Tag Archives: taxonomy

“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.

Do You Like Dividing the World Up Into Categories?

08-07-10 I See The Same Old Warning SignsI love taxonomies, categories, ways of dividing people into groups. If you’re the same way, take these quizzes to find out what categories describe you:

1. Are you an under-buyer or an over-buyer? I’m an under-buyer.

2. Are you an abstainer or a moderator? I’m an abstainer, 100%.

3. Are you an alchemist or a leopard? I’m an alchemist.

4. Are you a radiator or a drain? I try to be a radiator.

5. Are you a finisher or an opener? I’m a finisher.

6. Are you a satisficer or a maximizer (yes, these are real words). I’m a satisficer.

7. Are you more drawn to simplicity or to abundance? I’m more drawn to simplicity.

8. Are you a Tigger or an Eeyore? I’m a bit of both, but writing about happiness has definitely brought out my Tigger qualities. (I write a lot about the conflict between these two categories in Happier at Home.)

9. Are you a marathoner or a sprinter? (categories formerly known as “tortoises and hares,” but I changed the terms). I’m a marathoner.

Putting myself into categories is fun, and I think it also gives me insight into my own nature. When I see myself more clearly, I can more easily see ways that I might do things differently, to make myself happier.

Categories can be unhelpful, however, when they become too all-defining, or when they become an excuse. “Oh, I can’t be expected to resist eating the cookies in the cupboard, I’m an abstainer.”

Do you find it helpful to consider these kinds of categories? Or too constraining?

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Quiz: Are You a Finisher or an Opener?

Screen Shot 2013-07-10 at 11.44.23 AMI love dividing people into categories…

Under-buyers and over-buyers.

Eeyores and Tiggers.

Abstainers and Moderators.

Upholders, Questioners, Rebels, and Obligers.

A thoughtful reader and fellow lover of taxonomies, Dianne Volek, suggested a  new system of categories. Let’s call the two types of people “Finishers and Openers.”

Do you get more satisfaction from…

  • Throwing away a container or bottle after using the very last drop, or
  • Opening a fresh new container

I’m a Finisher; my husband is an Opener. I love to extract the last tiny bit out of a tube of toothpaste, and he loves opening the new tube. True, I do love that first squeeze, and the first dip into a new jar of peanut butter, but I also enjoy using the very last bit of the old stuff. I feel a real sense of accomplishment when I use the last egg in a carton (as I did this morning).

Perhaps this explains the weird satisfaction I feel when something breaks or is worn out. Why do I like to see the worn spots on our sofa? Why do I like getting a hole in a pair of socks? Perhaps it’s my Finisher nature, delighting in the finish.

When I visited my sister a few weeks ago, I noticed that she had about twenty bottles of hair products in her shower. I suspect she’s an Opener.

I wonder if this is related to the distinction between Simplicity Lovers and Abundance Lovers.

Do these categories ring true for you? Are you a Finisher or an Opener?

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* * *

I spent the weekend at the World Domination Summit, a terrific event created by my friend Chris Guillebeau. If you’ve never looked at his site, The Art of Non-Conformity, check it out. (Especially if you love to travel. I don’t love to travel, and even I get a lot out of it.)

I’ve heard that a lot of people are giving Happier at Home as a gift to someone with a new home: recent grad, new roommate, newlywed, newly divorced, empty nester, downsizer, upsizer, new baby, new city. At transitions like these, we give special thought to what we want from “home.” So, to make such a gift a little more special, I’ve created a card about “Tips for happiness in your new home” that I will sign and mail to anyone who wants it. Email me here to request them. I’ll send as many as you want, but alas, can mail to U.S. and Canada only. Mailing costs!

Tagging: How to Give Your Content “Findability”

Tip: TAGS

Last week I gave suggestions for blog post titles that draw attention and can be searched easily by topic. Before we explore the inspirational world of tagging, I thought I’d clarify the idea behind the Intent Editor and these tips. None of the tips is mandatory; they are only suggestions and ideas. We choose the weekly tip topics based on questions from community members. Our intent is to be informative, and sometimes persuasive, but never commanding. Onto the juice, then.

Why bother tagging a post?
Tagging brings some order to the sea of information (blogs, videos, websites, links…). Tagging posts by their main ideas groups similar content together.

Is "the more, the merrier" true when it comes to tagging content?

Great question. The answer is no. Specific tags allow the content to be grouped with appropriate content and easily searched by people looking for that topic. A good rule of thumb is 3 to 5 tags per post.

Example
Thumbs up: Academy Awards
Thumbs down: Academy Awards, academy, awards (overdone. Academy Awards is sufficient. academy and awards as individual tags are not indicative of the content.)

Example 

Thumbs up: Pinot Noir, red wine, Pinot (very specific to topic, but also inclusive)
Thumbs down: red, reds (not specific to search engines)
 

Nitty-gritty details of tagging:

  • Intent’s system remembers past tags. As you type in your tag, look for the system to suggest an existing tag.
     
  • Tags are case sensitive. Academy Awards (reads like the Oscars) is different from academy awards (reads like a school and like a prize).
     
  • The system allows for 2-word tags with spaces in between.
     
  • Separate tag terms with commas (not spaces; the system will interpret this as one long and indecipherable tag!).
     
  • Single (‘) or double (") quotation marks aren’t recognized.
     

We welcome any questions and are happy to take a look at a post  and give feedback on tagging/taxonomy. You can leave questions in the comments belows. And if I can’t answer it, I’ll take it to Tom.

Have a topic or question for next week? Write it in the comments and we’ll give it a whirl.

Signing off,
Olivia

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