Until You Have Tried It

To some extent or other, people are susceptible to the opinions of others, they are relied on. But much of that opinion is not based upon personal experience, it is just what “they” say. They say a lot of things and often with a level of assertion that one might expect from an expert. Again, that expertise is not based on deep personal experience, rather a pressing need to opine. The truth is that until you have tried it yourself, you simply don’t know and the reliance upon hearsay is prejudicial. One judges a situation based upon the hearsay of what “they” say. Conclusion comes before experience. This is scientifically suspect and yet not uncommon. Even scientists do this especially when it comes to defining what is and is not whacko. We are social animals and what our peers or “they” say, can outweigh experimentally and experientially determined fact. People are a bit lazy. Anecdotal evidence garnered at the font of “they” influences a whole bunch of stuff. Weight is given to opinion and that opinion is sourced in those keen to opine without any actual evidence. The urge to opine is strong in some.

Until you have tried something and given it a good go, immersed yourself in it, you simply don’t know what it is all about. If you take up a martial art, you probably won’t understand it all that much, until you have been doing it for about three years. Then you will have given it a fair go and have started to understand something about it. Until such time as this, you are scratching the surface. There are many people who are instant experts about a whole bunch of stuff. It is a bit like a sachet of instant soup, you open up the soup, pour it in a cup, and add boiling water. It looks like soup, but it is not real home-made soup. Drinking a few cups of this does not confer an in-depth knowledge of all soups.

Some things we kind of know we don’t want to try. However, we might be prejudiced from the get-go. We may not want to go somewhere because of what we have read or heard about it. We may want to go somewhere because of reviews. People rely on opinions. And we can make ours up without any basis, especially after a glass or two. There is a real danger that when someone is bullshitting it becomes a part of the set of what “they” say. The set of what “they” say has amongst its members bullshit. Many do not use discernment all that much.

If you want to know something you must try it yourself. That is, you need to apply it not simply talk about it. If you want to know what someone is thinking, then asking them is the only way to hear it from the horse’s mouth. Even this is not sure-fire, because communication between beings is an inexact science. Hearsay is an unreliable evidence base. At one level everybody knows this, yet we forget as and when it suits.

Having cued this up:

How much do I rely on the opinions of others?

Have these ever strengthened my prejudices?

Have I ever stopped myself from doing things because I already “know” about it without trying it for myself?

The Busybody Distraction

We all have opinions. I suspect that many of us have opinions about how other people might fix their lives, what it is they need to do and some of us interfere. Being fixed up on a blind date might lead someone to marry a prince after all. What others should do and how they ought to behave, isn’t an uncommon topic of conversation. This tendency to be a busybody, whether active or passive, runs through society. And many feel the urge to give advice even if that advice isn’t asked for. We can inflict that advice on others. In a sense it could be said that I am doing this. I can justify my behaviour because it is so easy to click away. I am not forcing my views on anyone. They can come and go as they please.

I used to have a role giving “advice” way back and I even did courses on personal development. I have stopped doing the latter and no longer have that role. Unsolicited advice is generally unwelcome. There has to be some kind of need and willingness before advice is sought. It is a funny thing this giving advice but many of us do it. Others seek advice so as to argue with it, it is a kind of game. Many enjoy dabbling in the affairs of others, we have The Busybody Distraction. It can distract us from what is going on in our own lives and trying to fix others can be a pass time. Others like to save people from themselves. There is a fine line between help and over evangelism.

The best way I have found to reconcile this is summed up in this phrase, “respect the journey of others.”

This is so much more empowering than playing the busybody, in the long run. If someone is hell-bent on a particular direction, let them find out for themselves. It is related to an Aikido principle of getting out of the way of someone rather than fighting. It is not contending. There is quite enough contention in the world already. Many expect contention because they are contentious. Each being has their own journey.

Few are ready to acknowledge that The Busybody Distraction is just that. The world is a better place once we have opined. Herein lies a treasure. The advice we give to others will in some way apply to ourselves, not always but often.

How we use our time is a matter for each of us. I’ll hypothesise that the time we spend in The Busybody Distraction, might be better used in evolving ourselves. Being a busybody requires intelligence gathering or stalking and usually some gossiping. Neither of which are life enhancing, really.

Here are some questions pertaining:

How much time to I devote to The Busybody Distraction?

Am I prone to giving advice to others?

Do I respect the journey of others or can I simply not resist the temptation to interfere?

Provenance and Authority

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is a tendency for people to defer to authority and to check provenance, to rely on reviews and the opinions of others. This provides some consensual “certainty”. Once one becomes an authority in any given field, weight is given to your utterances. People may refer back so as to provide some sense of provenance. At the beginning of this I have done just this. I have quoted. And this quote refers to a pioneering spirit. I have sought provenance.

These days we hand our power over to many things; sat. navs ., apps., online reviews, Trust Pilot and in academia the number of citations is a badge of honour. To be cited is to become an authority. There is a part of me that wonders if humanity is losing the ability to think for itself and by itself. It has become reliant, dependent on things like comparison web sites and on review after review after review. People look for a star rating and the number of shares, follows, likes and thumbs ups. Statistics provide a normative consensual “proof”, a guarantee even. This tends towards, the same as, a kind of mean or an average which is broadly “acceptable” but rarely pioneering. If one hands power over to consensus, true pioneering ceases. After all the world is flat or at least it used to be, people never actually fell off the edge.

This idea of guarantee, of warranty, is a part of modern business practice. People want to be sure what they are buying and for how long it will last. There is a mindset which transfers into human intimate relationship and the check box wish list thinking plagues many a dating site. Being risk averse, it is very difficult to relate meaningfully.

For an idea or concept, the level of credence attached is weighted by reputation and public reputation at that. This reputation is a social construct and is heavily influenced by popularity and confirmation bias. One believes ideas close to those already held, anything “far out” is clearly poppycock. Credence is also related to power or perceived power. For many what the Pope says is given credence. If Fred down the pub said the same thing, it would not be listened to with quite the same credibility, even if the spirit and content were identical. So, this provenance thing, has a large impact on credence, irrespective of content. If some big cheese says something, it is believed. Whereas if a minnow, however erudite, utters; it can be ignored. Status and credibility are entwined, though even a preliminary analysis suggests that this might lack objectivity. Status has to it a bewitching glamour which can impact upon objectivity. The cult of the personality remains as attractive as ever. People of high status, with reputation, tend to listen to only those of equivalent or higher status.

Power by association to high status individuals is sought by many. Power by association to individuals or groups, is attractive. It is related to branding. Aldi is lower status than Waitrose. Apple is higher status than Acer. This social one-upmanship prevails. It is just possible that snobbery is active here! People like to belong to a group, an organisation, a gang or a brand. It gives tribal identity and a sense of belonging. Some are proud of it; they are Nike and not Adidas, Superdry and not Levi’s. These cultural identifications introduce a prejudice.

How much autonomy of thought do I have?

Am I easily influenced by group-mind or can I think for and by myself?

To whom do I hand my power over?