Facts aren’t final and doubt isn’t disbelief

I often see people use “doubt” and “disbelief” interchangeably.

The two could hardly be more different.

Where a doubt asks a question, disbelief has already reached a conclusion. The voice of doubt whispers, “Is it true?” The voice of disbelief declares, “It’s not true!”

Sometimes, of course, disbelief masks as doubt and pretends to ask a question, but rarely can it hide its sarcasm, or its sneer. And you can often tell the difference: when disbelief asks, it doesn’t really pay attention to the answer, because that never mattered anyway.

Doubts seek answers, but disbelief seeks nothing — it demands only agreement. Doubts invite conversation, but when disbelief declares, “It’s not true!” there’s little more to be said. (And given recent events from around the world, does anyone still doubt not even facts can convince people of what they have determined to disbelieve?)

Facts may assuage doubts, but they are no use against disbelief.

So when I say facts aren’t final, it’s nothing to do with the nature of facts themselves. It’s got everything to do with the nature of the person you’re trying to reach.

So before you respond to that next question with a fact, consider if it’s really a question, or just a conclusion with a question mark.

Can you reach someone disbelieves what you say?

I don’t think it’s totally impossible. But considering that resources tend to be limited for most of us, if you have something to say, developing the skill of distinguishing the people asking questions from those who have concluded might be critical to your mission. The two aren’t an equally smart use of your time.

And if you’re wondering how to develop the skill, I can point you to the first step.

Learn to listen to the people you’re talking to.

Published by Doc Ayomide

I’m a medical doctor with specialty training in psychiatry, and I love thinking and writing about what it means to be human.

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