Opinion vs. fact: Ideally, these two concepts would never be at odds because, by definition, they’re pretty different. But, in reality, you’ve probably met at least one or two people who tend to treat their opinions as the cold hard truth. While having a personal belief isn’t necessarily a problem in and of itself, having trouble separating opinion from fact can cause misunderstandings. Below is a deep dive into the differences between the two so you and your team members can sniff out fact vs. fiction.
- Opinion vs. fact
- Opinion vs. fact: Why it matters in the workplace
- Key differences between opinion and fact
- The benefits of communicating the facts
Opinion vs. fact
A fact is something you can prove to be 100% true or false with verifiable evidence. An opinion, on the other hand, is something based on someone’s personal experiences that can’t – you guessed it – be verified with concrete proof.
As an example, “people keep cats as pets” is a fact – just look at all the cat videos on the internet for proof of that. However, “cats are the best pets” is an opinion, no matter how cute they are.
Find more of the differences between opinion and fact below:
- A personal belief or judgment about a topic
- Subjective Experiences or anecdotes
- Can’t be verified
- A change in an opinion primarily, if not solely, affects the people who held that opinion in the first place
- Opinions can be debated
- Something that can be proven true with verifiable evidence
- Repeatable research
- Can be verified
- A change in a proven fact thanks to new verified evidence is universal and affects everyone equally
- Facts can’t be debated
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Opinion vs. fact: Why it matters in the workplace
A clear separation between opinion and fact is important within your organization since your team might act on any information you share. You and your team members should also trust each other to share knowledge that’s been completely verified. It’s how you’ll figure out where to allocate your resources, how to delegate tasks, and so on.
Deciding important project details based on opinion statements is pretty much a shot in the dark on whether it’ll work out in the long run. It’s pure luck if it does – and if it doesn’t, that’s a lot of money and hours down the drain.
Key differences between opinion and fact
You can never be too careful when separating fact from opinion in the workplace, so read on for some key ways to set them apart.
- Verified vs. unverified
When someone makes a claim, they should back it up with evidence. That way, you and your team can be sure you’re working with factual statements.
- Research vs. anecdotes
Many opinions form out of the clear blue sky with maybe one or two personal anecdotes to back them up. Facts get proven true through in-depth research and study.
- Universal vs. personal
Facts remain universally true no matter the context. For example, everyone on Earth needs to breathe air. Opinions are subjective experiences and only affect the person who holds them unless they come up in a meeting.
- Reality vs. perception of reality
Because facts are so thoroughly researched before being presented, they typically represent a situation the most accurately. On the other hand, opinion represents someone’s personal view of the situation, which means it could be formed on shaky ground.
- Generalized vs. individualized
If something is 100% true without a shadow of a doubt, it’ll be true for everyone regardless of their role in a project or team. But since opinions represent someone’s personal views, everyone can have a different viewpoint.
- Biased vs. unbiased
Since facts are already true, people can talk about them with unbiased language since there’s less reason to defend them to others. Not so much with opinions. Since they’re someone’s personal views, that person might be more motivated to try and defend them from skeptics.
- Static vs. dynamic
Someone can doubt a fact all they want, but unless they have some evidence to back up their skepticism, it’ll remain the truth. If anything, hard and true facts change opinions all the time – and it doesn’t work in reverse.
- Settled vs. debatable
You’ve got to bring your A-game to argue a fact because someone’s already done the work to prove that it’s true. On the other hand, opinions are much easier to argue against because you’re likely going up against someone’s assumptions. You can change those with facts.
The benefits of communicating the facts
Most great teams and organizations don’t base their decision-making on untested opinions. That’s not to say you can’t use opinions like that, but using facts to move forward is typically better. Here’s why.
- Fewer miscommunications and mistakes
The problem with opinions is that they’re based on perceptions of a situation, which means they can be just as imperfect. Facts are built with evidence and keen observation, so you can feel more at ease using them in your decision-making.
- More reasoned arguments
It’s far from impossible to argue for an opinion (some people make it a pastime), but those arguments are usually weaker since they come from personal experience. Facts, however, are already true – and all the evidence that proves them is at your fingertips.
- More confidence in your decisions
The ability to fall back on hard evidence when choosing a course of action can be reassuring in the heat of the moment. Graphs and numbers might be a little dry to read, but that careful research can ensure good decision-making.
- Lends you more credibility
Going into a meeting, presenting your findings, and telling people to trust you they’re accurate is a bold move that’ll work until it doesn’t. Backing your viewpoints with well-reasoned arguments and evidence adds credibility to what you say.
Truth is stronger than fiction
When making decisions for your team or organization, fact vs. opinion should be no contest. With evidence in your back pocket, you can communicate with your team more effectively and make more well-reasoned choices. You can also use facts to power your meeting presentations, which will always go better with a meeting agenda so your team can follow along.