04/18/2014 11:21 am ET Updated Jun 18, 2014

Verbal Safe Haven

My brother recently mentioned a conversational trend he had noticed -- that whereas people once prefaced their thoughts and opinions with "I think that..." they now are more apt to lead with "I feel like..." The ellipses contain similar content in most cases, I presume, yet the expression of those thoughts is being executed differently.

I think it is human nature for people to be wary of the way others perceive and interpret their thoughts. And I think that this is the root of the trend to tend towards expressing our beliefs in terms of "feeling" rather than "thinking."

The above is an assertion, and one that -- as with any thesis -- is disputable. A stranger is more prone to blatantly refute something you think, but to refute something you feel presents a menagerie of ethical dilemmas. What you think is an opinion, and everyone has one, right? But whose right is it to oppose what you "feel"?

It is far too easy, then, for our thoughts to be vulnerable to the attitudes of others; how we feel about our thoughts, though, is a more personal and rigid imprint that I posit is more difficult for others to threaten to manipulate, and thus easier for us to express.

It is an underwhelming yet consequential assertion -- and one that I make purely observationally and without any empirical evidence -- that people now are far more concerned with the way others perceive them than they had been in the past. There is constant pressure for our thoughts to be generally accepted by the person with whom we share them, and the domains of scrutiny have expanded beyond just face-to-face interaction. In this type of imposing environment, it is often more comfortable to not express our views at all than to do so and face the possibility that others might scorn our beliefs.

For the sake of our own emotional conviction and the defense of our opinions, then, is it not more appealing to present our thoughts guised by the indication that we feel a certain way about them -- thus lending ourselves protection from the antagonisms of disagreement? It would take a true misanthrope to directly assault another's emotions; hence, by so prefacing our sincerest views or intellectual postulates with words that indicate feeling, we offer ourselves momentary protection from discrepancy in opinion.

This fleeting shield of saying that we "feel" what we "think" might quickly dissolve as our thought is analyzed for being just that -- an intellectual contribution -- and is then liable to be contended. I assert that the trend to say that we "feel" rather than that we "think" is a reflection of the pervasive dependence we all have on the opinions others hold of our own opinions. In a world that constantly assaults people's thoughts as right or wrong, accepted or rejected, to present our thoughts as feelings seems to be a sociolinguistic method of psychological homeostasis; it is an irrefutable reflection of our desire to temporarily guard ourselves from a fearsome breach in public acceptance that we all strive to procure.