There are people who are open to seriously considering new ideas, proposed changes, and deviations in the plans as they are currently laid out. Surprisingly, they take care in setting aside their attachment to, and investment in, a certain idea. They listen to us tread the sensitive lines of contention while we propose a, perhaps, better way of doing things. Even if they aren’t completely sold on a deviation that we propose, they’ll often agree with certain aspects of it, and applaud the merits which guide it.
There are other people, who act oppositely to what is described above. Their minds are difficult to pry open, and their opinions are rigid. Any new idea sent their way gets shot down with a state-of-the-art automated defense system which is designed to seemingly protect their pride.
These people perceive agreement with an idea which counters their own to be akin to a loss. They’re on a mission to have everyone agree with how they’ve biasedly judged their own output into the world. Sometimes, these people hold positions of power over us. Their aversion to agreeing with others, appropriately categorizes them as disagreeable individuals.
This article is about effectively navigating around, and over, disagreeable people’s barriers. It aims to provide some insight into the process of squeezing your idea through to a disagreeable person’s open, authentic perception. The overarching thing to remember prior to delving deeper, is the notion of refraining from any brute force attempts to penetrate the rigid walls of opinion that they’ve built.
The Game of Not Exposing Your Position for Them to Latch On, and Disagree With
The first thing you should remember when dealing with disagreeable people, is that their disagreeable personality is ineffective when there’s nothing to disagree with. The more obvious you are in your stances around a disagreeable person, they easier it is for them to disagree with you. Once they do, it’s generally difficult to change their mind surrounding the notion with which they’ve disagreed.
When you’ve labelled someone to be a disagreeable person, begin playing a sort of game inside your mind. This game, consists of seeing how long you can go without giving them anything rigid and obvious to disagree with. That specific thing can be a stance on a political issue, or an idea for a new way to do things at work. It can also be an obvious correction to an idea of theirs; with which they’d probably quickly disagree.
Play the game of simply not giving these people anything to contend against when first attempting to penetrate their barriers of disagreement. Your participation in this game, will naturally lead to adopting a subtle role in your dealings with the individual in question. You’d be more likely to ask questions than to make outright statements. You’d be more likely to show these people how wrong their ideas are, rather than tell them outright. Most of all, you’d be less likely to be rejected, as you’d try to give them nothing to reject.
Contextualize your role in this game as competing against this person’s triggers for disagreement. As they’ve been honed after years of disagreements, the individual’s sensors for rigidities with which they can disagree are likely astute. They can sense something to disagree with from a mile away. If this person holds a position of importance at work or in business, it becomes even more necessary to avoid these sensors and triggers. Though this may seem to be an aversive strategy for getting a point across, it is a merely strategic one.
You’d be foolish to not survey the landscape prior to going into battle of any kind. Why place yourself at a disadvantage by being blindly rigid with those who blindly contend with any rigid notion? Play the smart game, and become a master at being able to smoothen the edges of your opinions.
How to Play the Game Like a Master
The strategy to playing this game well is simple. Ask questions which make the person you’re conversing with realize and adopt your own thought process on the matter. Remember, most statements you tell people have roots as questions in your own mind. As you’ve come up with an answer to the question in your mind, you’re likely to present it as a statement for people to trust and adopt. Disagreeable people are likeliest to disagree with the statements that you propose. They fail to see the merit in your internal processes of answering a series of unvoiced questions prior to making your statements public.
For instance, if attempting to explain to others why a woodpecker picks a certain spot on a tree to begin pecking at, you’re likely to ask yourself a few questions first:
- Does a woodpecker rely on smell to find insects in the bark of a tree?
- How about sound?
- What if they’ve been conditioned to peck at only a certain kind of insect friendly bark?
In your mind you’d take educated guesses, based on other evidence you gather, to come up with an answer you think is most right. In this case, you’d likely utter:
“I think they can hear the insects crawling in the bark prior to pecking with force.”
A disagreeable person in that scenario could say:
“I don’t think so, because insects don’t make that much sound do they…”
If you were attempting to not give that disagreeable person anything rigid to disagree with, you’d take a different approach. You’d voice the questions you had internally in your own mind out loud, and would work toward an inclusive solution with the individual in question. You’d act out the role of an intellectual guide, rather than a presenter.
“Did you notice how the woodpecker pecks at the tree very lightly at the beginning, prior to pecking with force?”
“Yeah, what do you think that’s for?”
“Well, I’ve been thinking how it knows where to peck at, and it seems that it listens for some sort of sound distinctions prior to deciding where to peck.”
“You mean it pecks lightly first to figure out where to peck harder?”
“Yeah, seems like it uses sound to locate the insects in the bark.”
The game of smoothing over the edges of your stances by voicing internal processes seems lengthy. You may think that it’s not worth the time and effort to work your way into disagreeable people’s consideration with subtlety. However, consider the time and effort it would take to counteract someone’s act of disagreeing with a simple, but rigid, statement that you make. You’d likely need to go through the process of voicing your internal dialogue behind the statement anyway, except this time with a disagreeable person breathing down your neck.
Rather than offering your internal mental processes for the disagreeable person to adopt while in a neutral state, contending against someone who’s actively disagreeing with you is more difficult and lengthy. Prior to beginning your journey of convincing a disagreeable person to adopt your opinion or stance, weigh out how much effort it would take to play the game of subtlety vs. the game of contention. The proposal this article makes, is that overall, the game of subtlety will result in fewer disagreements that waste energy and time contending against.