Last summer I was asked to offer my opinion regarding some of the more hotly debated issues surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak. I was somewhat hesitant. Not because I didn’t have ample information available to me, for I had been regularly engaged in discussions with heath doctors and epidemiology scientists within our state. I was, however, concerned about explaining my position in a manner that was factual, non-accusatorial and correctly demonstrated my opinion. I wanted to get it right. I needed to explain what I believed and why.
To be clear, this writing is not that summary of my opinion. It is something quite different. It is about the discovery I made in the process of working to explain my opinion accurately and sympathetically.
With the understanding that each of us have an intellectual ability and right to form our own opinion, we also should be given the opportunity to express it. Obviously, how we shape the telling of our opinion will direct how it will be received.
I decided that to be accurate, I needed to break down my thoughts into three preface statements; What I know, what I believe, and what I do not know. This would allow me to categorize my opinions based on facts supported by significant data, thoughts that were developed by simple analysis forming belief, and an admittance that I was still looking for answers.
This appeared to be a remarkably simple and direct process, but as I worked through my writing, I discovered something I had not anticipated. I started to question every thought I laid down. The effort to get every statement right was more difficult than expected and I soon realized that the communication of critical thought takes significant self-reflection and encourages reconsideration.
I have concerns regarding our ability on social media to express ourselves in any way we wish, believing there are no consequences. I would be surprised if any of us have never written something we wish we could take back. I have certainly been there. Frankly, to be able to communicate so easily is a wonderful thing and I completely enjoy the frequent information I receive and can share. I now however, work to do it differently for my own benefit.
Are my claims what I know, or do they fit more correctly in what I believe? Offering an opinion in either manner is fine but clarify. Then there is the admission of what I do not know; perhaps the most important. It is the submission of humility and a request for guidance in a critical thinking process. It opens the conversation to collaborate facts and beliefs. It is the ultimate offering of respect to others.