If you are (as I am) a contrary person, you may find yourself finding fault with every conventional idea you hear. When this becomes a habit, several good things will happen:
- You will develop an above-average ability to predict impending disaster.
- You will become skilled at solving problems.
- You will seldom be taken for a fool.
But several bad things will happen too:
- Some people will not like you at all.
- Most people will regard you as interesting but difficult.
- At times, you won’t like yourself.
Here’s a good way to enjoy the benefits of contrary thinking without the drawbacks…
Before you voice your opinion (i.e., state your radical idea), ask yourself: “Do I like the person I am speaking with?”
If so, muffle the clever comment and ask a few questions instead.
Say, “That’s very interesting. What brings you to that conclusion?”
After your interlocutor has given you his reasons, you can gently deconstruct them. And then say, “I have an idea you might find amusing — considering your perspective.” Then state your idea.
This way, you get the fun of being contrary without the collateral damage.
(By the way, I don’t actually do this. I have a friend who does. But it is something I am trying to learn how to do.)[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]