Recently I posted on Twitter a personal observation about growing older and learning to appreciate the value of disagreement and even of a heated discussion. Maybe I’m growing up or maybe I’m just getting older, regardless, I’m beginning to understand (I’m a slow learner) it's not always a negative, desperate situation when there’s a conflict. Not every conflict has to be immediately resolved and there doesn’t have to be the notion of a singular solution. I’ve written before about the ability to hold opposing views in one’s mind and maintain relationships. This lead me down a course of thought based on an adumbrative conversation I found myself engaged in with a close friend in the Mautic community.

A conversation with something missing

In this chat there wasn’t so much a significant difference of opinions indicative of a more systemic problem; rather we were exchanging differing views of a situation and each attempting to persuade the other to recognize our rightness. Halfway through this verbal volley I was struck with a realization. My deepest problem. The one thing keeping me from being able to accept or deny the veracity of his points was what I believed to be the lack of facts. What I needed was the logic, the reasoning, the facts behind the opinion being expressed.

Aside: To be clear, I didn’t believe simply knowing the facts would immediately invoke my unwavering agreement and/or support for his statements. Those conclusions would remain to be drawn.

The idea behind fact-based feelings

I know it sounds a bit odd initially to suggest something so strange as fact-based feelings and the meaning may be obtuse at first, but here is my thinking behind such a statement: Opposing views are not the problem, nor are differences of opinions; but without a valid foundation of factual information it becomes very difficult for those feelings to be appropriately conveyed.

Returning to the conversation I was in the midst of I realized what I was attempting to extract as we continued were the facts which were causing the feelings. And I believe this same problem exists in many other interactions as well. There becomes an increasing importance to have at least some basis level of fact for what you believe.

Debating without facts

Whenever there is a lack of facts in an argument and you’re working completely and solely from the premise of feelings it becomes increasingly difficult to not only convince someone of your viewpoint but to even get them to listen with an open mind. Facts are the crucial foundation upon which your feelings can be based and subsequently your point made.

Based on this understanding, even if those facts may lead you to a drastically different outcome from someone else who hears those same facts, the simple act of fact-based debate lends credibility to your argument and opinion. This also gives you a tacit basis you can support and defend (passionately and with feeling).

Yanni vs Laurel anyone?

Admit it, the title caught your eye right? In case you missed it, a viral internet meme captured the attention of everyone with a simple audio recording of a distorted voice saying a name. The results were fascinatingly bisected. And the twitter “wars” raged on. Staunch supporters for both names were adamant in their belief the voice was saying only the name they heard. Here's the original, offending tweet question which started the craziness:

This is a perfect example where a fact-based argument lends credence to a viewpoint even when the resulting interpretations are polar opposites! The reason I say this with such confidence is due to an effect known as Bistable Audio. Bistable audio can be perceived in two separate ways. In essence this is an auditory illusion. Here’s another example:

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Listen to the audio file above. Do you experience a switch in the tune?
Media Licence: Music vector created by Freepik

Bistable stimuli can be perceived in two separate ways. The sound you hear can be heard in two ways: as triplets of an A-B-A pattern or as two simultaneous streams of an A-A-A-A pattern and a B-B-B-B pattern. Come on, that's just cool right?!

Now let’s return to the Yanni vs Laurel auditory anomaly. As it turns out, there’s a physical (and factual) explanation for this phenomena! Based on your age and hearing acuity you will actually be able to hear different frequencies. This quality of this particular meme was so distorted it lent itself to multiple frequency distributions of audio and as a result a different outcome based on the individual’s sense of hearing. (Fact-based!)

I find this to be a particularly fun and light-hearted (even slightly-humorous) example to the premise of this post; because both sides are arguing with feeling … but both are based on fact!

The elephant in the room

I’ll leave you with one final anecdotal example. Many are probably quite familiar with this age-old parable. In fact, it’s become so common as to have it’s own Wikipedia page.

A group of blind men heard that a strange animal, called an elephant, had been brought to the town, but none of them were aware of its shape and form. Out of curiosity, they said: "We must inspect and know it by touch, of which we are capable." So, they sought it out, and when they found it they groped about it. The first person, whose hand landed on the trunk, said, "This being is like a thick snake." For another one whose hand reached its ear, it seemed like a kind of fan. As for another person, whose hand was upon its leg, said the elephant is a pillar like a tree-trunk. The blind man who placed his hand upon its side said, "Elephant is a wall." `Another who felt its tail, described it as a rope. The last felt its tusk, stating the elephant is that which is hard, smooth and like a spear.

Each of these men perceived the truth differently and as a result based their feelings and subsequent argument on their “version” of the truth. They were all right…and all wrong at the same time. But the basis of fact allowed them to argue passionately each from their own point of view.

Base your debates (and feelings) on fact.

Conflict is inevitable. Humans have the essential ability to reason and draw conclusions. Based in facts and encompassed with feelings they postulate and theorize their worldview to others, engaging in debate, attempting to persuade, coax, and entice those opposed to concede their view. In all of this, the basal element is fact. Without this fundamental foundation the arguments will be meaningless and nothing more than a benign insignificant waste of time and emotion.