.

It is through dissenting opinions that we are able to learn. Even if you completely disagree with what I say, perhaps if I give you my reasons and thinking behind my argument, you will at least understand why I said it. And I, in turn, will give the same respect to your reasons and thinking.