Why I like to disagree with people

Generally, I don’t seek out conflict. But at the same time, I won’t hesitate to disagree with people – in part for the usual reasons (e.g. I do not want to be a doormat), but also for something that is, to my mind, almost more important.

The way in which people react to being disagreed with is an excellent judge of character. There are quite a lot of people who really hate being disagreed with, perhaps because they’ve never really learnt to deal with it. But disagreements happen in any relationship you enter into, from colleague, to friend, to romance, to family. This means that the way someone reacts to you disagreeing with them is an excellent way to judge whether you want to be around them.

For this exercise, minor naturally-occurring disagreements are best, such as the rules of a game where to go out to eat or whose turn it is to put the bins out. This way you can know that you are unlikely to hit a nerve, which can skew your result. My point, here, is do not chase for disagreements; wait for them to naturally occur and observe the response, then use it to guide your choices.

The ideal response your disagreement should elicit include:

1. Listening. The person should listen to and consider your argument.

2. Calm. The person should remain calm at all times.

3. Debate. If the person wishes to convince you of their view, they should explain their points whilst still listening to yours.

Unfortunately, this is rare, and you may find that you more often encounter a ‘red flag’ response:

1. Anger. The person you have disagreed with becomes verbally and/or physically aggressive, often raising their voice.

2. Talking over you. The person may interrupt continuously, repeat the same points, and completely ignore your point of view.

3. Belittling. Some people respond to disagreement by becoming smug, superior and patronising, often mocking you. This response can be particularly unsettling.

4. Gaslighting. The person may try to make out that you are crazy for having a different opinion, or that it makes you a bad person.

5. Making you out to be a bully. This one can be particularly harsh. In its most minor form, it can be as simple as a guilt trip. It can, however, extend as far as ranting about you on Facebook or trying to get your friends on their side. If they even start this they have gone too far, and are not to be trusted.

This test can also work with saying no. If you say no to someone and they push, be wary. Be especially wary with potential romantic partners – if they won’t accept your no when you don’t want to kiss them on the first date, they probably won’t be accepting it later on either. If they accept it but whine about it or act like they deserve praise, that’s a red flag too. If someone is respectful when you say no, this is a good sign.

So there we are: I disagree with people because it is one of my main ways of deciding how much to trust them.

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