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8 Reasons Why It’s Good To Be Disagreeable

8 Reasons Why It’s Good To Be Disagreeable

If you’re anything like me, you always seem to be upsetting someone and to others you seem to be disagreeable all the time. You probably don’t intend to present yourself as negative; you may just be one of those people who goes against the grain. I certainly am. I’m the type of person who questions everything. I need to understand a concept or situation fully and I need to know the other side of the story. I often find myself playing devil’s advocate in order to experience empathy, not for the thrill of being difficult.

You, like me, may be the kind of person who has very strong opinions about things, especially if you like to think of yourself as broad minded, well informed and open to learning and changing your opinion in the light of new information. I need convincing with evidence and facts and I need to know as much as is available about a subject to truly comprehend it and make an informed opinion about it.

Some people are easily put off by people like this. It makes people uncomfortable to have to think hard and change their minds all the time. Most people like to maintain the status quo and don’t appreciate confrontation. However, truly evolving, growing, experiencing progress and making a difference in the world depends on activity that is dynamic and sometimes contradictory. If you are happy to cruise through life never having anything challenge your thinking or way of doing things; if you are satisfied to just ‘go with the flow’ and prevent any kind of disruption to your safe and stable thoughts and actions, then don’t expect to make a major impact on the world or experience anything profound.

If instead you want to have a meaningful existence and contribute something great to the world and people around you, then continue to be disagreeable, because to be disagreeable is how successful people make their mark.

Here are 8 reasons why it’s good to be disagreeable.

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1. You don’t need others’ approval to do what you think is right

According to best selling author Malcolm Gladwell, psychologists say this about people who have the propensity to be disagreeable:

“…they do not require the approval of their peers in order to do what they think is correct.”

Regardless of what others think about you or say about you; however much they try to dishearten you or place barriers in your way to achieving your goals, when you are disagreeable, you simply don’t care and your indifference is extremely empowering and powerful. Where most people will take on board the opinions and sway of others, you carry on taking steps toward achieving your goals and you continue to stand up and be counted in your chosen endeavors. African American Civil Rights Activist Rosa Parks led the way for equality and justice for African Americans in the United States during the 1950s through a simple act. She refused to give up her seat on a bus that was reserved for whites only and in doing so she inspired an entire movement and a generation of people who sought to fight for the rights of black people in America. When others were afraid to stand up to the unfair laws and treatment, Rosa resisted and her choice to be disagreeable, changed history and began the civil rights movement.

2. You have a can do and will do attitude

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To be disagreeable means that you are a very determined person and once you put your mind to something it is hard to deter you. Even when others try to dishearten you or the odds are stacked against you, you stay focused on your passion and the end goal and you take steps to achieve the desired outcome. Jane Goodall is a perfect example of this. She is a British primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, and UN Messenger of Peace. She is also an animal activist and has worked hard to promote the conservation of both the animals she has studied and their habitat. Jane had a passion for animals from a young age and despite never having formal qualifications she has contributed extensively to the study of primates, namely chimpanzees. She ignored the strict and restrictive procedures that other scientists imposed and maintained confidence in her own instincts to truly connect with the chimpanzee communities she studied. Her results were groundbreaking and her contributions to the subject have been unmatched.

3. You are willing to take risks

When you are prepared to go your own way, you do so knowing that there could be adverse reactions; sometimes even ones that threaten your safety or your life. To be disagreeable is risky behavior because you could be jeopardizing your livelihood, relationships and sometimes your own physical and mental health. It is hard work to stay focused on achieving something that attracts so many obstacles and such derision. However, what keeps you going is the knowledge that the rewards far out weigh the perils and the struggle will be worth it in the end.  A young Pakistani activist for the advancement of female education and the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai almost paid the price for her determination to be disagreeable with her life. She was shot in the head by the Taliban for speaking out in support of the education of girls. She has spoken and written about her experiences and has used her horrendous experience to continue to fight for her cause regardless of the threats and danger she attracts in doing so.

4. You are not deterred by failure; it fuels your determination

It is not easy to be disagreeable in the face of tyranny and resistance. Nobody wants to be the odd one out or the person who is constantly told they stand alone and are not supported for ‘rocking the boat’. Facing failure and disappointment will become commonplace when you are a person who is committed to change among people who want things to remain the same. However, your determination is fueled by opposition, not diminished. Aung Sang Suu Kyi has spent many years under house arrest for her peaceful fight for justice in her country Myanmar (Burma). Despite being consistently prevented from having influence and contact with her supporters, she continued to resist oppression. Using your disasters as means to obtain lessons and learn new skills and harnessing the disappointments in order to fuel your determination will ensure that you grow more resilient and ultimately more successful.

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5. You see the bigger picture and can think outside the square

In order to get a different result, you must do things differently. If you continue to do things in exactly the same way you will keep getting the same result. Sometimes thinking in broader terms and looking at a subject philosophically will yield more positive results. There is nothing broader than existential philosophy. French philosopher Simone De Beauvoir wrote extensively about the meaning of life and existence, especially for women in society. She was a pioneering feminist and lay the foundation for thinkers and writers to come.

By delving deeply into the subject matter of her interest and questioning what most people of her time took for granted, she was able to influence many generations of thinkers. She challenged the role that society imposed on women as a given and gave women the framework to reclaim their freedom and independence from oppression that was considered the norm. She didn’t just comment about the way women were unequal to men by for example being the primary carers of children, not having the right to vote or not having control over their reproductive bodies, she asked why this was the case and commented on how men defined themselves and women. She questioned the very core of human existence from a gendered perspective.

6. You can reframe the problem in a new way

“It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

To be disagreeable doesn’t necessarily mean being negative or mean. Sometimes being disagreeable in the face of tyranny means to insist on being positive and kind in the face of hatred. It is the ultimate act of rebellion to continue to be optimistic when confronted by tragedy. Anne Frank is the perfect example and inspiration. A Jewish child forced into hiding in Nazi occupied Holland, Anne wrote in her diary to pass the time and stay cheerful in the darkest of times. Although she demonstrated the innocence and naivety of a child, she was an example in her relentless insistence to be disagreeable by maintaining her hope and love for humanity. While watching the adults around her no doubt traumatized by their experiences, she continue to dwell in happiness and found a way to look at the calamity they faced with new eyes. Her legacy has lived on and she is the ultimate symbol of someone who refused to surrender to persecution.

7. You do the hard work instead of avoiding it

If you happen to be married to one of the most successful and wealthiest men on earth most people would think that meant a life of absolute luxury and leisure. This is not the case for the wife of Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Melinda Gates has used her wealth and privilege to pursue philanthropy and contribute to making the world a more equal and better place for millions of people. She started the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and their achievements are impressive. Hard work and the endeavor to contribute is a common trait in people who most consider to be disagreeable. Despite resistance, Melinda has persisted with projects that provide women with access to contraception. She has also been instrumental in organizing the vaccinations of millions of people worldwide who otherwise would not have access to life saving preventative medicine. Her foundation works tirelessly to fund research and projects to ensure all people have the opportunity to live a healthy and safe life.

8. You have an active imagination

When you have a vivid and active imagination you consider things that others may not. When you put your musings out there, they may not be popular or conventional, but they can help you to achieve success by allowing a perspective that is beyond the mundane. Often your influence may not be acknowledged or discovered at the time, but appreciated in retrospect. Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter who focused on self portraiture. Her paintings were mostly about herself and reflected her Mexican indigenous heritage as well as her own emotional and psychological experiences. She also participated in revolutionary politics with her husband Communist Diego Rivera and despite illness and setbacks continued to paint until her death. Her work was vibrant and distinctive and challenge both gender and heterosexual stereotypes. She lived a volatile and eccentric life, but that was what eventually made her an icon.

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Diane Koopman

Writer, Author, Novelist, Self-Publisher

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Last Updated on November 11, 2019

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

A dysfunctional family is more than disagreement or constant arguments. Anything from plain neglect, to abuse and even verbal and physical violence is the everyday experience of those who are part of a dysfunctional family.

You know how this looks:

  • Parents constantly comparing children.
  • Siblings in conflict because of tolerated bullying.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Adultery…
  • And many others.

For all the members, this will mean emotional pain and even trauma; which, in case it doesn’t get resolved, will have a detrimental effect on the individual’s personality and development.

Needless to say, the younger members are the most vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean the parents are out of danger, as most commonly the parents play the roles of abuser-codependent, and in some cases, both parts inflicting pain on one another.

Most like to think these problems stem from deep-seated issues, and that therefore it’s pretty much impossible to deal with them.

This is only true for families not willing to do what it takes, for if only a single member is determined and knows how to do it, the whole family can do a lot of progress.

In this article, I’ll break down for you the basic steps of fixing a dysfunctional family. Although it may seem hopeless, it is possible to turn things around.

If you have ever felt in this position, or if you know somebody who is, this article is for you.

How to fix a dysfunctional family

In a few words the solution for a dysfunctional family lies in dropping the ego, focusing on the solution, switching blame for responsibility and doing the work as a unity, for the good of the whole family.

And this will accomplish things you once only saw as a dream.

Dropping the ego? Switching blame for responsibility? Doing the work? What does all this mean?

It’s simple. In a nutshell, it’s that which will allow you to turn a dysfunctional family into a functional one.

Let’s take a look at how exactly this can be done. And near the end we will also talk about what you can do in a dysfunctional family with cynical traits.

Dysfunctional families where not only problems are well-known, but also nobody seems to want a fix or openly decide to perpetuate the harmful behaviors. Such as the case of abuse and physical violence.

There is also a solution for these, it’s just not what you are expecting…

Dysfunctional… Or just average?

Most families are dysfunctional, though at varying degrees of dysfunctionality.

The milder cases, are just marked by “typical” comically-shrouded bullying or lack of interest in other members’ development or wellbeing.

You can know a family is dysfunctional if their interactions are anything different than cooperation, solidarity, care and support. But let’s get more specific…

A dysfunctional family is one in which members directly or indirectly suffer emotional and/or physical harm inflicted by other members of their family. Most commonly, perpetrated by the parents.

Even harmful actions as “passive” as neglect, which is inflicted by inaction rather than action, signifies a dysfunction within the family.

Dysfunctional families have conflicts such as:

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Lack of interest and time spent together
  • Sexism
  • Utilitarianism
  • Lack of empathy
  • Unequal or unfair treatment
  • Disrespect towards boundaries
  • Control Issues
  • Jealousy
  • Verbal and physical abuse
  • Violence and even sexual misconduct or abuse

You may think a dysfunctional family has very little or nothing to do with personal productivity, but you would be wrong in thinking this way…

If a person is not emotionally well, she will not be able to perform as desired, as the emotional harm that has been inflicted will hinder everyday performance in the way of inability to concentrate, lack of mental clarity and low levels of inspiration, motivation and discipline.

Having a functional family does exactly the opposite: It creates productive members with no emotional baggage.

How to turn it around

When you’re part of a dysfunctional family you know it. You can quickly identify in other members the behaviors and conflicts that create the dysfunction.

But just in case you’re having trouble telling functional from dysfunctional I will tell you the following:

One of the easiest ways you can recognize if you are in a dysfunctional family is to survey your won feelings.

We often overlook this, but have you stopped to ask yourself how you feel?

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As cheesy as it may sound it really sheds a lot of light on the subject.

What behaviors, actions and attitudes in your family you wish were better?

Do you think certain behaviors and actions from your family marked you in the past?

Sadly, we cannot go back to the past to correct it. But we can do a lot in the present…

Correction is possible

In order to fix a dysfunctional family, you must start by putting an end to the behaviors and actions that are affecting you.

Verbalize it.

All members of the dysfunctional family have one issue in common: They don’t put a stop to the harm.

Whenever you feel your boundaries being overstepped there is just one single word you have to remember: STOP.

This is the door to a better, more functional family, because after this, comes the fix.

But first you have to identify and make others know where exactly lies the problem.

So go ahead and fearlessly start with “Stop”, followed by your expression of dissatisfaction.

Putting it to work in real life

In real life it would be something like this:

“OK, stop! Every time you belittle me I feel you don’t care. I need attention and respect, and it is your responsibility as my family to provide them to me”

Or:

“Stop. When you compare me with my cousin it hurts, I feel like I don’t matter and that’s not ok. I ask you to stop doing it.

Or:

“Please stop. When you start yelling all respect is lost and it turns into a battle of who can do it louder. Don’t raise your voice and let’s work this out the way humans do”.

As you can see, here you start by putting a stop to the toxic behavior when it arises. And afterwards you verbalize why it’s wrong and what needs of you need to be fulfilled.

This is what you have to remember:

1-Stop.

2-Why it’s wrong?

3-What you need.

And this will also work well in case you need to do it for another family member.

It’s a family thing

A dysfunctional family cannot be fixed by one member alone.

Yes, a single member can initiate progress and be the leader of the change. But in order to completely become functional all members must contribute to the solution.

In other words, you will need cooperation…

So don’t be afraid of asking for it!

Approach your family member and ask to be listened.

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We sometimes feel our needs are “not that important” or we simply believe they won’t listen. But thinking like this would be like being defeated at an unfought battle.

You will be amazed by how much people listen when you voice your needs, especially if it implies showing yourself open, vulnerable and in need.

It’s not a free-for-all battle

In order to get your family to cooperate, first you must fix your individual relationships with every member of the family. Remember: Relationships are always between two people, and two people only.

No matter how complex, the quality of a multi-member relationship (like a family) will always depend on the quality of the individual relationships.

Once you have straightened the relationship with every member of the dysfunctional family you will be able to better communicate with other members and help in the betterment of their individual relationship.

And this is where we will talk about the fix itself. The one I mentioned in the introduction…

The method

1. Drop the ego

Wherever there is conflict there is ego.

You cannot fix a relationship where there is ego, because the ego will want to win. Always. Yours and the other person.

Ego craves control and satisfaction, and in many cases, to establish dominance.

What does this have to do with a dysfunctional family? Everything. Ego will interfere with every plan you have to fix it.

It will make people suborn and defensive. And it will also make them drop responsibility. This is why, the first step is to drop the ego.

After you make sure you are not going to allow your ego to interfere you must work to make the other person do the same. How? By speaking from the heart…

Tell the other person how important all this is to you.

Tell the other person that it’s not a matter of arguing, but just working things out together.

Point out how it is not possible for you to do it alone.

And ask for sincere attention without any desire of opposition, because what you are doing is by no means in the hopes of harming the other person, but just to better the relationship and stop the damage being dealt to you.

You will have to point out the mistakes you need corrected, that’s for sure. And that leads me to the next point…

2. Not blame, but responsibility

When talking about others’ mistakes we often use an accusatory tone. And that’s natural, it’s what things should be like if ego was not present.

But since we are all creatures of ego, this immediately brings the shields up. And then unsheathes the swords…

When we blame others they automatically enter a defensive state, and this only leads to a failed negotiation.

What you need to do is to shift from blame to responsibility. And even that will have to be done carefully!

Instead of telling them off or demanding change or complaining, calmly point what the problem with their behavior is.

As much as this feels contradictory, also make them feel understood. You know how difficult it is to accept a mistake, so just make them feel it’s no big fuzz… which does not mean it’s ok, but it takes tension off.

You will do something like this:

“Hello dad. Can I talk with you for a minute? I really need to tell you something.

I have been feeling pretty sad lately and I know this is something you do care about.

You see, whenever I talk about my accomplishments you mention something else that makes my achievement pale in comparison.

I know you don’t do this intentionally and I know you might have not realized this until now, but I want to let you know this really brings me down.

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It would mean a lot to me if you could stop doing it, and it would help better our relationship, because this has already forced me to distance myself from you. And I don’t want that, I want a good, healthy relationship with you”

What happened here?

We started off with making it something important, something that needs both time and attention. Then we openly show ourselves vulnerable, just as we are.

We also mention why he should listen, and shove our feelings there again, because they are important.

We describe the issue with no attachment and with no hostile intention. It’s just a description.

And then we take the blame off. Just before we assign responsibility without actually saying it.

You are not blaming him directly, but you are pointing out the inevitable fact that his actions are causing a dysfunctionality. He is now responsible for changing.

This is what “switching blame for responsibility” means. What comes next? Doing the work!

3. Doing the work

What would any of this mean if, in the end, nothing changes? Exactly, nothing!

This is why you must follow up with every change that needs to be done.

Do so in a manner that is not hostile. Bring it up in a casual manner, and emphasizing how you both reached an agreement and how that is important to the family.

If the person doesn’t follow up don’t hesitate to bring it up again, and tell them you feel disappointed that your honest try at it was not listened.

It may even be a subject in itself, and therefore the need for another conversation.

“When you go back to old habits it shows that you didn’t really care about what I said. But back in real life you just reinforce how much contempt you show towards me and my feelings.

I talk with you because I care. Because although it would be easier for me to just distance myself from you I rather do my part in nurturing this relationship.

But there is just so much I can do, if you refuse to do your part I can do nothing else.”

You need very clear and positive communication in order to make this work.

Love is all you need

You must remember that in order for a dysfunctional family to become functional, all the work needs to stem from love.

That is the single one requirement for all this to work: Love.

And what happens if it simply is not there?

What happens if, nobody is willing to do what it takes?

What happens if a member of the family refuses to change and is happy with the harm he or she is dealing?

There is only one thing you can do:

To break away.

Let’s be honest, people, especially adults, are very difficult to change.

There is a Jewish proverb that I love, which sums it up like this:

“We spend the rest of our lives trying to unlearn what we learned before we were 7”

If you find it very hard to change the very traits that make your family dysfunctional or if it’s simply impossible, you still have a card up your sleeve…

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Although nobody likes to beak away from family members, we must remember we have a responsibility with ourselves as individuals, before any relationship with anyone.

You have the responsibility of making yourself happy and free. Because you matter as an individual, regardless of any relationships you have, be it family, friendship or romantic.

Putting distance

So in case you are dealing with a family member who is simply unwilling to change take both physical and emotional distance.

What do I mean?

Learn, first, to take their damage in a detached manner.

Don’t let it hurt you further. Instead take a deep breath and distance yourself emotionally.

Don’t be attached to feelings such as “Why doesn’t she love me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” or “If he wasn’t like that my life would be perfect”.

Simply refuse to keep participating in the emotional downward spiral and accept, even if it’s painful” that there is nothing you can do. Accept that even without that relationship you are whole, you are worthy of love and respect.

They are their responsibility and you are yours. So decide what is best for you.

Realize it only comes down to two possibilities:

I keep the relationship and therefore accept the abuse. Or…

I choose my peace of mind.

And don’t let your mind fool you. We often think that since we all are imperfect, we must take the good and the bad behaviors of people. And we are especially forgiving towards our family…

Well, guess what? We are also responsible adults who are aware and must own to their acts. Never excuse abuse or violence or transgression towards you or anybody else.

Choose your happiness and if possible, also distance yourself physically, as it will increase your peace of mind tenfold.

How to prevent it

There are two key concepts you must bear in mind in order to prevent the dysfunctionality of a family:

  • To be completely aware of one’s own mistakes and not allow them to impact others and…
  • To make sure our SO’s are also on the same channel before creating a family (i.e. having children)

Dysfunctional families are the product of irresponsible paternity, for the decades-long unresolved emotional conflict ends up surfacing in the family inevitably, and it will for sure harm those who least deserve it: Innocent children.

You may notice we went from talking about family, to talking about individual relationships, to talking about you. We went from “them” to “us” to “me”.

Why? Because in the end you have the power to fix a dysfunctional family. To correct the mistakes you have in yours and to prevent dysfunctionalities if you don’t have a family but plan to create one.

Priorities and clear thought

You may be part of a dysfunctional family, but that does not mean you are powerless or that you have to suffer the consequences.

You learned today how it’s all a matter of priorities and thinking clearly.

You learned that, if love exists, everything is possible. You learned that even when there is no love and no fix for your dysfunctional family, there are still things you can do. It’s a matter of choosing your peace, because you deserve it.

Everything will be better if you apply this knowledge. If you talk to that problematic family member. If you help them see the harm they are doing. If you make sure they do change and treat you the way you need to be treated…

If you choose yourself over that toxic family member. If you refuse to justify the harm that others can do to yourself. If you realize the most important relationship you have is with yourself.

And lastly, that you also have to be aware of your actions and be open to criticism. Because we might be unknowingly harming others. And that would be us creating a dysfunctionality. Don’t allow it to happen.

Dysfunctional families are not impossible to fix. It just takes love, cooperation and responsibility.

But if you tried and those elements are not present, just choose yourself instead.

Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com

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