During the 1978 flight from New York to Portland, one of the crew members kept quiet and did not give his opinion about certain defects in the aircraft. He didn’t want to contradict the pilot and the co-pilot. Unfortunately, this flight ended in tragedy. Giving your opinion can therefore be of vital importance.
We get stressed when we disagree with others or think differently. That has to do with the fact that we are social beings who feel good when we belong to a group.
It’s also why giving your opinion can be scary at times. After all, we don’t want to be rejected or offend anyone. We also don’t want to encourage instability in our environment.
Who am I really?
For fear that people will reject or exclude us, we sometimes hold back from expressing our views. However, this causes us to stray from who we really are. It can also lead to a standstill in a group or in a community. A group cannot evolve if all its members always match.
The great breakthroughs in the world were made possible thanks to the people who decided to raise their voices and express their views, even when other people disagreed with them.
If Martin Luther King hadn’t expressed his views on racial discrimination, civil rights would never have changed. Another perfect example is Nelson Mandela. There have been many others throughout history.
Giving your opinion a voice is an act of courage
It takes courage to give your opinion a voice, especially when it contradicts the opinion of others. People seek mutual identification through consensus.
The people who pose a risk to the group are often rejected, or at least initially. This rejection ranges from small gestures of disapproval to exclusion from the group.
Majorities always tend to impose themselves. When you give your opinion a voice that challenges theirs, you put yourself in the spotlight. And when we feel outnumbered, we are bound to experience psychological pressure. That is why you should be brave to express your opinion.
This is an almost instinctive matter. Human beings need other human beings to survive. Your physical and psychological survival depends on it. After all, you will have a hard time staying alive if you are completely alone. To go against the majority you have to defy that survival instinct. And that is not easy.
Some studies on this topic
In the 1950s, Solomon Asch, an American psychologist, conducted several experiments on peer pressure and its effects. He has shown that moving away from the majority is very difficult to do.
In his experiments, some undercover scientists forced wrong answers on others. What was the result? Less than 37% of the individuals studied preferred to follow the answers of the majority, even though they believed they were incorrect.
A few years later, the neuro-economist Gregory Berns investigated how the brain changed when one separated from the majority.
He concluded that disagreeing with something increased amygdala activity. The amygdala processes emotions such as fear. However, the people who followed the group showed lower stress levels.
The importance of disagreement
It is easier emotionally to conform to a group than to express an opinion that goes against the majority. However, if we act like a flock of sheep just following others, we are probably contributing to the perpetuation of totalitarianism. There will therefore be no collective progress.
University of California, Berkeley, researcher Charlan Nemeth proved that jury decisions were much fairer when one of the jurors disagreed with the majority. These disagreements often cause people to reconsider the facts and the circumstances.
When someone questions the opinion of the majority, the people who agree with the majority will feel compelled to gather more evidence so that they can prove their position. And this is something positive.
Giving your opinion a voice is therefore very important. You have to be true to yourself. You may be wrong. That is of no importance, however. The most basic thing is that you let your conscience guide you. You are reclaiming your right to think differently.
As a social species, it is important that we learn to listen to the people who think in a different way. We have to focus on the most valid arguments without thinking how many people agree or disagree with them.