Sunday, August 23, 2015

Opinions and Arguments; Debates vs. Bickering

I am the type of person who is incredibly opinionated, and I like voicing my opinions. I also, however, like hearing other people's opinions. The reason why is because here is how I form opinions: 
1) I make some pre-judgement about something and tend to believe it
2) I listen to what other people think about said thing and consider their justification
3) I reanalyze my opinion, contrast it with other people's opinions, and will say "This makes sense to me" or "I don't agree with this" to other peoples, and revise my own opinion based on what I think of theirs
4) Repeat 1-3 at every opportunity I'm given.

What I want to talk about in this post is what the difference is between debating and bickering, and also what I believe about the whole "an opinion can't be wrong" statement that people like to throw out. I really hope that you'll read this and apply it to yourself in the future, if possible, so enjoy.

What most people think of when they think of an "argument" is what I refer to as "bickering" or "fighting". This form of arguing, in my opinion, is childish and usually accomplishes nothing more than angering people. What sets this apart from a "debate" type argument is that people who are bickering usually have absolutely no desire to change how they think or feel about the matter.

Now, both parties don't have to be like this in order to be bickering. Only one party needs to have this mentality. The reason I say this is because no matter how open one of the parties may be, this "argument" is completely one-sided, because even if the mature party were to share their opinion in response, most likely any argument back would simply deny their opinion rather than properly challenge it.

In my case, personally, if I start discussing something that turns into an argument, the second I realize that the other party is simply bickering with me, I immediately stop listening to what they have to say. I feel like, if you're not going to give me and what I think the light of day, then you're opinion is not worth listening to. That may sound cruel, and they may have a better formed opinion then me, but, like I previously said, I like sharing my opinion, and I don't like being blown off. So if you're going to get all defensive when I try to challenge your opinions, then just go away, because I'm not going to hear you out if you're not going to hear me out.

A "debate", on the other hand, is an instance where two (or more I guess, though for simplicity, this post will only deal with two) parties are stating their opinions, challenging each others, and justifying their own. Debates can go back and forth for a while, and sometimes even develop as you go along. You just have to remember, just because you think something in the other party's argument has changed, doesn't mean they're full of shit. The point of a debate is to try and better develop your opinions and most of the time that will even happen throughout the debate.

Now, there's a difference between arguing opinions and expressing your opinion. Arguing opinions is a form of expressing your opinion, but so is, say, posting a status on facebook making a general (opinionated) comment. Now, I'm not going to judge someone based on their opinion, but I do want to express something. Just because you stick on "in my opinion" or something similar, does not make something an opinion. I am not exempt from this, I make this mistake all the time, and I wouldn't be surprised if I make it or even already made it in this post. I definitely have made it somewhere on my blog at least a dozen times.

Now, before I continue, I'm going to define some phrases I'll be using. Note that, these definitions are ones that I made up to make my point, and are not necessarily dictionary accurate. Please don't tell me I should have done something else, I'm not a word person.

Factual statement - A statement that is either true or false, there is no in between. (Ex. The grass is green)
Relative factual statement - A factual statement, however the line between "true" and "false" can be shifted depending on how an individual defines a term/phrase used. (Ex. Riho is a good singer)
Opinionated statement - a statement that is true in the mind of the one saying it, but could be false if someone else were to say it. (Ex. Maimi is pretty)
Argumentative statements - statements that generally start an argument, although that can break into a debate depending on the parties involved. (Ex. I'm glad FukuKanon is graduating).

I doubt anyone would argue with me that "the grass is green" is a factual statement given my definition. I do want to emphasize really quick that "the grass is orange" is also a factual statement given my definition. I am not using "factual" as in "something is a fact", but rather, "something that is either true or false".

Some people might not understand, however, where I'm getting the difference between relative factual statement and an opinionated statement. So let me justify the examples I provided. 
"Riho is a good singer" is a statement that is classifying Riho as a "good singer". As much as people may not realize, "good singer" is not something that can be true for one person and not for another if their bars for what is considered a "good singer" are at the same level. What does "good singer" mean? It means they have good pitch, they can follow the music, they're on time, etc. So, if everyone were to set the same bar for what they define as "good singer" (say, "on pitch 95+% of the time") then two different people cannot disagree over if someone is a good singer. In other words, the only reason people can argue whether or not someone is a good singer is because one person might have the bar for good singer set higher or have it defined differently. 

Note: One mistake I see people make way too much in this fandom (and I've made it plenty myself too, I'm sure) is confusing someone's singing with their voice. No two singers sound exactly the same, even if they're singing the exact same song the exact same way. You can't say that one of them is a good singer and the other is a bad singer if the only difference is their voices. In that case it's a matter of whether or not you like their voice. In other words, saying "I think Masaki is a good singer, but I hate her voice" is both logical and reasonable to argue.

Now, what's the difference between "Riho is a good singer" and "Maimi is pretty"? The biggest difference is that "pretty" is not only a relative word, but it's also defined in the eye of the beholder. The world will never reach an agreement on a single definition of "pretty". Heck, you'd be lucky if you could get two people to agree on one. Because of this "Maimi is pretty" is a statement that can be true, false, or even somewhere in between depending on who's saying it and what they really think. I do want to note, this is the hardest type of statement to justify because it does come down to personal tastes. "Maimi is pretty" "why?" "well, I like her legs" "why?" Most of these types of justification will, in a sense, just be more opinions.

Lastly, "I'm glad that FukuKanon is graduating" is an argumentative statement. Anyone who really likes Maro might take offense. A reasonable person might ask you why you're glad, a less reasonable one might lash out at you. If a reasonable person asks why you're glad and you say "because I don't like her," chances are you're the one that's closed-minded and immature. If you say "because she doesn't seem to be enjoying the group anymore" or "because the group doesn't seem to suit her anymore" or something, then you're justifying you're opinion in a way that can be challenged. If both parties are mature and reasonable, this can lead to a debate. If they're not, it will almost definitely lead to a fight.

So, what is my point with these different types of statements? Here's what I think. You cannot argue with factual statements. If someone says to you "the grass is orange," what do you argue with them? Most likely, you won't. You'll either accept them is crazy, suggest they see a doctor, assume their joking, etc. Opinionated statements can be argued and debated, but it's not very easy, because most of the time opinionated statements are based on an individual's set of likes and dislikes. If an opinion changes at the end of this type of argument, it's usually due to one or both parties learning things about the topic that they hadn't previously known. Relative factual statements can be argued well, however if it is "debated" it will usually come down to figuring out what the other party "defines" something as, and you end up finding where there is disagreement. Other than sometimes someone might redefine things for themselves, usually these debates don't change much. 
Argumentative statements have the most potential to develop people and their opinions. More often than not, statements that start these types of arguments will offend you or hurt you. However, if you respond maturely, and the other party is willing to be mature about it as well, one of you might learn something you didn't know, or realize something you never noticed, or just plain change how you feel towards something you did previously know. Do not, however, think that you both have to come to an agreement. It is perfectly okay if, at the end of a "debate", neither party's opinion has changed. True opinions are never right or wrong, if they were, they wouldn't be opinions. Most of the time, debates lead to development. However, if they don't, that's completely okay. It's always good to hear what other people think, if only to further your belief in your own opinion.

In conclusion, I want to summarize/emphasize a few key points:
1. Just because you say "In my opinion" does not make something an opinion. The best case of this is with relative factual statements. If you think someone is a good singer, it's not because it's you're opinion, it's because whatever bar you've set, they're above it.
2. Arguing with someone who's closed minded will most likely spoil your mood, it is okay to just drop topics if you think they won't lead anywhere. If the other party is insistent, stay mature. Tell them that there's no point arguing with them, tell them you don't want to talk about it, tell them what they want to hear, whatever you want. You don't have to feed their desire to tell you how wrong you are and how right they are.
3. A debate does not need to reach an agreement. You can agree to disagree in the end. The important thing is for both parties to express their opinions with justification, and to listen to the other party's opinions and justification. The point should be to try and better yourself, not better the other person.
4. Having your opinion challenged is not a bad thing. Even if you don't have a response, it doesn't necessarily mean you're opinion is bad, just think on it and try and find an answer. It never hurts to have more justification behind your opinion.
Always remember, this is a fandom. Every fandom has its flaws, every fandom has its bad seeds, and every fandom has its "sides". But in the end, its just a fandom. You shouldn't let these things or people get to you. If you need to remove yourself from a situation, do it. You don't have to take part in every debate out there. If you need to intentionally avoid an argument, that's okay too. Know yourself and what you can and can't be mature about.

I hope you enjoyed this kinda different post, and I really hope you learned something from it. If not, well, I guess that's a shame. But this is something I've been meaning to get out for a while. So thanks for reading anyway. Kbai :D.

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