Three times in the last year I’ve had someone (three different people) make a statement to me which started out with the phrase “Don’t you think . . . “.
In each case, I took what they said at face value: “Don’t you think [insert line of reasoning here]?”
In each case, I actually did not agree with their line of reasoning, and said as much.
“Don’t you think blahblahblah?”
And here is where their verbal tic becomes revealing. Instead of saying “Oh, may I ask why not?”, they instead became very insistent, almost combative. “Oh come on, don’t you think that [insert line of reasoning here] is the reason for [observed behavior]???”
If you are that sure of your line of reasoning, then simply state it.
Don’t ask me what I think of a concept if you have no real interest in actually knowing what I think.
In each case, the “Don’t you think” phrase was followed by some psychological insight.
The questions were not “Don’t you think the weather will [insert prediction here]?”
The questions I was asked were always of the form “Don’t you think [subtle psychological insight which I don’t think anyone else has realized] is the cause of [observed behavior]?”
Well . . . no. No, I don’t think that.
And this is when the combative attitude showed up: “What do you mean you don’t think that? What else could it be??”
Well, it could be a lot of other things, really. And we’re back to what I observe to be a paradox:
Either you are that sure of your theory, in which case state it with assurance.
You are not that sure and would like feedback and someone else’s opinion of your theory, in which case do not get pushy when I state my opinions and thoughts on your theory, opinions and thoughts which you specifically asked me for.
My personal theory is that “Don’t you think . . . ?” does not mean “I want to know what your thoughts are on this matter.” “Don’t you think . . . ?” more typically means “I think I stumbled across something deep and subtle nobody else has realized and I’d like to hear you say you also think I stumbled across something deep and subtle nobody else has realized.”
No, I don’t have any proof for that theory. It’s probably more an opinion — and a cynical opinion at that — than a proper theory. And I fully admit that.
Even if my opinion or theory is wrong, I still wish people would quit asking me questions they don’t want answered.