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.
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
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.
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,
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.