How well we differentiate between something that is fact and something that is opinion can have a huge impact on our mood, anxiety, stress levels and subsequent behaviours. By asking ourselves the question “Is this summation of a particular situation based on fact or opinion?”, we give ourselves a far better chance to control our stress and anxiety.
If someone we know walks passed us in the street without saying hello, we can say to ourselves “She obviously doesn’t like me”, which will result in us being angry, sad and subsequently peeved at the world. This one thought about the situation may in turn change our actions over the next hours or even for the rest of the day.
If however, we say to ourselves “She mustn’t have seen me”, then the incident is going to have little impact on our mood and our actions for the rest of the day.
We must constantly remind ourselves and our children to look at the differences between fact and opinion. The only fact we can conclude is that ‘she walked by without saying hello” Anything else is purely opinion. When we ask ourselves this question we give ourselves the chance to make wiser and more calm decisions and therefore allow ourselves more rational behaviour.
Similarly if we are going to a party we can say to ourselves “no one will talk to me because I am boring”. This can cause us great anxiety and distress. The only fact remains is that we are going to a party. We don’t know that no one will talk to us, we don’t know that we are going to be boring…this is purely based on personal view, and individual knowledge, possibly of past experiences. But it doesn’t mean that this will be the situation for this party. We need to look at the fact only and deal with what we can possibly do to change that negative thought.
Fact = Evidence to support its truth
Opinion = Based upon belief or personal view
Fact = undisputed
Opinion = Varies according to individual knowledge, experience, culture, beliefs etc
Fact = Driven by rational thought
Opinion = Driven by and reinforced by emotion
If something is a fact, then we can make a choice about whether we can or cannot do anything about it. If it is opinion, we need to look at what we know for certain, which are the facts that we do know something about.
So when our son says to us “You hate me because you are not letting me download that song”
The only fact they know is I am not allowing them to download that song. His assumption that I hate him has come about because of his emotional distress and belief that I just don’t want him to have any fun. If he stopped to ask himself “what is another possible explanation?”, he may come up with something like “my mum said no because the song I want has explicit language that she may think is inappropriate for my age and therefore she is just trying to be a good parent”. Yes, highly unlikely he is going to come up with that himself, so sometimes we need to help them!
During stress we are driven by emotion and opinion which in turn stresses us out even more and begins a vicious cycle. As the emotion and opinions intensify, our behaviours become negative and unhelpful.
So next time you find yourself reacting in a negative or emotionally charged way in response to a situation, ask yourself “what are the facts and what is based on my opinion?”….and ensure you keep those stress levels under control.