Thursday, May 21, 2015

9 Phrases to Avoid During an Argument

"You mean you can actually think?!"

Nothing really detracts from your argument or opinion more than the following nine phrases:
  1. "I believe"
  2. "I think"
  3. "I feel"
  4. "To me"
  5. "To my understanding"
  6. "It seems to me"
  7. "I kind of think"
  8. "I personally feel"
  9. "My interpretation of this (play, poem, story, song, etc.)"

But it is what I think!

What? Really? You mean to tell me that the words coming from your mouth, the thoughts that came from your brain, are what you think? Gee. That never occurred to me.

Oh, wait. It did.

Because, see, I understand that when someone is telling me something, the sentiments being expressed are that person's thoughts. In fact, unless you are an expert on the subject -- like a doctorate-educated, published expert -- I am going to know that a large fraction of basically any thing you say about a topic is composed of your opinion. It is for this reason that I am able to absorb or disregard what others say fairly easily: it is just someone's opinion, so why should I take it to heart unless I want to?

So why do these phrases tick me off?

There are many possible answers to this, but let me focus on two:

1. The entire purpose of communication (especially with an argument) is to have someone see things from your point of view.

If you qualify every single statement with "I think" or "To me" or the seemingly ever present "I kind of think," you are basically saying "This may not be right, it is just what I think, but . . . " Why would I want to listen to what you have to say if you don't even believe in the power of it? Have the confidence to stand behind what you say, even if it is "just your opinion."

2. As stated above, I am capable of putting basic concepts together. Don't insult me.

Saying "This is my interpretation of . . ." or "I personally feel" is like saying "You may not pick up on this, but what I am about to say is my interpretation of this poem." Gee. I am so glad you had the forethought to let me know that you were about to share your opinion. Just think -- I could have been left wondering for hours where you got your information from! Facts and opinions sound different, people. Just get it out and let your listener/reader be the judge.

I get it. There are some times when it is helpful to distinguish between information you are relating from an alternate source and your own opinions on a topic; but, honestly, if you are saying something along the lines of "Weak heroines are boring," we have enough sense to know that you are stating an opinion, not dogma.

Critics of literary blogger/ranter extraordinaire Limyaael frequently had this issue with her work: they were angry that she had the "audacity" to post her opinions on books and writing as "fact." In all reality, she was conveying her opinions through strong statements with no mention of her opinions being fact.

Take home message:

Have the decency to stand behind what you have to say, and don't fly all in the air because someone dares to be a strong writer.

Oh. And learn how to differentiate opinion from fact without relying on any of the nine phrases from the above list (or any variations thereof).

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