Why I like argumentative people

By Andrew on 8th June 2017 — 1 min read

Some people are argumentative by nature. In a room full of agreeing people, they’re the ones looking for a way to disagree. Their default position is ‘no, it won’t work like that’. Their hat is black.

I like these people!

For a start, it is usually easy to know where you are with them. They don’t have a hidden agenda. They’re also really helpful – in pointing out the holes, they can help to shore up a better, more robust solution. Something more thoroughly thought through.

They are often really passionate too, which makes for a fun and lively time. The challenges they make help us to stay on our A-game. We get more deeply invested. They help us to care.

The wrong kind of argumentativeness

Obviously arguing can be toxic. Aggressive argument can take a while to recover from.

Even mild negativity can kill the creative and collaborative ethos if it occurs too often. Like when people say


…when the unwritten rule in an ideation session is that you should say…


Thus building on ideas – and adding more. Expanding the thoughts being considered, rather than shutting them down.

The right kind of argumentativeness

Arguing doesn’t have to be positional. We don’t have to dig our heels in.

It should be in service of the best possible outcome to the problem we’re looking at. It’s when we’re not allowing those around us to settle on the first idea. When we’re challenging the group to come up with multiple angles.

A rigorous debate can see the participants flip from one position to another – attempting to see things from all sides (wearing multiple thinking hats) without feeling the need to consistently stick to a particular viewpoint. They’re looking for deeper understanding, and to come up with something that works, not for some petty personal win.

So bring on those work arguments – as long as they don’t make anyone feel upset or unsafe – a good healthy debate to do wonders to improve the thinking, the quality and even the enjoyment of our work.

Posted in: Design thinking

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