Tag Archives: Debate

“Oppositional Conversational Style”: Why Some People Just Have to Be Right

shutterstock_97220924Back by popular demand is the assay I wrote about the “oppositional conversational style.” This post really seems to strike a chord with people.

Which surprised, me at first, because when I identified OCS, I thought I was the only person who had ever noticed it. Turns out that many people have noticed it! From both sides of the OCS-dominated conversation.

A person with oppositional conversational style is a person who, in conversation, disagrees with and corrects whatever you say. He or she may do this in a friendly way, or a belligerent way, but this person frames remarks in opposition to whatever you venture.

I noticed this for the first time in a conversation with a guy a few months ago. We were talking about social media, and before long, I realized that whatever I’d say, he’d disagree with me. If I said, “X is important,” he’d say, “No, actually, Y is important.” For two hours. And I could tell that if I’d said, “Y is important,” he would’ve argued for X.

I saw this style again, in a chat with friend’s wife who, no matter what casual remark I made, would disagree. “That sounds fun,” I observed. “No, not at all,” she answered. “That must have been really difficult,” I said. “No, for someone like me, it’s no problem,” she answered. Etc.

Since those conversations, I’ve noticed this phenomenon several times.

Here are my questions about oppositional conversational style:

  • Is OCS a strategy that particular people use consistently? Or is there something about me, or about that particular conversation, that induced these people to use it?
  • Along those lines, is OCS a way to try to assert dominance, by correction? That’s how it feels, and also…
  • Do people who use OCS recognize this style of engagement in themselves; do they see a pattern in their behavior that’s different from that of most other people?
  • Do they have any idea how tiresome it can be?

In the case of the first example, my interlocutor used OCS in a very warm, engaging way. Perhaps, for him, it’s a tactic to drive the conversation forward and to keep it interesting. This kind of debate did indeed throw up a lot of interesting insights and information. But, I must admit, it was wearing.

In the second example, the contradictory responses felt like a challenge.

I described oppositional conversational style to my husband and asked if he knew what I was talking about. He did, and he warned me, “Watch out! Don’t start thinking about this, and then start to do it yourself.”

I had to laugh, because he knows me very well. I have a strong tendency towards belligerence—for instance, it’s one reason I basically quit drinking—and I could easily fall into OCS. (I just hope I don’t exhibit OCS already, which is quite possible.)

But I do recognize that to be on the receiving end of the oppositional conversational style—to have someone keep telling you that you’re wrong, over and over—is not pleasant.

It’s wearing at best, and often highly annoying. Even in the case of my first example, when the OCS had a fun, friendly spirit, it took a lot of self-command for me to stay calm and un-defensive. Many points could have been made in a less “Let me set you straight” way.

And in the second example, I felt patronized. Here I was, trying to make pleasant conversation, and she kept contradicting me. It was all I could do not to roll my eyes and retort, “Fine, whatever, actually I don’t care if you had fun or not.”

Now, I’m not arguing that everyone should agree all the time. Nope. I love a debate (and I’m trained as a lawyer, which definitely has made me more comfortable, perhaps too comfortable, with confrontation). But it’s not much fun when every single statement in a casual conversation is met with,“Nope, you’re wrong; I’m right.” Skillful conversationalists can explore disagreements and make points in ways that feel constructive and positive, rather than combative or corrective.

What do you think? Do you recognize it in other people–or in yourself? How I love to try to identify patterns in human behavior. Abstainers and moderators. Over-buyers and under-buyers. Alchemists and leopards. Etc.

If you’d like to get a copy of my Happiness Paradoxes, or the Top Tips sheets, email me your request, and I’ll send it right out.

Finding Neutrality in the Genetically Modified Food Debate

GMO debate IntentI’ve been heavily involved in understanding and tracking the GMO debate for many years.  As an expert for the natural products industry, the issue of genetic modification and the role it should or should not play in natural products is a heavily debated (and litigated) topic. You need look no further than the New York Times, the Dr. Oz show, or your Facebook feed to get a dose of the emotion and polarized positions on both sides of this subject.

Over the course of these years I have come to a couple conclusions that I believe heavily influence our ability to productively communicate about this issue: 1) Despite the rapidly growing debate on this subject, there is still an incredible lack of awareness about GMO and an even bigger level of ignorance about the various topics at play under the “GMO” label, and 2) the emotional intensity this topic carries with it makes improved education, understanding and rational dialog a seemly impossible task at times.

I confess that I also feel a lot of emotion about this subject and wish for more information and understanding. I am troubled by conventional farming practices, the petro-chemical use required to keep it going and the seeming disregard for the natural wisdom of nature. I worry about the global impact the spread of these farming practices into developing countries will have not only to the health of the soil and people but to the traditional farming wisdom that will no longer be passed from generation to generation.

On the flip side, I believe that as humans we are hard-wired to experiment, research and evolve our understanding of the world. Given what I know of evolution and farming, biotechnology seems like a logical place for exploration in science. It’s in the application of this science that things start to get complicated to me. My sense is that, like most things, the best scenario for people and the planet as it relates to GMO is toward the center from either side of the extreme.

Last week I came across a series of articles that are currently posting on Grist.org attempting to do the thing I’ve been hoping I would have the ability to do myself someday – investigate and dissect this issue without emotion and understand the impact of biotechnology in food crops on human and planet health.

Like me, the reporter, Nathanael Johnson, has been wishing for a rational dissection of this issue for many years. I’ve spoken to some of the same people he’s interviewed for this series and am impressed by the depth of his research. I’ve been reading and note taking as each of his articles are published and hope that if you’re also seeking to understand this complex issue, you will take the time to read his pieces as well.

You can find a link to the first article in his series here and can find links to subsequent articles in the series at the bottom of the piece.

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Image by Steve Rhodes

Design the truth.

truth-design

 

“You know, I really don’t like convincing people that I’m right,” I told my friend the other day.

He and another friend of ours had an exchange of truths. One spoke the truth, the other refused to accept it no matter how reasonable, logical and all-together truthful the truth was.

“I prefer my own truth” he said “I hear what you are saying and I understand, and I choose to believe what I believe”.

It was an interesting dance to observe. Frustrating, yes, for the truth in question seemed truthful to me too, and the refusal to acknowledge it grated on my … what exactly? What was it grating on? My rightness? My … no, I don’t know what was pulled, what was pushed, what was triggered, but something was. It made me feel uncomfortable yet, at the same time, I admired the choice my friend made: to hold on to his truth.

And I realized then, it was then that I formulated this awareness in words: I do not like convincing people that I am right.

Yes, it feels good at first, whatever gets triggered, pushed, pulled by opposition becomes satisfied when my opponent acknowledges my rightness at last, yet that momentary pleasure leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Because I feel like I squashed someone. I do not feel like I contributed to him – I feel like I took something away. I feel I took away from his originality, from his uniqueness.

I feel, when I persuade someone to my way of seeing the world, that I know her less. That, while looking into her eyes, all I see is a reflection of myself.

And I do not like it.

So you see, in the end, if my sticks are ever to make a difference in anyone’s world it will not be because they have managed to make another’s world more like my own, but because they inspired others to have a world of their own. To have a truth of their own.

To design it. To own it. To live it.

Delightfully Wrong

It makes me smile to think of just how good it can feel to be wrong about something. I was very wrong when I did a blog post referencing the first presidential debate, calling for Barack Obama to quit being "Mr. Nice Guy."

In yesterday’s debate, Obama was firm and thoughtful — and centered. It was perfect. In retrospect, it was perfect of him to let McCain’s condescending approach in the first debate fall unopposed like rain.

When I consider what it will take to have peace on earth become a reality, I am clear that it will be through individuals transformed in critical mass as Deepak would say. For my own part, I see my transformation as a journey barely begun. This is particularly true when there is an opportunity to witness the calm Obama displays while under pressures I cannot begin to comprehend.

Obama’s grace in both debates, his presidential bearing and intelligence are very inspiring. Last Saturday I was lucky enough to see Obama speak in Virginia.

I’ve been fortunate enough to see Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, John Kerry (twice!) and now Barack Obama. Obama’s presence is the most impressive to me of all of these. This is a man of great strength and amazing calm.

And I couldn’t be happier to be wrong.

Obama/McCain — Is Your Mind Made Up?

With the campaign becoming increasingly fraught as election day grows near, the expectation is that the gloves are coming off in tonight’s debate.

Both candidates have tried to stay above the political fray and not engage in "politics as usual" smear tactics, but can it last? Will their performance tonight influence your vote? Or is your mind already made up?

Conservative Parker Calls for Palin to Go — About Time

The Associated Press ran a story on Friday, September 26th titled, "Conservative columnist: Palin should go." The article explained, "A conservative columnist who welcomed Sarah Palin’s entry in national politics says she’s proven to be a dud and should step aside as John McCain’s running mate."

The article was referring to Kathleen Parker, who had written in the National Review Online, "Only Palin can save McCain, her party, and the country she loves. She can bow out for personal reasons, perhaps because she wants to spend more time with her newborn. No one would criticize a mother who puts her family first."

Here’s my question:

Whose opinion about Governor Palin has changed after last night’s debate?

Some maintain Palin did GREAT at the debate. Since when was not falling flat on your face a mark of doing great when you’re running for the second highest office in the country?

True, if you’re looking for a folksy, hot mama spouting lately picked up quasi-political jargon — someone with whom you could sit down and swig a coke and swap child rearing stories — she’s your gal. She can say "heck" and "doggone it" and other "darndest" things and wink all the way to there and back with the rest of the hockey moms, but I just thought I’d mention where we are — we are on our way to a heartbeat from the WHITE HOUSE! And to get up there with millions watching around the world, to play a one-person gladfest for the cameras, just seems a tad bit disrespectful and slightly offensive. Who agrees with me?

Also folks, remember the last time we picked a guy we thought it would be fun to drink beer with? We got hijacked, lied to, duped and left with the BIGGEST financial CRASH since 1932.

Who thinks this time around we could use a little less home-spun camraderie and a few more facts, some experience and a world vision — not to speak of, respect for the second-highest office in the country?

Who do you think will win tonight’s debate?

Who do you think stands a better chance of winning tonight’s debate at the University of Mississippi and why?

The focus of the debate is foreign policy. Given all the craziness of this week – will the candidates be able to stay on message?

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