Adjust Your Attitude When Dealing With a No Person

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Your Goal: Transition to Problem Solving
[One of the 10 difficult behaviors that represent normal people at their worst, a No Person is more deadly to morale than a speeding bullet, able to defeat big ideas with a single syllable.]

Opposition draws its strength from standing against another position. So it is possible to create opposition in others by voicing your own strong positions before understanding theirs. Yet some opposition is simply created out of thin air by people who oppose as a way of standing out from the crowd. A person opposed for opposition's sake is a contrarian, and his behavior is called a Polarity Response. For him, opposition is a way to assert his identity, and give himself a sense of independence, importance and control. A contrarian is likely to resist any obvious attempt at persuasion, which means that subtlety how you win the day.

The key to dealing with a contrarian is first to notice that it is happening, and then play the polarity of it. You can notice it is happening because the position is completely and unequivocally against your position. For example, the contrarian declares that your idea "won't work, never did, never will, no way." To play the polarity, first you agree with his position about your position. "You're right. It won't work. No way, no how." This makes it a very uncomfortable and confusing situation for him. How can he disagree with you if you agree with him? Then you go one step further and make the failure of the idea his responsibility. "Not even you could find a way to make it work!" This virtually guarantees that a contrarian will respond, "Oh yeah? Well, you're wrong. Here's how to make it work!" If the contrarian says, "You don't know what you're talking about," you reply, "You're right. I don't know what I'm talking about, and you do." Then you pause, to let the discomfort sink in. "So that means it is up to you to explain what I'm talking about." Don't be surprised if a contrarian abandons his position opposite to your own, thus removing himself as an obstacle from your way.

From: The Art of Communication
© 2007 Dr. Rick Kirschner

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