There is a disturbing pattern developing I have noticed over the last several years, and this problem has only been exacerbated by technology and recent events. What is this issue? Well, plainly stated, people (mostly well-intentioned, I hope) are making comments, arguing, and giving others unsolicited advice regarding consequential matters without accurate information, reliable evidence, or knowledge to support their claims.
Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying because I’m not referring to friends having a conversation over dinner or drinks. And I’m not talking about individuals offering their opinions, either. My concern is with people making certain statements as if they were factual—without doing their homework, i.e., research.
Here are some suggestions to assist you with gathering information on important topics; therefore, becoming more educated on the subject matter yourself. Also, you’ll be better positioned to help those in need.
1.) Gather information from reputable sources.
You must learn which sources you can and cannot trust. Period. And this knowledge will only be gained through time and experience. Thus, if you’re currently unaware of trustworthy places to gather data, ask a person whom you trust to get you started.
2.) Collect the above information from multiple origins.
Just like when you’re researching in college, you cannot gather the entirety of your information from only one source. Why? First, every individual has a bias, no matter how much they may proclaim neutrality. Second, you want to develop a broad view of the topic which can’t be provided by one source. Thirdly, the larger the sample, the better your chances are of gathering accurate information, thereby making critical analysis more effective.
3.) Research from both sides of the topic.
You want to understand both sides of the story to perform a more detailed analysis of the data. As a bonus, you’ll become more educated on the subject matter—making it a win-win situation. For example, when a football team prepares for an upcoming game, they study the other team in detail. The positive results are they learn more information about the opposition and the game of football itself.
4.) Learn to distinguish between facts and opinions and represent them both correctly.
This suggestion might prove challenging for some people because they often let their emotions color their view, and perhaps without deliberate malice, they compromise the truth of the situation. Remember that “facts” are nothing more than data interpreted by human beings prone to making mistakes. Moreover, you never want to be dishonest, misleading, or unclear. That is why I say represent the facts and opinions accurately; otherwise, you’ll damage your credibility.
5.) Stop attempting to silence people who don’t agree with you.
Not everyone is going to agree with you happily—regardless of whether the “facts” are on your side. However, that doesn’t give you the right to silence your opposition. Stop the cancel culture nonsense. True freedom means everyone gets a chance to speak, and anything else is unacceptable.
6.) Don’t get angry or overly emotional.
It’s okay to be passionate regarding topics of importance to you, but you should never become angry or maudlin because it only serves to make you look foolish and uncouth. Enough said.
7.) Develop empathy for people with opposing viewpoints.
Empathy is a quality severely lacking in our world today. I mean, knowledge is terrific; however, genuine sensitivity to another person’s viewpoint is far more paramount. You don’t have to agree with their view or compromise your principles, but you can learn to sympathize. Kindness and compassion are always the best approaches to any situation.
So, there are my suggestions on how to perform research on any subject. But remember not to beat people over the head with data. If you demonstrate empathy, provide information and opinions accurately, and have a genuine interest in helping your fellow men or women, everyone’s life will benefit from doing your homework.