Oppositional behaviour, you must avoid it
Who would have thought there would be a relationship between oppositional and avoidance behaviours? Without really considering each of them, you’d think that they were polar opposites. In many ways they are – avoidance behaviours can be quite passive in nature and oppositional can be quite aggressive – however, the important similarity is they each reach the same less than satisfactory result: NO action.
Flight or fight – flight or bite?
Some people are naturally oppositional, but for others oppositional behaviour is where they go when avoidance doesn’t cut it. Recently I posted an article on avoidance behaviour. People with avoidance behaviour tendencies often find themselves backed right into a corner. Flight is no longer an option and fight becomes the only way out. They morph like Jekyll into Hyde, from avoidance to oppositional. A snake in action is a great example of these two behaviours. Frankly, your average snake is happy just kicking back, minding his own business, taking in some sun and eating a rodent Hors d’oeuvre. If he feels you coming, gets your vibe, he’s out of there, he avoids you, he’s a lover, not a fighter. But if you corner him, he’s going to have a go, big time – teeth first, dentist later.
Politics and oppositional behaviour – what else is there?
If you want another perfect example of oppositional behaviour, in a supposedly human context, then destroy your lunchtime and your last semblances of faith in politics by watching some live parliament. Here is a place where you can watch seemingly intelligent people argue for the ridiculous and often in complete contrast to their previous stance. Government or Opposition, there is a whole lot of reactionary, oppositional behaviour there.
How to recognise one without getting bitten
Oppositional people can be aggressive and defensive, and their style is characterised by cynicism and non-constructive criticism. Oppositional people have an argument against any proposition put their way. You could offer them lotto proceeds and they would have an absurd argument for why this would be a negative outcome for them.
- Find fault in everything
- Keep you on edge
- Are disproportionately negative
- Are sarcastic and cynical
- Keep their distance as a defensive mechanism, and
- Attack without warning
Leadership and oppositional behaviour
If you’re a leader suffering from oppositional tendencies, you have the potential to have a negative impact on those working for you. You’re likely to give your staff the third degree investigation over everything they present, maybe delivered with a smattering of sarcasm just to really establish your superiority. You will almost certainly stifle their initiative, sense of ownership, and innovation. Often extreme behaviours are a reflection of feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. In fact, that’s what this behaviour is all about. Oppositional behaviour is often associated with feelings of low self-esteem and a lack of confidence. If you want employee engagement, then you need to take action now.
What to do, if this is you (read this first and disagree later)
If you have oppositional tendencies there is a bunch of things that you could consider doing to help dampen your over-enthusiastic spirit. Self-awareness is always number one, so out comes the mirror again. Its time to take a good hard look at yourself.
- You need to realise that most people aren’t viewing your ability to crush them in one fell swoop as impressive – actually quite the opposite, so back off.
- Make it a point to ask questions (but not in a sarcastic tone). Be inquisitive and appreciative of information, ideas, etc. that come your way. Hold back the urge to reject other people’s ideas/opinions the moment they appear.
- You need to learn to at least consider constructive criticism. If self-actualisation is the ultimate goal in personal development, then accepting and considering constructive criticism – or better still, welcoming it – is a must have in your development arsenal. If you’re ready to leap into self-actualisation then check out my post: Self Actualisation, Yeah man, bring it on.
- It’s ok to say, “Well done,” to someone else. In fact, you might even learn to like it. Handing over the limelight, graciously and genuinely is incredibly important.
- Use your natural questioning ability to help others get to the heart of matters, but separate people and issues. Take issues and examine them free of any influence from your perception of their origin.
- If you need to offer criticism, then do so in a constructive manner, focussing on the opportunity and do so privately, one on one.
- Dial down the sarcasm, and be considerate of other people’s feelings. People need to be included, to feel a valuable part of the process.
It’s healthy to agree to disagree, believe me
I have known a few oppositional people in my life. I doubt there are many people who haven’t. One of the most frustrating things about oppositional people is their need to win. Have you ever been in an argument, or a debate with someone who just couldn’t agree to disagree. They always have to have the last word, and then worse still they feel they need you to concede, to surrender at all costs. This is oppositional behaviour in all of its splendour. If this is you, then here’s your task. Have a healthy debate and then let it go. What is the consequence of being wrong? Is it a matter of safety or a matter of pride? If it’s only pride, then the outcome doesn’t matter. You don’t have to win. Accepting that there are many points of view is a big step forward.