Everyone persuades their friends, family, and coworkers at least to some degree. I think we have manipulated others simply by the way we state our opinions. More specifically, we tend to state our opinions as if they were facts, which sometimes convinces others that we are in the right even when we’re not.
There are three ways of stating opinions: as if they are facts, as demands, and as preferences. Each method has advantages and disadvantages that we rarely think about. By understanding the distinction, we can consciously choose how to phrase our opinions (also known as value statements). Otherwise, we subconsciously state our opinions however they come to mind, which may lead to unintentional manipulation of our loved ones–and ourselves.
The first way of stating opinions is as if they were a fact. Out of the three methods, Americans use this one the most. The following sentences highlight a few examples:
- “Roller coasters are fun.”
- “Bob’s Car Wash is the best in town.”
- “This project is easy.”
Compare these to a few statements that actually are facts:
- “Alice likes roller coasters.”
- “90% of customers would recommend Bob’s Car Wash to a friend.”
- “This project is due in two weeks.”
There are several consequences of stating opinions as if they are facts. Most importantly, stating opinions as if they are facts can trick people into believing that your opinion is a provable fact. This can also unintentionally reinforce our own beliefs. If the listener doesn’t realize the distinction, they might think your statement is actually a fact.
In addition, stating opinions as if they are facts does not imply equality between the parties in the conversation, nor does it encourage compromise. It might make the speaker sound more confident, but anyone who notices that the statement is an opinion won’t be convinced.