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  • Mark Shaw

Opinions V Facts

This blog focuses on the difference between opinions and facts.

It is important to realise that facts relate only to the past events or agreed and defined rules. Facts are things we can have independently verified. Everything else is an opinion. While both are important, understanding whether the discussion is about facts or opinions is paramount to a good outcome.

It is a fact that the speed zone in an area is 60km/h. While it may be someone’s opinion that you are travelling over the speed limit, it will be a fact you were travelling too fast, if the police radar records you travelling at 70 km/h.

Therefore, in any discussion, it is critical to ensure there is clarity and agreement that everyone is discussing the same facts and/or simply expressing individual opinions.

While I have attuned myself to look for the clues, too often, I witness people in a meeting thinking they are discussing the same facts when in fact they are discussing different facts or even different opinions, thinking they are facts.

For example, I witnessed two men disagreeing on what had been agreed. It turned out they were one sentence apart in where each thought the discussion and agreement was. Once this was clarified and acknowledged, agreement became easy.

In our modern world where information is readily available, the trouble I find is how often there is lack of clarity, and therefore lack of agreement, about what is being discussed.

Take the discussions on the apparent gender pay gap.

The broad argument is that women are paid less than men. And I have personally witnessed heated debates agreeing or disagreeing whether this statement is true.

But what are we talking about?

In my experience, if a man and a woman both drive busses for the local council, both will be on the same pay scale. The same would apply to professional roles such as engineers, accountant, dentists, and doctors. That said, someone driving a bus in the mining industry is likely to be on a higher pay scale compared to the council bus drivers. Yet the key is all male and female bus drivers in the same company will be on the same pay scale. Most government agencies and large corporate businesses have published pay scales that all staff are paid against.

Some may argue women in sport earn less than men. While this is generally true, the rationale is more complex and due to the issues including revenue generating ability.

Therefore, I am arguing that any discussion on a potential gender pay gap cannot be about the basic pay scale.

Is there a gap about annual earnings? If so, is the gap simply because of gender or are there other explanations?

To continue the council bus driver example, if both drivers work the same hours in a year, their earnings will be the same. However, if one driver chooses to work on a part time basis, then their annual earnings will be less than their colleague.

Next time we are having a discussion on any topic, I encourage you to take the time to confirm we are agreeing on the facts and/or expressing our opinion. You’ll get much better outcomes.

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