opinions vs. experience

In learning, relationships, stories by Jay Clouse

I spent this weekend with 14 other individuals in a Florida Airbnb named, “Decadent Compound” as part of an amazing birthday celebration of my good friend, Jordan.

She booked the trip with the intention of bringing together 14 people who have been important to her, that she thought would get along, and frankly most of us were strangers to one another.

Given that we had a common tie to Jordan, we all got along super well. It didn’t take long at all for us to be very open and share with one another, and a lot of our conversations got very personal and vulnerable quickly.

One evening, we got on the subject of dating. Only two of us on the trip were currently single (one recently out of a serious relationship), and I was the only one with really any experience in the modern dating reality we live in. So I was more than happy to share my experience and the challenges I see with both the common “online” apps and dating in general with those apps being a cultural norm.

The conversation quickly turned from curiosity and intrigue to argument. It didn’t take long for the conversation to go from trying to understand my experience to trying to tell me how dating should be and how I should be approaching it.

I want to preface — I appreciated everyone at this table. They were all kind, generous, thoughtful, and highly intelligent individuals. Something about this conversation really struck a chord, and we had a very high energy discussion about things like how to marry the common idea of “persistence” as a positive trait with the not OK behavior brought to light by the #MeToo movement.

But back to my original point — in real time, it was amazing to me how absurd it felt for a dozen people in committed relationships, who skipped over the current dating reality, had such strong opinions for what my experience should be. We spent just as much time talking about that (maybe more) than actually digging into the experience itself.

And the opinions were wide-ranging — its own indication that it’s a complicated subject.

What is my point? It’s not that I wished we spent more time talking about my dating life — I’m OK with that. My point is that I realized I do the same thing. I think a lot of people do.

Instead of spending more time to understand and listen to someone’s experience, we are quick to inject our own viewpoints and opinions about that experience. We pontificate on either the ideological correct situation, or we will confidently speak from a place of ignorance.

And it’s frustrating to not be heard.

It felt relevant in a time of so much division, and it had an impact on how I will be talking and learning from others. Because that real experience is much more valuable than my opinion about it.


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