I love contrarians.
Those who take a different or opposite point of view or attitude can move the conversation and decision-making to a higher level.
A level where alternate ideas and options are introduced.
A level where comfort zones are pushed.
A level where a richer and better outcome is produced.
They can also bring things to a complete halt or introduce disarray.
All depends on whether you’re dealing with a devil’s or angel’s advocate.
When the Catholic Church is determining if an individual should become a saint, someone is assigned the role of devil’s advocate, tasked with poking holes in the evidence. Conversely, there is a “Promoter of Justice” whose role is to argue in favor of the facts.
The trick to being an effective contrarian has everything to do with the individual’s orientation and attitude.
Is the contrarian being obstructive because he has a “me” focus rather than a “we” one?
Is the contrarian being contrary because she believes her opinion is always the right one?
Is the contrarian pushing for an idea that the rest of the group has failed to see?
In my experience, contrarians normally brought valuable ideas to the table. Yet whether or not those ideas were heeded or discussed had everything to do with the individual’s orientation and attitude.
Concepts that were introduced with an air of superiority and/or in a combative stance were ignored or quickly dismissed. The disagreeable messenger killed his own idea.
Karl Albrecht, author of Social Intelligence: The New Science of Success, says:
Often they [contrarians] haven’t acquired the tactical skills of developing their ideas. They tend to blurt them out, making them hard to accept, or else they disagree with others in a clumsy way.
3 ways to be a good contrarian
Are you brimming with new or different ideas and find them falling on deaf ears when you share them? If so, give these items a good think.
Get concerned with social graces.
People instinctively pull back from comments laced with anger, bitterness and frustration because those comments feel like an attack. And, very few people like a smug know-it-all. It’s very possible your idea might just be the next great thing, but if you present it like you’ve got the only right answer that all those other poor fools around the table were waiting to hear, expect a less than warm reception. Learn to introduce and frame your ideas with tact and diplomacy.
Think more about we and less about me.
As you introduce your ideas, present them less in terms of how they benefit you and more in terms of how they benefit the team, organization, community, etc. Promoting the greater good is good; hogging the spotlight isn’t.
Keep putting those ideas out there.
Poking holes in existing thinking or advancing something totally new is what moves business, careers, and personal growth forward. Polish up the social graces rather than let yourself be silenced.
What’s been your experience with contrarians? Work with one? Might you be one?
Horse image source (before quote): Freaking News