Re: With silver bells and cockle shells, and pretty maids all in a row.

1

I guess in general, being contrary just reflects the mental process you go through when you hear an assertion - where does it fail to be true?

Although I've been told that my family name might best translate as "Contrarian," I don't think I'm particularly prone to doing this. (Wait, I just did! Damn.) Generally, when I hear an assertion, I have to sit and think about it for six weeks or so before offering any kind of response. When people disagree with me immediately, I get really, really pissed off. You're disagreeing without even thinking about what I just said!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 9:46 AM
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When people disagree with me immediately, I get really, really pissed off. You're disagreeing without even thinking about what I just said!

I do, too. Even though I'm guilty of it.

Honestly, did you just feel sorry for my post?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 9:48 AM
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I absolutely do this. I like to think that it's not because I mean to be contrarian but because I'm the queen of shades of gray and my mind immediately goes to the contradictions, missing nuances, alternative ways of thinking about something, etc., especially when I jump into problem-solving mode, which is often. I do it to myself, too; I can hardly get through a sentence sometimes because I feel compelled to issue so many qualifiers along the way. I imagine it's damned annoying to listen to.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 9:57 AM
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As I get older, I've been trying to practice my skills of listening to people vent without trying to solve their problems or pop their bubbles about whatever. I'm naturally a nasty contrarian, or else a fixer. Not surprisingly, it's been (a) therapy, and (b) making close girlfriends that's helping me with this. It's nice to be able to just ask questions of someone who's upset, or give back to them a sort of meta-description of what they're saying before offering advice or being all "But you're great! Everything's super! Cheer up!" which is, IME, totally not helpful.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 9:59 AM
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No, it's not.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 10:00 AM
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BTW, I do feel sorry for your neglected little post. The worst kind of post-stepping-on is when the first one asks for a little reflection and the second is all, "Hey, fun and easy commenting right here, right now!"


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 10:00 AM
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(5 to 3)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 10:00 AM
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I don't do this at all. Ever. Not even a little bit.

(Or, rather, I do it all the time, and I'm sure it drives people mad.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 10:02 AM
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4 describes me to a T. (What's the origin of that expression? T square? Yes, I could Google it, but I like the fact that there are so many language mavens here who may have knowledge or theories.)


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 10:02 AM
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My mother is also a fixer of the worst kind. I call and describe some social problem (always with the social problems, me) and she immediately dictates a script that I must use if I want things to go well. Recently, I tried telling her a wise piece of analysis of a social situation I got from a girlfriend, and my mom paused for a few seconds and said, "That [girlfriend] is smarter than me." It was cute.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 10:02 AM
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My ex was a fixer to such an extent that I stopped talking to her about my problems because all I'd get was instructions about what to do, usually intermingled with criticism of the path that lead me to this point. That dynamic lead directly to the divorce, probably more than any other single factor. Throw in extreme skepticism towards facts she didn't like and it was pretty much inevitable that we'd divorce.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 10:09 AM
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Yes my parents have been visiting this week

Where are your melons?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 10:14 AM
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A common trait at some level, but I do think it varies in intensity. My wife's family takes it to such a degree that I try not to even mention the route I drove there by (or more importantly intend to drive there by).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 10:22 AM
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Where are your melons?

Usually in Hawaiian Punch's mouth, I believe.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 10:28 AM
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When people disagree with me immediately, I get really, really pissed off.

I think this gets to the heart of the matter. I'm a natural contrarian, and without trying to sound all philosophical, I'm pretty sure I do it in an effort to get to some kind of "truth," and the statement with which I'm disagreeing has, to me, nothing to do with the person who said it. For specific assertions, anyway. You can imagine the social discomfort this causes.


Posted by: Rose | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 10:48 AM
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I am often inclined to play Devil's Advocate, but then I'm often inclined to just hold my thoughts and avoid confrontation. I'm not sure which happens more than the other.

The third option is to babble about impossibilities. "Or what you could do is swallow the end of a length of twine, wait for it to pass, tie it to a feather boa, and then pull the other end of the twine back up!"


Posted by: Mo MacArbie | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 10:54 AM
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This is my natural instinct, but I think it's muffled pretty well in cases where I know the person and know which kind of feedback they prefer to get.

I do select for friends that have similar tastes, though. So a lot of my experience comes from colleagues. I do try really, really hard to give them the type of listening or response that they want rather than the one I'd like to give them.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 10:59 AM
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I am trying to get out of the habit of interpersonal contrarianism. I do think that this is different from the "someone is wrong somewhere on the Internet" issue that I am not even going to try to get out of the habit of. That is just a harmless time sink in pursuit of the truth.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 11:10 AM
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I think I'm with AWB on this - always either contrary or fixing.

Actually - and I now recall describing this here once before - what I do most is respond to someone's story with a similar one, either from my life or from a friend's. I worry that this comes off as solipcissistic, but it's how I think through things - I usually get back to the person's situation by the end with actual insight (or empathy).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 11:54 AM
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20

3 is me exactly (except for the queen part (AFAIK)).


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 12:01 PM
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21

This contrariness shows up problematically with my SO when we're planning any kind of excursion, or even just what to do for dinner. Nearly every suggestion is met with something that's a problem about that plan or that place, and I hear it as a veto rather than just an automatic critical response to an idea.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 12:12 PM
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22

I used to do 19.2 as well, until I figured out that it made people want to punch me in the face. Seriously, therapy taught me how to have a conversation without going "nuh-uh," "how about?," "me too," or, and I think this one is very subtly annoying, the improv-y "yes, and!"


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 12:16 PM
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19 behavior is sometimes empathetic and nice, but sometimes one-uppy and aggravating.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 12:36 PM
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11: all I'd get was instructions about what to do, usually intermingled with criticism of the path that lead me to this point. [...] Throw in extreme skepticism towards facts she didn't like

After 10 years, it's dawned on me that my business partner does this (to me) frequently with respect to personal matters. I think I've registered it previously as helpful -- the talking through perspectives on the matter, discussion of alternatives, and so on. Lately it's seeming to me to operate from an assumption that I'm probably doing it all wrong! and am some sort of feebleminded person who requires tutoring.

The result is that I'm increasingly close-mouthed about things; I certainly need to come up with a way to close discussion that steers clear of my temptation to irritably snap out some variant on "Yup, don't worry about it, I've got it covered (and don't treat me like a child)," or worse, "Don't argue with me! I've explained the situation, and my explanation stands!"

I'm not sure if all this is a shift in his behavior or a shift in my perspective on it, but it's regrettable, as I normally consider him my best friend.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 12:39 PM
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22, 23: Yes, exactly. That's why I'm trying to be aware of it.

Fortunately, I'm not the type to have a lot of one-uppy experiences (I'm a homebody who's lived in 1 city for my adult life, with a tiny dating resume and slightly more interesting work history), so I don't think it's a major component of that habit. But, still, surely annoying at times.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 12:45 PM
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I can hardly get through a sentence sometimes because I feel compelled to issue so many qualifiers along the way. I imagine it's damned annoying to listen to.

I've been finding this more and more now that I'm fully immersed in the life of academia. Lots of people who can't issue a statement or opinion without a caveat, which they will identify as a caveat, although of course a caveat that must be taken in context, although since this is a context familiar to the listener as well of course it should probably go without saying, although we all know what can happen when things go without saying, not that I'm saying that would be the case this time, although although although

I find it hilarious. What were we talking about again?


Posted by: adamhenne | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 2:05 PM
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I can manage to ask the tale-teller what kind of interaction they want, which works for almost everyone. It doesn't work if they want to not have to ask for what they want, which I find an emotionally reasonable desire tho' logically precarious.

Mentally, I'm checking the inverse and contrapositive and what-have-you.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 2:12 PM
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Being manipulative and passive-aggressive get undeservedly bad raps. All these people who come right out and say what they think is wrong with their spouse's/business partner's/child's plan are just asking for trouble.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 2:39 PM
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2: No, I actually thought it was an interesting topic worthy of commenting upon. Indeed, as with togolosh, it's among the factors to which I would attribute my divorce. I don't mind disagreement, and "hmm, but what about..." can be very helpful, but the inability to have a collaborative discussion without having to create sides, one of which wins and one of which loses... Makes me scream. And not in the good way.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 3:54 PM
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I'm a homebody who's lived in 1 city for my adult life, with a tiny dating resume and slightly more interesting work history

Really? I've lived in one city my *entire* life, have never so much as been kissed, and haven't had to work a day in my life!


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 4:28 PM
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I've never even been to a modern city, my mother was a virgin, and if you follow me you'll never have to work either!


Posted by: Jesus | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 4:32 PM
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LUXURY!


Posted by: OPINIONATED YORKSHIREMAN | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 4:36 PM
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33

I can manage to ask the tale-teller what kind of interaction they want, which works for almost everyone. It doesn't work if they want to not have to ask for what they want, which I find an emotionally reasonable desire tho' logically precarious.

Hmmm. At least I'm emotionally reasonable, then. The problem for me is that people seem to think the only options are problem solver or empathy-giver. What I really want are solutions that are based on empathy. Is that too much to ask?


Posted by: di kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 4:53 PM
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33
Is that too much to ask?

As long as you aren't hoping for a Supreme Court nomination.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 4:55 PM
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Hey, in this Administration, we even get to ask it of the Supreme Court. ("Those who want don't ask; those who ask don't get.")

Seems to me, murmuring quietly to myself, that the Someone Must Lose problem is not really inherent in Testing Stated Issue for Decomposability. It should be possible to turn an issue all about because one yearns to find the win-win pony in it.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 4:59 PM
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Okay, my other problem is people who think, "oh gosh, that sounds rough" passes for empathy.

Or people who think it's helpful to offer solutions that reflect a complete lack of understanding of the problem.

But I'm not at all contrarian. I'm quite reasonable!


Posted by: di kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 4:59 PM
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...so sadly pwned, tereu.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 5:00 PM
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It should be possible to turn an issue all about because one yearns to find the win-win pony in it

It should be, yes.


Posted by: di kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 5:02 PM
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39

My personal peeve is "Well, everyone has to be somewhere". I had other peeves, but I heard a butterfly in the road actually say this about the victim of a probable police shooting and my peeve got reset.

I don't know that one can always blame the misunderstanders; if they try to understand, they must believe they're helpful. Big if, though.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 5:02 PM
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Really? I've lived in one city my *entire* life, have never so much as been kissed, and haven't had to work a day in my life!

I actually match 2 out of 3 of these.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 5:03 PM
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I've never even been to a modern city, my mother was a virgin, and if you follow me you'll never have to work either!

You're one of those sprawl-loving, SUV-driving, anti-urbanites, aren't you?


Posted by: Judas | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 5:09 PM
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42

Oh, just shut up and kiss me, you fool.


Posted by: Jesus | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 5:15 PM
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43

Get a room, you two. (The seedy kind with free HBO for thirty pieces of silver a night.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 5:26 PM
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Pfft, whatever. I know a cave nearby where you can stay for days at a time.


Posted by: Jesus | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 5:30 PM
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39: Yeah, my gripe isn't so much with misunderstanding, but with people immediately assuming they understand without any effort. Also,I'm cranky


Posted by: di kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 5:32 PM
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44: they kick you out after 3, I think.


Posted by: di kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 5:34 PM
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Yeah, and it's a real bitch to lock up after you leave.


Posted by: Jesus | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 5:36 PM
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I had other peeves, but I heard a butterfly in the road actually say this about the victim of a probable police shooting and my peeve got reset.

Cannot parse. Huh?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 5:38 PM
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Butterfly from ?Blake?, 'the toad beneath the harrow knows/where every separate toothpoint goes;/The butterfly, safe in the road/Preaches contentment to the toad.'

And a rich white girl used 'everyone has to be somewhere' to explain why she wasn't bothered by the shooting of Oscar Grant III.

Lesser idiocies aren't going to peeve me until my peeve-Geiger gets over being swamped by that.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 5:51 PM
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Kipling.


Posted by: y | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 9:53 PM
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Huh?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 9:54 PM
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32: I would not have predicted that this thread would see a reference to that Monty Python sketch.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 11:01 PM
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"the "Four Yorkshiremen" sketch is widely and incorrectly credited to Monty Python's Flying Circus."


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-28-09 11:12 PM
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1948 was of course a necessary precursor to Python. A lot of it was very very funny. Probably the viewing public wouldn't have got Python without it.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 05-29-09 12:52 AM
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Yeah, and it's a real bitch to lock up after you leave.

And you should see the condition of the linens after the last guy left.


Posted by: Vescovo di Torino | Link to this comment | 05-29-09 6:13 AM
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A tribute featuring Eddie Izzard and Alan Rickman.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-29-09 11:15 AM
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what I do most is respond to someone's story with a similar one, either from my life or from a friend's.

This is me! And oh, I know it is annoying. But it generally comes along with some sort of point about the other person's experience - the meta-review of AWB's comment long ago - and lots of questions about them that are not judgmental, so I'm hoping that tempers the annoying part a bit.

It's just how I make sense of people's situations - by relating it to something in my life or someone's life that I'm close to. I like to draw connections. I need to learn how to do it in my head, though, and then jump straight to the end without making the other person listen to the story.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 05-29-09 1:26 PM
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I need to learn how to do it in my head, though, and then jump straight to the end without making the other person listen to the story.

Not necessarily. It may be that you just need to make the connections between your story and theirs explicit rather than in your head. "OMG, that sounds just like when I _____. I know I [felt/thought/solved the problem] this way. Is that sort of what you are talking about?" I like hearing other people's similar experiences as a response to the extent that it makes me feel like less of a freak. It's only irritating when it becomes, "OMG, that sounds just like when I ____! Hey, let's talk about me instead!"


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-29-09 1:34 PM
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56: I have an enormous crush on Alan Rickman.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05-29-09 1:47 PM
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59: All the girls love Snape. It's that bad boy vibe.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-29-09 1:53 PM
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I don't love Snape, although he does have the best tailoring in the movies; but there's a mp3 on the loose of Alan RIckman reciting "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun" and whoo NELLIE it's a headphones-and-closed-eyes moment.

Thanks, y.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 05-29-09 1:57 PM
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My crush long predates Harry Potter movies.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05-29-09 2:00 PM
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It may be that you just need to make the connections between your story and theirs explicit rather than in your head.

Oh, I do do this - I figure it's why I still have friends!


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 05-30-09 12:24 AM
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Parenthetical, my love ,where have you been?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-30-09 1:15 AM
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In her disorientingly neat office, one assumes.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-30-09 1:27 AM
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Quite.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-30-09 1:33 PM
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I too have an enormous crush on Alan Rickman, born of seeing him as Valmont in the Bway Les liaisons dangereuses. My 16yo heart went pitter pat. And Valmont is more my sort of bad boy than poor old Snape.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 05-30-09 1:37 PM
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My Mistress' Eyes


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05-30-09 1:43 PM
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Overwrought.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-30-09 1:47 PM
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