Watch Out For the “I’m Right; You’re Wrong” Conversation.

A few days ago, I posted about a phenomenon I describe as oppositional conversational style” (OCS for short), and I’ve been flabbergasted by the heated response.

I thought I’d identified some obscure, rare pattern of human interaction, but it turns out that lots of people had already identified this kind of interaction.

A person with “oppositional conversational style” is a person who, in conversation, disagrees with and corrects whatever you say. Maybe in a friendly way, maybe in a belligerent way, but their remarks are framed in opposition to whatever you say.

I was fascinated to read people’s comments. I learned several things.

First, people recognize this pattern easily. OCS, it turns out, is a widespread phenomenon.

Second, people find it tiresome to be on the receiving end of OCS. To be repeatedly told “I’m right; you’re wrong,” in every context, gets annoying.

Third, at least some people who practice OCS recognize it in themselves, and they think there’s value to this kind of exchange. They engage with others in this way because they find it fun to argue, or they want to get facts exactly correct, or because they want to make clear that there’s another side to an argument (even if they don’t particularly believe in that side of the argument, they want to explore it).

Fourth, OCS is sometimes related to the Tigger vs. Eeyore distinction. OCS seems associated with Eeyoredom, though not everyone who exhibits OCS is an Eeyore.

I think it’s helpful to watch out for the “oppositional conversational style.” Sometimes, just being able to identify something that’s bugging you somehow lessens the annoyance. Instead of reacting to the exchange unthinkingly, you realize, “Oh, I’m in the presence of the oppositional conversational style! How very interesting!”

And for those who use the oppositional conversational style, it’s helpful to recognize your pattern of behavior–and to recognize its likely effects on others. You might not care if you’re annoying people, or maybe you do. Whether or not you agree that people should get annoyed, it seems that they are getting annoyed.

Do you recognize oppositional style in someone you know–or in yourself? What’s your reaction to this way of communicating?

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

  • I linked here with a blog post that day, because I had a question about an argumentative friend, and you’re right, people definitely recognise this as real thing!

  • Deane

    This exploration has been fascinating – thanks for undertaking it. I can appreciate having a challenging conversation with someone who has a differing viewpoint and I am always open to learning things.  But I don’t appreciate talking to someone who seems to want to “score” more than share and frankly, feel like I’m being used to stroke someone’s ego.  So I usually walk away as soon as possible. If someone chooses to think that I’m ” too delicate” or “can’t handle it” or “got my facts wrong” – fine. That should make them feel better!

  • Colleen

    Thank you for bringing the OCS topic up. I’ve been a quasi-friend to a guy I knew way back when in high school on Facebook and I bumped into him last year long enough to have a 45 minute visit and a cold drink. 

    He was the guy in school who could never seem to get a girlfriend and now he’s in his mid 40s and can’t seem to get married and have kids but wants to. I have found myself since reconnecting with him making offers of getting together with mutual friends. The other friends would be eager for us all to get together but he would throw a wrench in it as he would always come up with an idea that was different than mine and then it never came to fruition. That sounds a little OCS perhaps.

    In the last year since I have seen him I have felt like I was in a position to apologize which I did twice as I felt like I had insulted him somehow on Facebook and not quite knowing how or why I just apologized because it was easier. UNTIL I found myself in a debate over a posting he felt that I was not allowed to comment on and anything that I said he would have an argument back and a weak one at that. He definitely was practicing OCS but being mean in a way and my run very far away from this toxic man signals were screaming out. I’m happily married BTW so it wasn’t like I was potentially the girl for him. BUT he did flirt with me one time in PM and I had to delete the obnoxious carried away comments that I had to tell him to stop posting. I thought they were just innocent but now I think they were more than that. Ew slimy. 

    I felt like he had to be right and that as usual I had to be wrong which made me feel badly about myself. So, I deleted my debating comments which were polite, then I dumped him as a Facebook friend. 

    Why would I want to keep in touch with someone who doesn’t want the old high school gang to get together and who practices OCS to make me feel like I should always have to apologize for my thoughts?I wonder if this is why he is not married. I also watched him flirt with the wrong type of woman on Facebook, the one who wants attention, not to get married, and so I couldn’t stand him anymore but was just tolerating his behaviours I guess.

    Anyway, I guess I am allergic to OCS when I feel that I’m in a position to apologize and don’t even know why I’m doing it. Manipulative on his part and naive on mine. BUT I learned a valuable lesson!

    OCS people on Facebook who make me feel badly for my opinions or OCS people who derail a group of people getting together for a good time because of just their opinion is not a friend for me indeed! 

  • Anne

    OCS makes me wonder if the person is channeling their inner two-year old. 

  • I learned this style growing up. My mother always corrected our pronunciation, word choice, etc. Not just sometimes, but every time. And it didn’t stop when we were no longer children.

    My wife has pointed out that I do it to her, and I try to stop. Unfortunately my oldest daughter has picked up on it, and will correct Mom when she says something wrong. Needless to say, this doesn’t go over too well.

    To anyone who thinks it’s a sign of insecurity, or a power play, it might be for some people, but not always. For me, it’s just plain bad habit.

    • Anne

      Drew, I agree. My husband did this for a while, and when he finally realized he really was doing it, and that it made me unhappy, he stopped. 

      I noticed when his sister visited that the two of them went at it, hammer and tongs, debating everything. They loved it. It exhausted me to just listen to them.Anyway, I quit taking it personally when my DH did it. And he made a supreme effort to quit, and did. Happy ending.

      •  Hi Anne, debate is a highly valued skill in my family. It takes great restraint to not present an opposing view (and I always have one even when I agree with the view proposed). It’s fun for us, but not for everyone 🙂

    • Meg R.

      Well Drew, I know about the parent control thing and I call it just plain RUDE.  They need to get over it.  If you are living on your own, paying your own way it is now appropriate to tell your mother to back off. 

    • Dwhets

      Sounds like a problem here.  My mother-in-law is a retired teacher and did this to her children.  In turn, they do it automatically as though it is just normal procedure.  My husband joined in with her before we were married, but in the 32 years since, we have worked it out so that he no longer needs to be the authority on every subject.  Really, that is a helluva big job for any one human being isn’t it?  He is a very strong speaker and debater as well, so he gained skills in some areas that have served him very well.   Was your mother a teacher, too?

      •  These are “life skills” that would help make everyone happy. In other words, if you learn to listen, you and everyone you know will be happier. That’s what the Happiness Project is about. The problem is trying to fix someone else. It’s hard enough to fix yourself. Great discussion.

      •  Nope, just a know-it-all.

        Of course, now I wonder if she learned it from her mother.

  • I’m not sure we have to come up with a new term for this. It’s a very well known phenomenon known as being a “devil’s advocate” 🙂

    I do think there is some value though for having people like this in the world. Think of Socrates, the gadfly, who would prompt people to question themselves and keep them on their toes.

    • Deane

      I would immediately distrust someone who felt they needed to prompt me to question myself, particularly if I didn’t know them well or hadn’t invited them to do so – I would question their need to do it. If someone has a differing viewpoint or more information about something, I’m happy to have a lively conversation about it. But someone who just needs to be a devil’s advocate appears to be indulging themselves in something that doesn’t have anything to be with me or what I just said. And why would I want to continue to have a connection with that person?

      On the other hand, I work with someone who is very good at playing the devil’s advocate and can argue any side of a question. He’s excellent for helping to suss out an issue, look at all sides, see the flaws, etc. He also does it when he’s invited to, he has a role to play, and has a sense of humor about it! 

      • All I know is that if we look back throughout history, almost every society has had these gadflies. I don’t think their goal is to get you to trust them. It’s simply to stir up the status quo and add an element of creative chaos. They range from Socrates, who I mentioned to people like Oscar Wilde.

  • A woman who recently started working at my office definitely has OCS.  She’s a nice enough person, but she’s very loud and has to be right about everything.  She has a story in response to anything, and constantly turns the conversation back to herself with a “well, actually, in my experience…” method of contradicting you.  It’s very annoying and lunchtime difficult.  Finally, yesterday, I said “You don’t have to argue with me.”  I think that helped her become aware of how she was acting, but I felt a little guilty about it afterwards.  The incident did, however, inspire me to create my own 12 Commandments of Happiness, one of which is “Pause.  Breathe.” Next time she starts arguing without a combatant, I’ll just pause and breathe.

  • Hi Gretchen, I was one of those folks that practice OCS in the form of its kinder brother Inquiry. It’s just another way to mine for information. Do you consider OCS to be antagonistic? What if the person is just exploring an oppositional thought aloud?

    Isn’t OCS a way to challenge your status quo belief system?

    There I go again 😀

    • gretchenrubin

      Well, it depends on the context and on your intention, don’t you think?

      Some OCS is a challenge to something that’s just polite chitchat “No, it’s not a mild day, it’s going to rain later.”

      Or to something that’s someone’s opinion “This coffee tastes great.” “No, the coffee from the other diner is better.”

      Or sometimes it becomes clear that it’s just not POSSIBLE for agreement to be reached. When you, as the speaker, feel that no matter what position you take, your interlocutor will say the opposite, it starts to feel like combat for combat’s sake. It feels silly! Some commenters noted that they took preposterous positions in conversation, just to watch the OCS argue the even more preposterous opposite.

      I love a heated debate! But not all OCS yields information, helpful distinctions, penetrating insights into the status quo, etc.

      Your question is a good example—to remember that OCS folks find that way of engagement valuable. It’s not intended to annoy, it’s intended to have other positive consequences. That’s good for the non-OCS to remember.

      And, as an OCS person, you might want to remember that although you find it a valuable conversational pattern, others may not find it so. That may or may not matter to you.

      I often fill in the blank in this sentence, and love to identify different answers. “Technology is a good servant but a bad master.” “Caffeine is a good servant but a bad master.” “Money is a good servant but a bad master.” I think that “OCS is a good servant but a bad master” too.

      Another question is: Is there a way to achieve the same goals in conversation, without people finding it tiresome? Whenever I’m around someone that I feel is very skillful in dealing with people, I try to understand what they’re doing that is so effective.

  • mosmab

    Juding by the comments, either people are talking about different things or people with self-identified OCS are deluding themselves. 
    Devil’s advocate: “I’ts hot today.” “Yes, it is. But remember the heat wave two years ago? This is nothing like that.” OCS: “It’s hot today.” “No — two years ago it was hot. This is normal.”In the first case, it’s a debate or a different point of view. The first person was “heard,” but then the second person suggests a different perspective. In the second case the “debater” is refusing to validate the person’s opinion, emotion, knowledge — whatever. I can’t stand talking to people like that. 

    • Anne

      I’d suggest that both examples are somewhat oppostional. What about:

      “It’s hot today.”

      “It sure is. Let’s go swimming.”

      “I hope it won’t get as hot as it was two years ago.”

      “The Weather Channel says it’s going to cool down tomorrow, thank goodness.”

      “I think I’ll make iced tea. Want some?”

  • Whitney

    Ugg, I do that all the time. I don’t know why. At the moment I’m trying to bite my tongue (again) because I’ve been extra bad these last couple months (I moved to a different country and some things here just drive me insane). I think sometimes I do it because I’m trying to see different sides of an argument, or trying to get someone else to see another side. Most of the time I’m not passionate about whatever I’m saying, I’m just saying it. Sometimes I really do care. I wish I knew why I did this and how to stop. 

    • gretchenrubin

      I think OCS can also be a way to try to pull people into engagement. Maybe because you’re in a new place and trying to make new relationships (I assume), it’s a pattern that is a way to hold people in conversation. Which is a good thing—but this might not be the best approach for that.

      • OCS can also be a passive-agressive style of communicating that ultimately
        is hurtful to the receiver. A pattern of OCS can be the result of underlying  “displaced” unresolved anger. This happens when people take their anger out on people, circumstances, or situations that are unrelated to the actual causes of their anger. Unresolved anger certainty interferes with one’s ability to have a mature conversation in addition to being able to connect to others and to have solid, meaningful relationships.

        I recently wrote a blog post about anger and about how to express anger in  effective ways. 

        Really great post!

        “Thinking Matters”

        • Whitney

          Yeah, I probably do take out my frustrations this way. A lot of times I seem to do it when I’m asking for advice or a solution to a problem, but I find fault with a lot of the responses I get. I have a tendency to try to find the “perfect” way to do things, so I’m always thinking about what works and what doesn’t, or why something might not work, thinking about preventing wasted time or a failed attempt. So I get into conversations that go like “well, maybe you should….” “maybe. But what if….” Ah well. I’m working on it. At least I know I do it. OK, so I’m going to unsubscribe to the forum now, since I’m getting too much email. ttyl, all!

  • Tichtachen

    Just the other day I realized, how I time after time correct other people in a kind of “it is only for your best”-way. 

    I have something with negativity, it makes my brain burn. Eg: when a friend the other day told me, he had been waiting the whole afternoon fore someone who never showed up, my brain  started to melt, and to stop him, I started to tell him about my way of seeing the world “there are three answers for things you wish for: 1) yes, 2) yes, later or 3) There is something better to come”. 

    So instead of seeing his frustration, I immediately started to criticize his way of thinking to stop the waterfall of negativity. 

    But hey, he didn’t asked for it! And the only outcome is, that he (maybe) feel lonely (not having his feelings seen) and I get frustrated, cause I just wanted a nice chat and hate listening to myself as a self-proclaimed better-knowing self-therapy goddess. 

    I’m afraid I’ve been doing it my entire life (trying to convince people to the the world my way) – or doing the “I’m your container, just feel me in with all your junk”.

    I need to change. To be able to see the other persons feelings and needs for what it is – instead of starting an argument about how to think and react.

    Thank you for your wonderful post – as you see: It made me realize a couple of nasty things about myself.  

    Best wishes

    • Whitney

      Oh, I really like those 3 answers for things you wish for! So applies to my life right now. The internet company I signed up with in May still hasn’t hooked up my internet/phone, so this week I finally subscribed with another company. The answer to my wish was number 3. lol. 

  • Nadiel

    What a great post! I’ve been on the receiving end of OCS and it can bedraining. What’s ironic is that the worst offenders consider themselves positive thinkers!

    When I’m in a stonkingly good mood I can accept when things are rubbish and move on without  needing to correct anyone. Life’s too short!  Having been on the receving end from people trying to think more positively, and making others feel bad in the process, we need to be aware of how we come across. Thanks for writing up this topic.

  • Jerrywaxler

    You mention a variation on OCS in your book. It’s the impatience to jump in with a point of your own. It might not be oppositional. It might even APPEAR to add to the conversation. I used to do this a lot, trying to link the person’s comment with something that happened to me. Another variation is sentence finishing. One of my favorite Seinfeld quotes is “She’s a sentence finisher.” One of the first things they teach psychology and counseling students is to stop and listen. Learning to listen is one of the coolest skills in the universe. It’s amazing how appreciative people can be when you allow them to have the floor. I’m so glad that in books like yours (and blogs like this) some of these fundamental skills are finally moving out of the classroom and into popular culture. Thank you!!


    • gretchenrubin

      So true, thanks for adding this point.

      I am such a sentence finisher. It’s a real struggle for me!

      •  Now that I no longer finish other people’s sentences, I have become more sensitive to what it feels like to be on the receiving end. When someone finishes my sentences, it can be really frustrating, because half the time, their guess at where I am going is misleading, and now in order to make my point, I end up having to contradict them. This actually forces *me* into being oppositional, which is very weird.


        • bluetamarai

          That’s exactly why it bothers my husband (understandably), Jerry! (See my comment above yours). He feels like I’m trying to tell him what he’s thinking or going to say before he gets a chance to. I’m such an extrovert and a talker that it feels very natural for me to have a give and take and some mutual sentence finishing and interrupting, plus sometimes I find it fun to participate and be “in sync” to understand where someone is going with their thought and “catch their wave” as it were… But of course I’m learning that that doesn’t work for everyone, at least not always. I’m very glad to hear that you’ve had success at curbing your sentence finishing habit; it gives me hope that I can do the same!

        • buglover

          I love reading these comments– yall are so perceptive! But here is MY question…. When people finish my sentences, or when they finish sentences of people I am talking to (or answer questions I have directed specifically to someone else), it drives me crazy and I want to call them out on it…. suggestions for doing this in a humorous, thoughtful way that will help them recognize what they are doing?

      • bluetamarai

        Oh my gosh, me too! I’ve actually found that most people don’t mind it at all, or even notice it, but it’s a real button-pusher for my husband. I struggle to change this habit because it’s long-ingrained and I don’t even realize I’m doing it. In the past, when I have managed to catch myself doing it and have apologized for it (to a former boss, for instance), the other person had not even noticed and said it was nothing to worry about.

        The other thing I apparently do, which I also didn’t realize until my husband pointed it out to me, is directly related to the OCS. I very often begin my responses to him with the word “No.” I had no idea! But it’s true; I’ve begun to notice myself doing it since he started pointing it out. It’s so freaky! And I seem to tend to do this no matter the topic, no matter whether he’s asked a question or not, and sometimes when I largely or even completely agree with him.

        I’m so glad you wrote about this (and that I read about it today) because I really do want to work on it… on both of these things. Thank you!

    • Yes listening is really important, but hard for enthusiasts! 

      I’ve been spending time and effort lately on conversation etc. And have found that listening, but also focussing on the other person and steering the conversation to them, makes people happy, and makes you happy too. But I have also found that when you are always focussing on the other people, getting them to tell their stories, there is often no time left for them to ask you about your story, and this can leave you feeling a bit ‘forgotten’. So I’ve come to understand that:it’s great to listen,
      but nice to be listened to, as well, (and leave some space for this)
      don’t offer advice, but offer an ear and empathy,
      enjoy it when people ask you for advice,
      be compassionate,
      enjoy others compassion for you,
      remember that nobody is an expert, even you..

  • Lovellsrb

    If you want to get happy just join and start creating, cooking, sewing, making things, and taking with folks there and making friends that share the same interest that you do and pretty soon, you will be smiling and laughing at all the cute things said and done and posted there.  I have seen pictures there from all around the world and that along has made it worth wile!

  • Peninith1

    Big difference between people ‘starting a debate’ and the person who just drains energy by being opposed to or negative about everything. A person who does not want to converse, but just wants to slam the door on every opening gambit, that’s really OCS and really self centered. Really liked the point made by the person who suggested we LISTEN instead of waiting (or not even waiting) to insert our own viewpoint. So hard to CONVERSE with people who are all about their own autobiography and opinions and not at all about listening to others. Another conversational ploy I really dislike (and really dislike when I catch myself doing it–and I do!) is categorically stating political or social views as if they were something everyone MUST agree with. That is totally offensive to me, and I become very frustrated with myself when I cross that line.

    • Anne

      Or as if said views were something that you MUST debate with them. Politely refusing to debate the point can result in a great deal of frustration on the part of the would-be debater. 

      I do this in my family, where political and religious debates can end up horribly. I just say that I don’t argue about those topics with people I love. With strangers I say that, even if I had the perfect solution to the problem they want to discuss, I wouldn’t have the power to implement it, so I stick to my own realm.

      • Peninith1

        Yep, I borrow a line from Steven Covey and try to stay inside my ‘circle of influence’ leaving the ‘circle of concern’ out of discussions if I can control myself!!!

    • gretchenrubin

      You suggest a very good test: is the conversation building energy or draining energy from the participants? A great discussion energizing.

    • Bridget Backus McBride

      Someone very close to me is totally OCS. It was nice to read these posts by Gretchen because I didn’t even know it had a name. The person I deal with drains to me to the point that I don’t really speak to them much anymore. It’s like Gretchen said, “‘And in the second example, I felt patronized. Here I was, trying to make pleasant conversation, and she kept contradicting me. It was all I could do not to roll my eyes and retort, “Fine, whatever, actually I don’t care if you had fun or not.’…But it’s not much fun when every single statement in a casual conversation is met with, ‘Nope, you’re wrong; I’m right.’ Skillful conversationalists can explore disagreements and make points in ways that feel constructive and positive, rather than combative or corrective.”

  • Dwhets

    The comment that referred to this as stroking an ego seems straight-on to me!  In my experience, OCS is a conversational tactic that is narcissistic to an unhappy degree.  The people in my family and my husband’s family who engage in OCS are slightly to the right on the “normal range” on the narcissism scale in other ways, too.  It is quite frequently “all about them,” and it is just wears me (and others) out! 

    Another commenter mentioned his use of inquiry.  Yes, the same people I mentioned above use this tactic, as well.  Here is how that one works out (as identified by my very smart adult son):  The questions which are supposed to seem innocuous and in the vein of  “just making conversation, you know” are really about trivial differences.  Without understanding the implied suggestion which is, “You know, if you just did X like me, you could be (nearly) as good as I am,” you only know that you are feeling slightly annoyed about the necessity of explaining why you are different or do some things differently than they do.  Having my sister-in-law in the house for a week at Christmas practicing this form of one-upsmanship took me over the top.

    Gretchen, please address this one next!  I think it runs side-by-side in the same weedy ditch with OCS!

  • Theresa

    I’ve noticed that I exhibit OCS when I’m extremely tired or in a bad mood.  OCS really is something I dislike.  Not everything needs to be a debate or corrected!  When I catch myself disagreeing with everything a person is saying, I mentally tell myself “Stop.  You’re in a bad mood and taking it out on her.”  This usually helps me to stop being so disagreeable and to actually have a good conversation.

  • I agree with you regarding the idea that being able to identify what bothers us in the first place significantly decreases our negative reactions and negative feelings. It certainty gives us a context and therefore we are better able to detach ourselves emotionally from  people, circumstances, and even conversations that can push our buttons.

    “Thinking Matters”

  • You are “right” on target here!  Deciding whether to be right or happy is step 2 of my 10 steps to finding your happy place.  Once I was in a restaurant and the waiter corrected my pronunciation of a french term.  I knew I was right(!), so I corrected him right back.  The exchange got me so churned up I couldn’t even enjoy my lunch.  Worse, I made everyone at the table listen to me rant about how rude the server was to correct me.  Hmm, was I looking in the mirror?!  Anyway, great post.

  • djkc

    This describes my mother to a T. She’d rather be right than be happy, doesn’t seem to recognize that having to be “right” all the time means the other person doesn’t want to hang around you, even if that person is her own child. She tends to do this only to us three (adult) children, though. I haven’t noticed her doing it to strangers so much, where she’s always on her best behavior.

  • Lisa

    I used to correct and/or inform people a lot as a young person, partly because I thought it was helpful. At some point I realized that most of the facts I imparted wouldn’t change anyone’s life, even if they were believed, so I try to “choose my battles” now.

  • Karen

    Many people with OCS also seem to have another annoying problem-they are what I call “talker overs”-once they put their two cents in, you can’t get a word in. When you try to join back in the conversation, it’s as if you are invisible. They are so engaged in themselves, they feel everyone else is just as enthralled. My husband, whom I really love, definitely has this problem when there is a group conversation going on (until he chimes in; because then it’s only about what he’s saying). People like this just can’t ever sit back and listen for a moment.

  • robinm

    This is interesting and kind of humbling. I think I have an oppositional conversational style, at least some times. Lately my husband has been talking about how I often seem to counter everything he says rather than giving him the benefit of the doubt and going along with it sometimes. This post puts this info perspective for me!

  • Thanks for the OCS. I had a ‘such’ an encounter the other day, and actually enjoyed it simply as I now knew about it after reading you blog. The guy was typical, and it kept making me laugh (quietly inside). He was also a perfect picture of arrogance, and was puffing up his chest and listing all his achievements… i mean really he was, no kidding! Peacock syndrome, could that be a new conversational style? PSCS..hmmm 

  • Nancy

    As someone who grew up with parents that did not want to hear my opinion or anything I had to say, I often say little, do not voice my opinion, and don’t stick up for myself.  This, of course, fertilizes my own frustrations.  I have been very tolerant of people in my life who are OCS, until recently.  One in particular, a long time friend of mine and my husbands.  This person’s bullying ways, offense behavior, my way or the highway attitude, finally pushed me over the edge.   I see what he has done to his new wife, someone who always stood on her own feet, now she turns to him, he voices his opinion, then she agrees.  Very sad. 

  • Lena!

    This post, along with many of the following comments, has been an incredible eye-opener for me. I’m going through a hard time in my life right now and have been finding myself being a little too combative for some around me, [a fact that I knew, but couldn’t pinpoint] not to mention one that I particularly dislike *thoroughly*. In fact, at the risk of sounding all-too hopelessly romantic and heartbroken, the person who means the most to me in this world has recently temporarily broken contact with me because of this previously unidentified “combative attitude” I’d been having. I like to think of myself as being fairly intelligent [not to mention, usually very positive and happy] and have been kicking myself at not being able to place this apparent unresolved hostility, questioning why I would treat the person I consider to be the love of my life in such a negative way. Why would I oppose his nearly every statement? I think in some ways, it is my need to be as open-minded as possible. To try see as many angles as possible in any situation simply as a learning experience. However, in the past few months [while undergoing a still unsuccessful job hunt, and many other stressful factors], I’ve definitely been more OCS than simply trying to see the other side of things. I’ve noticed it’s usually specifically with those closest to me. I absolutely *hate* that I’ve been this way. It’s literally the single factor that caused the man I hold dearest to back off from the otherwise tremendously amazing relationship we share. I knew I had been acting a little more difficult lately, but by combining what he said and what I’ve read here, I’m finally able to identify what I’d been doing and understanding how absolutely irritating it must have been for him, not to mention completely causing a feeling of being pushed away.

    I have noticed in the past two weeks that we haven’t been talking, that I’ve resolved some of my underlying emotions and found a lot more peace and happiness within myself, but it’s disconcerting to know there’s definitely a possibility of this occurring in the future. While obviously this isn’t the place for relationship advice, I’m wondering if there’s any hope for convincing him that I’ve “found the cure” [lol] for a lack of a better term. What I mean to say is, from the perspective of the person on the receiving end of a OCS problem – particularly in a relationship status – would there be any way to regain romantic closeness to someone who has “hurt” you in this way, do you think?

    Either way, I sincerely appreciate this post, the comments, and the blog in its entirety. :]

  • Lisa Williams

    My son has Asperger’s Syndrome, and I think that OCS must be a part of the condition. Because part of Asperger’s means that he is very literal, if someone makes a statement that is not exactly right, he has a need to correct them. For example, if I say I was in the living room, he immediately corrects and says, “you mean, family room?” This is a small and simple example of a large and complex problem because this behavior extends beyond just our family. He does this “correcting” with everyone, so it can cause some interesting situations for us, especially in school with teachers. So, as I was reading the comments below, I do recognize that some people are just “difficult” because they have to always be right, but some adults you encounter may have something a little more deeply embedded that causes this. We are trying to teach our son some adaptive behaviors to make his social interactions more comfortable by helping him not to use this OCS behavior so much, but it’s a daily, uphill climb. And for some people, this OCS tendency is more than just a need to be combative or always right. What his behavior has helped me to realize about myself is that I tend to be an interrupter, a sentence finisher, and sometimes an OCS person myself, so this issue has been a great learning experience for both of us.

  • whatever1959

    the “need to be right” is a thought distortion…do some research on cognitive behavior therapy and thought distortions. it is frequently tied in with “shoulds”, “polarized thinking” and “emotional/thinking reasoning” as well as others. it can keep a person from maturing and learning from life experiences (or prevent them benefiting from formal education or vocational training) because if something doesn’t validate what they already hold to be true/right, they will distort it to validate themselves and if they can’t distort it, they will write it off as quackery or a fluke….these are the people that are the same at 40 that they were at 18 or whatever age they decided they knew it all. it can make people argumentative because of their need to prove they’re right and show others they’re wrong. these are the people that can’t drop a subject until you agree with them. these people have very fragile egos and the thought of being wrong is more painful than they can tolerate…so they must be right to have value and be OK…if they were to take in new information and allow that to change what they hold to be true, an internal storm ensues because either they were wrong then or they or wrong now…and they cannot tolerate the thought of either. the idea that people learn, grow and change from experiences or that sometimes there is no right or wrong, only different, is a concept they cannot wrap their brain around.

  • whatever1959

    oh my reaction to this style of communicating…if they are in a position of power or authority over me, i give them the right to be wrong and go along with them…if they aren’t, i say thank you, i will keep that in mind and then proceed with what i hold to be right/true or fitting for me.