I have a habit of thinking (a lot!) about inefficiencies in communication. One of the biggest issues I have when talking with people about "big" topics where a lot of viewpoints are possible, is defense. A lot of people (myself included) get defensive when talking about their opinions on almost anything. It makes it hard to talk about most topics, people get heated and uncomfortable, and both parties usually leave with a bad taste in their mouths. This got me to wondering, and there has to be a way for people to move past this and talk. Communication is valued pretty highly for me, because talking about stuff solves problems.
The problem may come from an inability to admit ignorance. An opinion is good if it can be backed with logical reason, and another person can follow that path of logic to form the same conclusion on their own. The art of conversation seems to be lost somewhere in the defense mechanism blocking out the other opinions. The problem is also twofold, because listening to another's opinion does not mean you must take their opinion in the end. We need to reduce aggression by the speaker, and ease the guard of the listener, so both parties end up with a greater understanding.
When speaking, I tend to use a lot of prefaces. A phrase like "This may or may not work, but what if..." offers the possibility of failure beforehand, easing the listener and lining them up to either agree or disagree freely. Boldly stating the argument and appearing firm-rooted instills a sense of authority and correctness and makes a listener want to fight back. Good in some cases, not good in others, but it's important to appreciate the difference!
Most people present a point with a sense of authority, when in fact they may not be sure. Pointing out a contradiction at this point could prove dangerous, as they may defend their argument and you've just lost hope at reaching a mutual conclusion.
This is where ignorance comes into play.
Anyone can state an opinion they've heard, but can they back it up with legitimate, hard evidence? It's hard to do. It's hard for anyone to do without seriously doing their own research.
At this point I'd like to take a big step and remind myself: There are a lot of things I don't know.
You may know a lot of things, you may know almost everything, but I would find it hard to believe there is a single person who knows everything. Assuming this is the case, and everyone has a lack of knowledge in one or many things, all people share a common trait. Ignorance. (Wikipedia... love it...).
There are so many different fields of study, and areas to specialize our knowledge, that I would imagine every person I meet will know something I don’t. The more I back down, and try to follow the logic of others’ arguments, the more I find I can learn. If there is a flaw in the logic of someone’s argument, that is what should be brought to attention. Not that their opinion is wrong, it’s theirs! Let them have it! But if poor reasoning or faulty logic brought them to a conclusion you don’t agree with, take the time to help their logic problem. Then they can follow a new path of reasoning and walk away with a more educated conclusion.
It’s hard to do, but I think if more people attacked the root of the problem (logic) rather than arguing over the personal components (opinions), less disagreement and more understanding would result. Is this a perfect world we live in? Of course not, but little things like this could go a long way.