Your Opinion Doesn't Matter (or Does It?)

A number of things have been hitting our headlines in the past week or so, while I've been out of Singapore.

The most intense bit of news (at least based on the frequency it seems to be appearing) would be that of the now-publicised Lee family dispute. While I have my views on the matter, I will not speculate or discuss them until more facts arise. 

It's always tempting to grab any bit of information that supports one's worldview and shoot off a quick opinion piece or blast a scathing reply on the comment sections. However, it's almost never the best thing to do. Without calmly sifting through the information, putting the pieces together or asking more questions, how can we expect to form a well-informed opinion?

Of course, this is an unavoidable consequence of our ever-connected world of social media. Everyone has an opinion and many people think that their opinion is as valid as anyone else's, so everyone else should listen to what they have to say.

This, of course, cannot be further from the truth. 

First of all, not all opinions are equal. Some opinions are more valid than others.

As an example, a doctor who has been practising medicine for 20 years is far more qualified than even, say, a highly-regarded lawyer to say whether or not Vitamin C helps us recover from a cold.

An experienced electrician would be a far better person to ask about your flickering lights than an insurance agent.

A trained chef will be able to give you better advice on how to keep your steaks moist while grilling them than an IT professional will.

Experts in a field are far more qualified than the general population when it comes to their area of expertise. As such, it stands to reason that their opinions in those areas are far more valid than ours.

Secondly, the freedom to express does not equate to a freedom from responsibility.

Yes, we are able to post what we want where we want. Some people take this to mean that they should speak or type thoughtlessly without regard for others or for their own image.

Anything you post on social media or in a public setting is now part of public domain. You cannot suddenly decide that you are no longer going to take responsibility for what you say/do there. Neither can you blame a moment of folly or a 'slip of the tongue/thumb' for your comments or writing.

If you are going to put up information or opinions, then you will have to take responsibility for them. If you can't or don't want to, then keep them to yourself.

Thirdly, we can agree to disagree.

If two people agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary. 

Just because someone does not agree with you, it doesn't mean that you have to always convince them to agree. It's fine to question and debate. Let's not degrade a possibly fruitful discussion to name-calling and insults.

Every disagreement can be an opportunity to learn instead of a mere bone of contention. We can learn of different viewpoints as well as how different people think.

Just as we want to be heard, shouldn't we allow others to be heard as well?

How an Extrovert Can Better Relate to an Introvert

It started with an information request by a journalist / reporter on how extroverts can better relate to introverts in business as well as personal relationships. I thought I'd write 5 points that may be useful to extroverts.

Defining the Introvert

The essential difference between an introvert and an extrovert is in how each personality type generates energy.

Introverts generate energy by being in solitude, with minimal external stimulation. 

Extroverts generate energy by being around other people and usually feel more 'alive' when they have lots of external stimulation.

External stimulation may consist of sounds like music or talking, visuals like bright lights and television screens, even smells like scented candles and perfumes.

As such, introverts tend to tire (run low on energy) very quickly, especially in novel or large social situations. These happen to be situations that extroverts often revel in, and likely result in extroverts getting puzzled at introverts who want to leave a party early or when they wish to stay home to do something that seems very non-stimulating - like reading.

For extroverts to relate to introverts, it is important to:

1) Understand the introvert's need to be in solitude every now and then

When an introvert is rested and has replenished his/her energy, he/she will be much more engaging because there is energy enough for socialising and general merriment.

Let us have our 'alone time' when we need it and avoid too many questions. We truly appreciate your understanding and we'll soon be back, ready to go.

2) Allow the introvert time to come up with a response

The mind of an introvert is a terribly busy place. Ideas intermingle as they are slowly linked to other bits of information that we've collected over the years. All this organisation and production of coherent thoughts takes a bit of time, so don't expect immediate answers to questions.

Much of the time, the long-awaited response will have been carefully crafted and worded so as not to create controversy or evoke too much emotion (which may end up overstimulating us). As such, it is often worth the wait.

3) Give us a chance to know you a little deeper

Introverts dislike small talk because it feels superficial to us. We prefer to get to know the real you, so tell us more about your deeper thoughts, your likes and dislikes, as well as your views and opinions.

We are, quite frankly, less interested in the stories of you and that friend or the other, unless they are present in the conversation as well. Instead, we would really rather focus on you at the moment, please.

4) Give us prompts sometimes

In a professional setting, such as a meeting, you may sometimes need to give us a little prompt along the lines, "Would you like to add something?" 

Many introverts do not like to interrupt when others are speaking. They prefer to wait for a pause or seek a cue for their contribution. When there are many extroverts around, this may not happen at all. The extroverts will end up wondering why the introverts aren't sharing anything so they fill the pauses with more information. All the while, the introverts are frustrated that the extroverts are hogging the limelight and not giving them a chance to speak up.

So give us an opening now and then. We really appreciate it.

5) Try some of the things we like

Introverts often end up doing the things that extroverts like, such as attending social events and visiting noisy places, because they may not be comfortable interrupting already-made plans or speaking up against them. Unfortunately, they often end up tired and unhappy from all the extra stimulation, even feeling a bit of indignation that their extrovert activity partners never asked for their opinion before making such plans.

We'll feel more cared for and will appreciate your consideration when you offer to do some 'quiet' things with us, like sitting in a small cafe or walking through a park or garden in the cool of day.

Concluding Thoughts

At the end of the day, introverts and extroverts need each other. Introverts benefit from extroverts who help us to break the ice and who make introductions for us.

Extroverts benefit from our painstaking analysis when it comes to planning, especially for a new year ahead.

Instead of seeing each other as weirdos from an opposite camp, let us come together and help each other out in our strengths and cover each other's weaknesses.

Scene of Holland

Binge On History

In the past week or so, I've been binge-ing (is that a word?) on documentaries about history in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. 

Some of the information challenged my 'traditional' views on the area, while other bits made me want to find out more.

Certainly, all documentaries have some bias in them, depending on the angle and intent of the producer. The point, then, is to take in information from different sources and piece them together in a way that makes sense to me. 

A trio of things that struck me:

1) Historical figures are often portrayed in a good light by their own people's history texts. Accounts from other groups of people may shed light on their actual behaviours and deeds.

2) There is little consensus on historical information and what they mean. Interpretations vary according to the historian's culture, personality and mindset.

3) Events that once occurred are often very similar to situations today. It's no stretch to say that 'history repeats itself'.

We Need To Move On From Paris

We live in an age when information is transmitted from one end of the world to the other seemingly at the speed of thought - the moment something happens, people on the other side of the globe know about it within minutes, if not seconds.

This has the advantage of bringing events to the focused attention of many people. However, that is also its disadvantage.

Knowing how the news networks and media work, it's all too easy to create a huge event to take attention away from other things that are happening.

Now that the whole world is focused on the deplorable events that occurred in the City of Love; on how other organisations, groups, and nations are responding; as well as on what governments are doing in light of this, the terrorist organisation involved is likely planning the next one at a location far away, while all our attention goes towards something it has moved on from.

We should certainly render all the help necessary, but we should not dwell on it. Instead, it is probably wiser to figure out what may be happening next.

The longer we stay focused only on this, the more of a head start they have, and the longer we will have to play catch-up.

It is time for us to move, time for us to act, time for us to work towards preventing the next one.