You Are Not Correct

Chris Lose • LD at LargeNovember 2018 • November 12, 2018

Illustration by Andy Au

There have been few times in history where the political climate has been as divisive as it is right now. The world is erupting with differing views and political diversity. It has led us to hear more opinions than we care to listen to. Everyone has opinions about everything, from minimum wages and taxes to gender identity and race relations. People are convinced that their opinion is true and must be vigorously defended against other opinions. But if you think this way, you are not correct. Your opinion is not fact. And my opinion is not the truth. By definition, an opinion cannot be truth. An opinion is a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge. This is true in entertainment and in politics. Alarmingly, most people believe that their opinion is fact. We incorrectly believe that our thoughts are correct. Right? I mean, if we think it, it must be true. It is true in our own head. We are always right. Right?

Wrong. Let’s discuss.

‡‡         I Am Not Correct

I once thought I was right, but it turns out I was mistaken. I recently made a color choice for a song that was founded in historical, provable evidence. The song was red. It had been red in 2014, it was red in 2016, and it was red in my opinion. I was recently told that this is 2018, and the song is not red.

At first, I argued about it. I simply said, “This song has always been red.” I was met with immediate disagreement. I was told to “Take all of the red out of this song and make it the way it is supposed to be.” I’m paraphrasing, because there were more choice words used during the discussion.

I was tempted to go back and look at the tapes from previous tours and plead my case. Luckily, I was clever enough to know my client would not react well to my tactics. I knew this type of video evidence would not advance my case, nor would I gain any ground in the debate.

Instead, I entered a simple syntax of, “Replace red with yellow if sequence xx.” I lost the argument, but I kept my job. The song is now amber and yellow, and my client is satisfied.

‡‡         Opinions vs. Identity

What I realized was, my opinion is not fact. More importantly, my opinion is not my identity. My opinion is one of many opinions that float around the ether and form within each one of us based on our experiences and our collective awareness.

Our opinions only matter to us, and they can change as we change. I realized that my opinion was not going to persuade my client into changing their opinion. I could state all the facts, plead my case, provide several forms of evidence to support my claims and I would be no better off than when we started. I realized that my opinion was not going to win me a Parnelli.

What is the truth? A fact is a statement that can be supported to be true or false by data or evidence. In contrast, an opinion is a personal expression of a person’s feelings or thoughts that may or may not be based in data. Indeed, many of our opinions are based on emotions, personal history, and values—all of which can be completely unsupported by meaningful evidence.

If you ask whether I think I’m entitled to my opinion, the answer is, yes! Absolutely. It is true that we are all entitled to our opinion. We can have them, we can express them, we can discuss them and we can defend them. But they are not correct until they are validated and a consensus is agreed upon. Call me a collectivist, but our opinions only matter when the majority agrees upon them. (Or at least the client agrees).

Our opinions become useful when they are the basis for future decisions that move the production forward. Opinions do not become fact until a consensus is reached that this particular opinion is superior to those of other opinions. Truth is subjective and open to interpretation. In entertainment, we value the right to believe what we think and to express our opinions accordingly. We can become very passionate about our opinions, because they come from our hearts and creative minds.

Why does it matter to understand the difference between fact and opinion? Although everyone is entitled to an opinion, not all opinions are equally valuable. This is precisely why opinions by clients are more valued in our business. It’s because they are more likely to be backed with monetary value. Their opinion matters more because their opinion determines who keeps their gig and who gets to go to the back of the line.

‡‡         White and Gold? Or Black and Blue?

You may hold the opinion that the dress is blue and black, while your client swears that it’s white and gold. You can both rely on your perceptions and argue until you both turn blue (or white) but you will not convince the other. There is a difference between expressing your opinion and just being rude.

‡‡         Resolving the Issue

  1. Pick your battles. Do you need to win this argument? Does the color of the dress matter in any future decisions? Determine if your opinion needs to be respected or if you are unwillingly disrespecting someone else’s opinion.
  2. Separate your identity from your opinions. You are not your opinions. Your opinions will come and go. Your identity is tied to the decisions and actions that you take based on those opinions. You will be judged on your actions far more than you will be judged on your opinions. Being unwilling to let go of your opinions can lead to disaster. You may come off as an opinionated bullhead. The dress will still continue to exist regardless of your opinion of the color.
  3. Compromise whenever possible. The dress is whatever color the client wants it to be. This decision will generate the best outcome. You need to agree upon the color and move on.
  4. Move Forward. When your client tells you that your opinion has been duly noted and given proper consideration, it’s time to move on. You made your opinion known, the facts have been examined and a decision has been made. Now it’s time to let go of your opinion and work together to produce art, regardless of dress color.

So, the next time your client or boss tells you that they have a strong opinion about something, understand what their opinion is based on. Is it based on measurable data with some compelling outcome? Does their opinion matter more than yours? Or, is it based on reactive, emotional preferences and impressions? If it is the latter, take it with a grain of salt before you value it. If you have a strong opinion about something that you know very little about, try to figure out why before you declare war on anyone to defend your opinions. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. But not all opinions are equally valuable. The truth is that opinions based in power—in measurable, monetary power—are more valuable than those that are not.

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