On silence

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2 min read

People often don’t say what they think. Instead, they weigh up the situation and adjust their views accordingly.

Our willingness to express an opinion is a direct result of how popular or unpopular we perceive it to be. We will avoid expressing an opinion that we think is unpopular. We will make a point of showing that we think the same as others if we think it is popular.

We may also be willing to express an unpopular and uncontroversial opinion rather than an unpopular and controversial one.

Humans are social animals. We are instinctively aware of whether voicing an opinion might affect our social standing. We don’t want to risk social exclusion or even ostracism. Remaining part of a group is important for survival and we need to appear to belong in the group and share the popular view.

Implications

This means we often paint an inaccurate picture of ourselves, and what we see is often not an accurate picture of others around us.

A sudden change in what opinion is popular will drive the shift in what people will say, although not what they actually think.

Because people don’t voice their true opinions, a minority of highly vocal individuals can end up influencing what is popular, and thus influence what others will say in public discourse.

This becomes a vicious spiral where the deviant but vocal views keeps getting feedback to become even more vocal and more influential.

This shows that it is important to be authentic. To speak your mind. And we should also listen with an open-mind to encourage proper discourse that gives us a clearer picture and more accurate results.