Reasons to Be a Contrarian (At Least for a Day)

con·trar·i·an

noun \kən-ˈtrer-ē-ən, kän-\

: a person who takes an opposite or different position or attitude from other people

Are there benefits to being a contrarian? Most of us are not contrarians by nature. In our culture it is simply safer to go with the flow and not make many waves. It’s easier – in business and in life – to be a conformist.
In business, however, there are plenty of good reasons to be a contrarian. Let’s take a look at a few of those reasons.

It’s interesting

Taking the contrarian position will generally garner more attention. Almost certainly you’ve noticed when you’re checking out at the local market, the headlines on magazines are regularly filled with contrarian quotes. Actors, models, celebrities (and magazine editors!) know that contrarian statements will lead to more sales than conventional wisdom and clichés.

When everyone says the same thing, no one listens

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
His eyes were bigger than his stomach.
Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I bet you didn’t even read those. You’ve heard them a hundred times. They didn’t change your life or challenge you to see things differently. Even if they are true, they would need to be drastically reworded and expanded upon in order to make any kind of lasting impact. This goes back to conventional wisdom and clichés. People mentally will say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that before,” and you’ve lost them before you even begin.

You challenge others to think

A good rule of thumb is “don’t be a contrarian all the time.” We all know people like that. Perhaps you are like this. In the majority of cases, it doesn’t take you very far in your relationships or conversations because people feel attacked. If you use it all the time, it probably won’t take you very far in your communication or business either. If you express your own opinions, without caring what people think, and you still find yourself generally falling into the contrarian side, that’s okay too.
You’re going to be judged regardless of where you fall, whether it be conformist or contrarian. With this in mind, it’s worthwhile to be yourself (without being rude or impolite toward others, of course). Ultimately, when employing a contrarian viewpoint, you want to challenge people to think. You want them to think differently on topics that they may have already felt were settled in their own minds. If you can do that, you will have made a successful case.

We’d love to hear your thoughts to this topic! Leave a comment to let us know what you think.

One thought on “Reasons to Be a Contrarian (At Least for a Day)

  1. “Well if you were right I would agree with you.” – Robin Williams from the movie Awakenings. I have loved using this line many times, since I first heard it, because it not only lets people know you are being “contrary”, but also throws them off balance, which gets them to listen while giving you the time to present your point.

    Thanks Ed for sharing this idea. I am normally a conformer, but I have seen when a take a contrary point of view, whether I believe in my point or not, it does have a tremedous effect on getting other to stop, think and take the time to validate their point or realize that they may be just “parroting” some old cliche.

Leave a Reply