What is opinion and what is fact?

In the last 18 months regular lockdowns and the endless threat of Covid 19 have led to an explosion of opinion.

Everyone is claiming to ‘follow the science’ but that’s not quite as simple as it seems. After all, scientific method is a process for arriving at fact, it is not necessarily fact itself. Especially in its early stages – almost by definition – ‘science’ is contested.

To make matters worse, human beings are far more drawn to opinion than we are to facts. Unambiguous facts are not the simple black and white our brains find easy and exciting.  Facts are grey and… well…. boring.

So, to be heard, opinion needs to convey fact in a way that appeals to our ear for simplicity.

This can be particularly challenging for professionals and other experts since one of the defining elements of the professions is a belief in objective truth expressed through professional standards.

Lawyers work on an idea of objective justice and fairness expressed through the law, accountants on the measurement of objective value by a transparent logical process, while engineers and doctors follow scientific method.

As someone who has worked with professionals crafting opinion over many years, I know that many struggle to express opinion in a way that can cut through to audiences, without too many short cuts on truth.

So how do you write, or express an opinion in a way that engages an audience?

1.      Have an opinion

Too many ‘opinion’ articles fail to take a stance on an issue. It’s fine to express other sides of an argument, but without a clear view on what you believe, audiences disengage. If you don’t have an opinion, don’t bother.

2.      Have authority.

Audiences shortcut the worth of an opinion on a subject they don’t understand via the authority of the author. An engineer may have an opinion about legal matters and even be right, but his or her credibility and authority is probably not enough to cut through.

3.      Be real, be accurate.

You need to set up an opinion with facts. You will craft those facts to support your point, but you need to be truthful. Unless your authority lies in celebrity (such as the talk back shock jocks) inaccurate, exaggerated or wrong information will do you more harm than good.

4.      Don’t be rude.

No matter how strongly you hold an opinion, it does not pay to declare all those who disagree with you ‘leftists’ or ‘deplorables’. Some people will disagree with you and that’s ok. An opinion by its nature is personal and when people disagree it can feel rough. If you play nice you can reach people and maybe even change some minds.

Love to hear your opinion on this opinion, or better still, get in contact and have a chat.  

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