Opinions Versus Perspectives 

 March 24, 2021

By  Jonathan Nhan

Okay, so you have an opinion. What does that mean? It’s a particular way of thinking about a subject. Is that opinion set in stone? When I think about an “opinion”, it is almost something that we can either agree or disagree with. In my mind, it pre-frames a potential fight if it doesn’t match with the particular opinion that the other person holds. You might even approach it with the idea of “this is what I think, and you’ll have to show me all the different evidence to change my mind”. 

So what if you took that opinion, and considered it just one perspective out of many. And no, I don’t mean just give the same thing a different label and just keep using it in the same way. Think about what a “perspective” means to you. If you think about art or photography, the perspective that you use in capturing a scene or picture can change everything. It changes how you look at a particular thing. The perspective doesn’t change the thing you’re looking at though! The object, scene, place, or person is still the same, but the perspective changes how you perceive it. 

With physical objects and visual scenes, it’s easy to understand how your perspective affects how you perceive what you see. What about for ideas? There can be so many varying opinions on things in the world and often times we hold fast to how we think (or feel!) about a certain idea or concept. What if we took a moment to consider that how we think or feel about things is just on perspective of many? Would that make it easier to understand a different perspective? Maybe it would make understanding that there are different perspectives easier as a starting point. 

My intention in writing this is not to enter into an inflammatory discussion about right and wrong. I’m not even trying to change your opinions about one thing or another. I’m just happy to explore different perspectives. 

So after saying that, let’s use the idea of science as an example. Science and things that science explains is often referred to as “fact”. This is a useful perspective to understand much of our world, and yet, it would be good to remember that the scientific method is one where you set a hypothesis, what you expect to be true, and collect observations to see if they support or disprove your hypothesis. Even when the observations support the hypothesis, it only means that the hypothesis is the best current explanation for the observations at this present moment. Many hypotheses have been maintained for many years and not been disproven so these tend to be accepted as fact. They are factual and true for pretty much all practical applications. 

The different perspectives on the idea of science can help us understand the perspective that science doesn’t explain everything, right now. There are things that cannot be explained by scientific examination, but that doesn’t mean certain things don’t exist or aren’t true. You may hold the scientific method as the gold standard for understanding, or you may hold a different opinion. The truth often lies somewhere in between. Just like two people looking at the same object from different angles, the perspective can be different, what you see can be different, but you can be looking at the same thing. 

When you take a moment to reframe opinions as perspectives, you may find it easier to understand how someone can have a different perspective than yours. This is helpful for disagreements with other people and also helpful with disagreements with yourself! If you ever feel stuck in your life and you think that there’s nothing that can be done to change your situation, ask yourself if this is fact or are there other perspectives that you can explore that might help get you moving? Just understanding that there are other ways you can look at your problem can open you up to exploring these alternate perspectives. 

Jonathan Nhan

Jon is passionate about making positive, long lasting changes and opening minds.

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