You Probably Know What You Think Before You Think You Do

How did you develop your political opinions?

Whether you lean right or left, I would guess you would probably answer this question in one of two ways, depending on the issue in question. Either you came to your opinions based on logic or based on morality.

And I would contend you are likely wrong on both counts.

After having read, watched, listened to, and been involved in countless political issue discussions I have developed a theory that what really matters when it comes to formulating our deeply held opinions is not logic nor morality. Our reason and our belief systems are not the drivers of our opinion-making process. They come later, to fill in the dissonance gaps after our minds have already been made up.

No. The most important factor when it comes to making up your mind on something is your preference for certain communication styles.

If you prefer speaking with someone or listening to someone who speaks with authority and confidence, who tends to use everyday language that you don’t have to break out a dictionary to understand, who speaks matter of factly, and who doesn’t hedge much or provide a bunch of disclaimers, you probably lean conservative.

If, on the other hand, you prefer communicators who are more deliberative, who tend to qualify their comments and frequently recognize the potential validity of opposing viewpoints, and who sprinkle in vocabulary terms that cause you to wonder which Ivy League school they attended, you probably lean liberal.

Basically, it all boils down to trust. We trust people who “get” us. We trust that because they get us, they think like us, understand us, and therefore understand what would hurt us. Further, because they are like us, they wouldn’t want to hurt us.

And what is our sole tool for determining who gets us? Their communication style.

Trust is established, or not, almost instantly upon being exposed to another person’s communication style. When people we trust tell us stuff, we tend to agree with them. When people we don’t trust tell us stuff, we tend to disagree with them.

And then we rely on our reason and morality to provide us with arguments as to why we agree or disagree them.

At least, that’s my theory. What do you think? Are all of your political issue positions well reasoned and/or based on strong moral ground? Or do you think it might be possible that you are simply drawn to one communication style over another?