No matter what you say, anyone can claim that you’re dead wrong.
Does that mean you’re necessarily wrong? Of course not.
Everyone is entitled to make their own claims.
Claims are claims, not stakes to truth.
Here are seven reasons why people can and often do argue against your opinion, no matter how well-reasoned, empirically supported, personally meaningful, or tried and true it is for you.
1. Opinions aren’t accepted as “truths”
Opinions don’t get much respect in this world, at least not compared to facts. (Yes, even though “facts” are tied to opinions more than we’d like to admit.)
Even if you state a fact as your opinion, it doesn’t matter.
The fact comes from your mouth, and you are a person full of opinions, so people will treat whatever you say as opinion.
(And for good reason, because experts and scientists are full of opinions too.)
Therefore, whatever you say is not immutable (as if all scientific facts even are); it’s questionable. It’s prone to scrutiny. It could very well be flat out wrong.
When people regard what you say as certainly-not-a-truth, instead of your-personal-truth, they can attack it instead of care to understand it, as well as how and why it came to be.
2. Everyone has their own opinion
To complicate matters, anyone who claims you’re wrong is full of their share of opinions.
Those opinions really matter to them. Those opinions piece together their worldview, and they use their worldview to make sense of their experience — no matter how dysfunctional it may be (or how apparently nonsensical their sense-making may be).
So what does this mean for you?
No matter what you say — anyone is entitled to form their own opinion about your opinion. Where’s the 100% objective truth in the matter? Nowhere to be found.
“Wrong” is a subjective label we humans invented. It’s especially subjective when it applies to opinions, given how complex and subjective they are.
To say that an opinion is wrong is to misunderstand what an opinion is. To disagree with an opinion (note: this is quite different from making a claim of “wrongness”) is to acknowledge that in our world of subjectivity, you can’t stake a claim to 100% objective truth, but you can and should form your own opinion.
3. “Right” is in the eye of the beholder
“Right” or “wrong” is in the eye of the beholder — when it comes to opinions (which means, when it comes to practically everything, even the cultural practice of science).
No matter what you say, anyone can claim you’re wrong because according to them, you are wrong. And there’s very little you can do to persuade them otherwise. Although, kindness, speaking their language, getting even blunter, or ignoring them altogether and showing by example that you’re doing good work — might work.
Hopefully you can see by now, that a claim that you’re wrong is not the same as you’re being wrong — whatever that really means and however you really measure it 100% objectively.
People will always have their opinions about what you should do if you want to accomplish X. What you should believe if you want Y. What you should try if you really want Z. Again — they’re opinions. Are they right or wrong? Well, that’s up to you.
Should is another human construct, by the way. When anyone uses that word — it’s a red flag that their own opinion is about to be announced. Or rather, disguised as some moral or logical imperative, or just the plain old “truth.”
4. People equate their own beliefs with truth
It’s only natural for people to regard their own opinions as truth. In some cases, personal opinions are very powerful and informative personal truths. The scientific truths of today are only regarded as such because they are powerful and informative.
So if someone has an opinion that you’re wrong, it’s easy for the person to regard that opinion as the the truth. And they forget that their truth originally started out as an opinion. And they invoke the “true”/”right”/”wrong” language, instead of acknowledging the interplay of subjective, human opinions.
So when someone says you’re wrong, register it this way:
“According to this person, I am wrong — because they disagree with my opinion and are regarding their own opinion that I’m wrong, as truth, instead of opinion.”
If that’s too complicated, try this:
“I know you are, but what am I?”
Just kidding, I meant this:
“That I’m wrong is your opinion.”
This statement so happens to be a healthy deflection.
5. There’s a barrier to communication
Let’s not forget that people misunderstand one another all the time.
That’s because we don’t actually 100% “understand” other people’s perspectives — since we’re not them and don’t lead their lives and we don’t bear their burdens.
Therefore, anytime you communicate something, anyone can not only misinterpret it — but deliberately interpret it in their own way without even checking to see if they made assumptions that could easily be cleared up if they just had a normal conversation with you instead unleashing a barrage of accusations.
People who verbally attack you aren’t interested in you.
They’re interested in preserving whatever it is that they feel has been threatened (most likely their worldview), which is perhaps threatened by your mere existence.
6. People lash out when they feel threatened
It’s not that difficult to see that people like to verbally attack — with the war cry, “You’re Wrong!” — when they themselves feel under attack.
But are they really under attack?
Well, yes, if they themselves doubt their own personal truths. Or if they themselves feel a bit insecure or confused. Or just rattled, or uncertain. Or even emotionally triggered, due to some unresolved thing from their past.
But no, they’re not really under attack (most of the time, that is). They’re just encountering an opinion that makes them think, question, doubt, feel, even hurt.
And it’s so, so much easier to dissociate from those “negative” experiences.
By claiming that you’re wrong. Because if you’re wrong, guess what? That explains why they feel the way they do. They’re hurt by how wrong you are. Rather than by whatever-is-going-on-inside-of-them.
There’s a saying: “The truth hurts.”
People at zen with their worldviews don’t compulsively attack or minimize the worldviews of others.
7. People are afraid of emotional intimacy
And finally, this has to do with emotional intimacy.
Here’s how emotional intimacy plays out in a dialogical exchange:
- You express your opinion
- The other person registers this as you’re opinion (and refrains from warping the exchange into a “war for truth”)
- The other person expresses their opinion, respectfully of course (and may even respectfully disagree with you)
- You respond, again with your opinion, and with respect as well
- This continues, and you both get to know each other better, and both develop a trusting relationship where you can freely express your opinions without it resulting in a verbal warfare
You know what happens when you do that over and over again?
You establish an emotionally intimate connection with another human being, and you increase your ability to empathize and connect with others, as well as get better at getting your needs met in all of your relationships — including the one with yourself.
Got any more reasons?
I’ve given you seven of my reasons for why people verbally attack your opinions for “being wrong.”
Instead of being grateful that they even have an opportunity to get to know you better.
Do you have any reasons you’d like to add to the list?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Inspired by comments received for an earlier article, this is the 6th article in the series: “Juicing Negative Blog Comments,” which explores constructive themes emerging from seemingly “negative” comments left here.
Do you want to learn more about how to get in touch with your opinions (your emotions), as well as how to better appreciate and understand them? Then check out the free 10-part e-class, Your Life is Your Construct, which gives you practical tips on how to work with and learn from your negative emotions.