In an earlier post, I discussed how to debate with others in real life. As we engage in discussion or debate with others, we often come across the person that wants to argue just for the sake of arguing.
Gretchen Rubin identifies this as oppositional conversational style.
Oppositional conversational style is a person, who in a discussion or debate disagrees with and corrects everything that you say. They may do this in a friendly or perhaps a belligerent manner. This may be face-to-face, or in online settings.
What does this look like?
This person will provide facts, alternative facts, beliefs, & suppositions all to suspend or carry on the debate. There is no desire to engage in a real debate. There is also no desire to come to a common ground through dialogue.
The individual may not listen in the debate. They frequently interrupt, monopolize, and/or hijack the conversation to present their own agenda.
This may include attempts to force a dynamic in the discussion, or not moving on from a topic when both parties are not receptive. Alternatively, this may also include randomly and abruptly changing topics without transition or apparent reason.
There may be several reasons individuals engage in oppositional conversational style. It could be that emotions are causing them to act irrationally. They may be trying to cover up an incomplete understanding of the facts. They may simply not have the knowledge or intellectual fortitude to engage in discussion or debate.
What to do
In these instances, we often want to continue to debate and understand the individual…or make them understand our point of view. This is often a fruitless endeavor.
Keep in mind that it’s not always necessary to change someone’s mind. Do not get emotionally overwhelmed in the interaction.
Realize that some issues are objective and some are subjective. Objective issues deal with concrete, or observable facts. If the other individual does not want to discuss facts, you may be arguing in vain.
When you find yourself in a discussion or debate with someone that utilizes an oppositional conversational style, the best course of action may be to end the discussion before it starts.
If you see any of the patterns identified above, it may be best for you to end the debate before it continues.
I believe that it is much easier to be direct and honest with the individual. Ask them the following question:
Is there anything that I can say to change, or make you reconsider, your perspective?
If they indicate that there is nothing you can say or do to make them change their mind, it is time to remove yourself from the conversation.
Your relationship with the person should dictate your response. If it is a family member you may decide to ask them about their conversational style to better understand their logic. If it is a boss or co-worker, it might be better to accept their position and move on. If this is an acquaintance or someone that you don’t really know, you should change the subject, or walk away.
If you value this content like this about critical thinking, you should subscribe to my weekly newsletter.
Also published on Medium.