“I just want the facts, ma’am.” (Dragnet)
“Quit yer’ crying. Tell me what what happened.” (My mom)
There was a time when facts mattered a whole lot. In my last few years of teaching, my students couldn’t even identify facts in a simple business case. For anyone who might not have had the great privilege of taking a class in basic business communication, here’s a standard, little, beginner-level case.
Lamont goes to the electronics store and buys a Toshiba stereo on sale. It’s a huge markdown and Lamont is very happy. He’s SO happy he doesn’t see the numerous signs that say,
‘ALL Sales on clearance items are FINAL.’
Lamont gets home, hooks up the stereo, engages the Bluetooth with his iPhone, and proceeds to enjoy all kinds of random music and advertising on Youtube. Lamont is very happy with his purchase until, two months later, the stereo just stops working. He sends an email to the store with a scan of the receipt and a photo of the stereo. He is outraged and wants his money back.
You work in customer service and when you arrive at work on Monday morning, Lamont’s email is the first thing you see. Your hands are tied. You agree that two months isn’t very long to have a stereo, but the store’s policy in this regard is very clear and very strict. It wouldn’t be a clearance sale if stuff could come back into stock. Write the message to Lamont.
I taught them how to approach a case like this and, for the first 12 or so years I taught this course, students mostly got the problem right. They refused the request and offered a discount on a future purchase. They might not have constructed the message correctly (as a bad news message, the bad news should appear toward the end after goodwill and an explanation of store policy) but they got the right answer. They could find the facts, the salient fact being, “You bought the thing on clearance. Signs saying ‘All Sales Final’ were everywhere.”
The last five or so years of my career, many of my students could not distinguish important (and instructive to them in their role as a customer service guy) facts from extraneous information. Some even asked me I how KNEW the facts were FACTS and not opinions. And they argued. I despaired over some of them being able to keep one of the fascinating jobs at Enterprise Rent-a-Car for which they were paying so much money for training. The students in the College of Business were among the best and brightest at the university; to get into the program, they had to have a GPA of 3.0. For teaching? A simple C sufficed. Philosophy had no GPA requirement at all.
Every day I see disputes over facts. We should not dispute facts; we should dispute opinions. Facts, by definition, are indisputable. They are reality, non-negotiable, absolute. We can respond to facts differently, but that does not change the facts. For example. I am 5’1″. I can’t change that because I ‘want’ to or don’t ‘believe’ in it. I need a step stool. My desires can’t alter that. Another fact, my hip is worn out. I currently am happily cruising around on the effects of a cortisone shot, but that has NOT reversed the existing wear on my hip NOR will it prevent further damage. It just makes me FEEL better.
What are NOT facts? Opinions and beliefs. Of those two, only opinions can be disputed with evidence.
Believers do not care at all about facts. “Truth” for them is a matter of how they “feel” about something and the selective sorting of “evidence” to support what they have already decided to be true.
The point of this is when you open your Facebook page and you see some rant, look to see if the rant is based on the objective evalulation of facts or someone’s set of beliefs. Beliefs justify anything the believer wants to justify, whether it’s trophy hunting, teachers should carry weapons into the classroom, anyone who hates Trump is a liberal (I’m not a liberal), MAGA!, etc. ad nauseum.
My tack in this situation is, “If beliefs, then move on.” Why?
“I believe (whatever),” is a fact and there’s no disputing facts. 😀