What I am about to tell you might sound blindingly obvious, but for those who grasp it, it revolutionises their thinking. There are many more who have not grasped it at all. It will save you time, improve decision making and make arguments more constructive.

There are two major classes of information we deal with in our day-to-day lives: subjective and objective. Subjective information lives inside of the mind, it comes from an insider perspective. It is the things that you “know”, for example how you feel about something, or information that is abstract from the things around us. Objective information comes from an outsider perspective, it is the things that multiple people can observe and agree upon.

The validity of these two types of information formed a major debate in the early history of psychology. They are actually both valid and useful. Subjective information takes the form of an opinion, while objective information takes the form of a fact. However, not everything that gets presented as an objective fact is one. Spotting these imposters can make radical improvements in our thinking.

Subjective information is useful, but only when we understand that it is subjective and open to change and interpretation. The opinions that people hold, including our own, reveal a lot. They point to assumptions that have been made, thinking shortcuts based on beliefs that we hold. Knowing what goes off inside our heads is valuable insight.

How do you spot objective facts? Test them. Is it something that can be independently verified? Has it been? Understand the assumptions that have been made to support the statement. Are they valid? Facts are externally, consistently verifiable. I’m not going to get into epistemology here, but when you, or someone else, says something, ask yourself, is this subjective (individual opinion) or objective (verifiable fact).

Perhaps this diagram will help:

Objective and Subjective

A note here. Subjective information from three people in agreement is not the same as objective information (so much for the wisdom of crowds).

Enough thinking for one day. Back to some doing, just be aware of what is subjective and what is objective…