We live in turbulent times where accusations of post-truth, fake news and falsehoods seem to be order of the day. We seem to have stopped the simple aspect of seeing how people are measured by their actions rather than simply words.
Even worse is that there seems to be a reduction in the amount of critical thinking that takes place – we seem to be swayed by opinion rather than evidence.
Consider this: listen to a politician being interviewed. Now, close your eyes and really listen.
Question every sentence made and see if it makes sense. Second, after sense-checking it, see if there is any real truth in it.
If you go and read this transcript of an interview of the US President by The Associated Press (AP) in April 2017 you can see the point: opinion is not fact – and opinion shouldn’t lead the discussion. And a great way to lead discussion with opinion is to swamp it with more and more words.
The problem is that if people shout their opinion loudly enough (and often enough – particularly if it is unchallenged), we start to believe this to be the truth (sometimes for a short time only).
A fantastic example of this is Boris Johnson and his declaration that leaving Europe will provide the NHS with £350m a week.
Critical Thinking (the ability to think clearly and rationally, understanding the logical connection between ideas) is crucial for both our internal and external discussions.
So, in the case of the £350m, Sir David Norgrove, the head of the UK Statistics Authority, said he was “surprised and disappointed” to see the UK foreign secretary restate his controversial claim.
We need push-back and, being honest about it, how many times do we have the internal discussion without all the facts – little by little, we embrace our internal opinion as the truth and this is debilitating. It makes us frightened to open letters from the bank or to have a difficult discussion with a friend – our opinion determines our behaviour whereas we want to be known as one of the people measured by their actions.