Have you ever noticed that you don’t normally voice opinions that are likely to be rejected in a given group of people? I notice that very often. And I just learned that it has a name — the spiral of silence effect — and want to share a couple of thoughts about that with you.
When you think of it, it kind of makes sense: no one wants to be rejected by their community because of opinions. So most often, we air only those that will get us “likes”, “favourites” and pats on the back, and we silence those that others will most likely disagree with.
Let me give you a silly example. A couple of weeks ago, somebody in the office mentioned the show of the Chippendale dance troupe that took place in Krakow this year, and somebody else got offended: “What, in the Congress Centre? Such a cultural venue!” I wanted to protest: “But male erotic dance is culture, too! Just belongs to a different section of it.” But then, I thought “oh, well…” and didn’t say a word.
I might now say that I didn’t say anything because I don’t care about the issue enough to argue. True enough, but would I sound my protest if the conversation was about something I consider important?
The thing is I probably wouldn’t. If I tried to explain why that is, there’d be a couple of reasons other than “I don’t want to be unpopular” to it. One is that I don’t believe in some people’s capability for listening to other people’s opinions and taking them seriously when these opinions differ. Another is that I don’t believe in my argumentative skills much, either. Is the fear of being rejected one of the reasons, too?
I wouldn’t say so. Of course I wouldn’t say so. Nobody would. Would you?
I guess we all like to think about ourselves as competent opinion holders who put a lot of conscious effort into considering the world around us in all its complexity, and never abstain from speaking out for what we believe in, and don’t pay attention to popularity if a serious matter is at hand, and blah, blah, blah…
But reading some more about the spiral of silence effect gives me the idea that maybe, just maybe… we aren’t.
Have a good week,