I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. You could argue that I always do a lot of thinking, but during these last few weeks it’s been even busier in my head than normal.
Because I have been considering critical thinking, I am listening and reading with a different perspective.
My opinions haven’t suddenly changed, I’m simply paying a little more attention and I’m a touch sharper than I was before. This also made me want to speak out more often, but as I don’t like confrontations I want to formulate my responses and arguments in a clear and compassionate way.
In order to voice your opinion in a calm and clear manner, it is important that you pay attention to exactly what the other person is stating and that you figure out what point you want to get across. After all, if you misinterpret the message that you want to respond to there is very little chance that the person making the statement, or people watching or reading from the periphery are able to use your statement as valuable input to their thinking.
To be able to interpret a statement you should take a couple of things into account:
- Who made the statement? What is this person’s background, what might be their biases
- Can you determine the context in which the statement was made? It makes a big difference if a statement was made as part of a news article, an argument in a bar after a few beers, or while trying to explain something to a young child.
- What makes the statement trigger a response from you? A good start is to determine if the statement is factually correct. If it’s not, do you think that the person delivering the statement is aware of this? Do you disagree with the entire statement, or just with part of it, or perhaps just with the way the statement was worded?
It’s also interesting to verify your own biases. Do you for instance dislike the source of the statement (a person, newspaper or website)?
Once you have found answers to these questions you can start to consider your response. You can start by collecting a set of objective statements of your own, that together will support the argument that you want to put forward. To do this properly it’s important to not let your emotions get the best of you.
Depending on my state of mind and how much sleep I got, this can be quite tricky. If you feel very strongly about a topic it’s often hard to objectively consider it. To have any chance of convincing someone of your point of view it’s important to stay calm and base your argument on reason, not emotion.
You can also decide that you don’t want to respond to the content of the statement, but that you want to share the emotion that it triggered in you.
That is a valid decision, however it should not be used to convince someone else of your opinion. It can of course be used if you want others to show they feel sympathy, or commiseration for you.
To create a clear argument, you can collect statements that consist of a conclusion and a set of suppositions or assumptions to support the conclusion. If you want to convince someone using reason, make sure you keep your arguments objective and fact based. Once you have done all of this you are ready to communicate.
Even if you have been able to clearly and objectively phrase your argument this doesn’t mean that you will be able to convince the person it was directed at. How your argument is received and whether it will change someone’s opinion is up to the receiver to decide.
Remember to stay friendly and polite, regardless of the response that you get. If we would all try to phrase our arguments this way consuming news or social media would become a lot more bearable!