Thinking Yourself Happy: On Facts and Opinions

Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus


Henry was regarded as opinionated. “I just saw the best movie of the decade,” he announced to some associates. Chris said, “You mean you have just seen a movie that you enjoyed.” “No,” said Henry, “I know the difference between a good and a bad motion picture.” Gordon chimed in. “Most of the time,” be said, “it seems to be a matter of opinion.” “Wrong! ” Henry exclaimed, “it is a matter of fact.”


Do you know anyone who speaks with great certainty about everything, someone who makes statements such as, “Utter nonsense!” or “That’s ridiculous!” or “You’re completely wrong!” when someone disagrees with him or her?

Such people are often insufferable and are seldom popular. Their philosophy is “I think I know, therefore I do know!” Or they declare, “My opinion is not just an opinion, but a fact.”

Being right is very important to such people, even when they are dead wrong. They fail to realize that there is a big difference between fact and truthon the one hand, and opinion, belief, taste,and preferenceon the other. What’s more, what is wrong is not the same as what we dislikeor disapproveof.

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A fact can be tested or checked: Lincoln was born in 1809; that cereal contains a lot of sugar. A belief, opinion, taste or preference cannot: corn tastes better than peas; long hair is more attractive than short hair.

Every person has a right to express opinions without being ridiculed or shouted down. It’s important to avoid attacking or labeling those who disagree with us.

• When not dealing with clear-cut facts, practice saying “It seems to me… It’s my impression… I think… I believe… It’s my opinion….”

Be on guard against people who say, in effect “You are wrong… I am right… You have no taste… You have no brains… You don’t know what’s good….”

If someone says to you “You have no taste” you can politely but assertively correct the person by saying “You mean your taste differs from my taste.” You are entitled to say “This may be a great painting but I don’t particularly like it!”
But if you say “This is a rotten, lousy painting” you’d better be a recognized art connoisseur who is able to explain exactly why, in your opinion, that piece of art falls short.


Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus is a licensed psychologist, Co-founder and Clinical Director of The Lazarus Institute. In addition to his general psychotherapy practice, Dr. Clifford Lazarus specializes in health and neuropsychology.

Dr. Clifford Lazarus received his B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. in psychology from Rutgers University where he was a Henry Rutgers Research Scholar.  Seen here are excerpts from one of his books, The 60-Second Shrink – 101 Strategies For Staying Sane In a Crazy World, a book, he co-authored with his father “One of the ten most influential psychotherapists in America”  Arnold A. Lazarus, Ph.D.  For more details on Dr. Clifford Lazarus visit this link to The Lazarus Institute.  Or visit his page here on

Books available at Amazon by Arnold and Clifford Lazarus

Direct links to two highly recommended books by Dr. Clifford Lazarus & Dr. Arnold A. Lazarus:

The 60-Second Shrink: 101 Strategies for Staying Sane in a Crazy World 

Don’t Believe It for a Minute!: Forty Toxic Ideas That Are Driving You Crazy

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