I read this answer, which formulated my behavior quite well, that is to say, I am a button pusher.

I have a tendency to critique someone's arguments for being poor, without having any interest or opinion on the conclusion. This includes both, pointing out logical fallacies and question their premises.

If someone presents an opinion, I will gladly, and sometimes knowingly, assume the opposite opinion for "the sake of argument". I have rationalized this to myself, as helping people think through their ideas, and make sure they are rigorous under attack (people rarely seem to appreciate my completely selfless help :)). Someone asked me, "how would you like it, if people said such and such to you", to which I answered that I truly wish for that, and that I try to hold myself to the same standards.

Admittedly, it doesn't have to be an opinion. It can just be some thing they heard that they found interesting, and now I have to argue why it isn't interesting.

I am sometimes conscious of this, and I sometimes choose to let it go, but rarely, and it hurts every time. I have a few very good, very long term friends, with whom I've learned not to do this, to some extent anyways. A friend told me recently, that we do nothing but argue. To which I said something like, "and if we stop, I'd get bored.", which really is true.

It has become a meme during lunch at work, that whenever I start talking, (some) people go "Oh no!", "Here we go", or "I can't be borthered with this".

To summarize; discussion is like a drug to me, so if there is a way where I can keep taking this drug, without the alienating consequences I'd love that. However, if someone knows another way to deal with this, I'd be open to it. I am 28, and living in Scandinavia.

To be honest, this feels like a therapy session, so I don't know if this is the correct forum, but it is between other people and me. I appreciate any and all suggestions.

  • Related
    – JAD
    Nov 23 '17 at 13:51
  • I don't know if this is on topic. Do you have a specific interpersonal question you can highlight in your question?
    – Magisch
    Nov 23 '17 at 13:53
  • So, do you want to change the way you discuss things (say, have handlers on how to have a 'good' and 'respectful' discourse?), or do you want to be able to keep being a 'button-pusher' but without alienating your friends? It's a bit unclear to me
    – Tinkeringbell
    Nov 23 '17 at 13:55
  • 1
    Sounds on topic to me. It involves directly conversing with others, a communication habit that is affecting interpersonal relationships, and a question of how to modify this behaviour.
    – Astralbee
    Nov 23 '17 at 14:14
  • 1
    @peufeu, Hehe, I won't go on, but as soon as we agree, I'll probably find something new to talk (disagree) about.
    – Anonymous
    Nov 23 '17 at 14:20

There are lots of pop-psychology terms batted about these days. 'Button pusher' sounds to me like someone who deliberately wants to cause conflict, and clearly you do not, as indicated by your question.

I prefer the term 'devil's advocate'. I'm sure you've heard it before, it has historical context but in modern use it describes someone who, given a certain point of view, takes a position he or she does not necessarily agree with for the sake of debate or to explore the thought further (definition lifted from Wikipedia). In many situations this type of arguing is essential. For example in the workplace, perhaps in a project or testing environment, a 'devil's advocate' may be the only person that considers what might happen if something goes wrong and get preventative measures built in before it actually does.

So what you have is a very useful debating skill. But as you have seen, it doesn't really go down well in social situations.

Simply put, you need to learn when to switch this off. It should come if you work on respecting other people's opinions. Others are perfectly entitled to enjoy or appreciate things that you do not. Try to show an interest in others and their likes/dislikes. Speaking personally, I find that I am able to appreciate other people's enthusiasm for something when it reminds me of my own enthusiasm for a completely different subject. For example I love music, I can talk about it for hours, and there are a couple of bands who I would travel some distance to see. I used to have a workmate who was obsessed with trains and he would travel miles to see particular trains - something I just can't get enthused about, and yet hearing him talk about his hobby I did kind of understand his passion and respect his interest, no matter how weird it may seem to me.

If this need to debate is as powerful as you say - 'like a drug' - then perhaps there are outlets where you could get it out of your system. Join a debating society? Do an evening class on a subject that is open to lots of debate. I loved studying poetry at college, you can debate for hours over the meaning of things and in the end everybody can be right!

  • I like this answer, but I'm not sure if it is because you're telling me that I'm (somewhat) fine. :) Whoever downvoted, please explain, since it isn't obvious to me.
    – Anonymous
    Nov 23 '17 at 14:17
  • Thanks @Anonymous - I kind of AM telling you that the behaviour is fine, but not in every context. I feel that the term 'button pusher' is vilifying you somewhat and I have tried to explain that. My answer to your problem comes in the advice I gave on respecting others and learning when NOT to argue.
    – Astralbee
    Nov 23 '17 at 14:25

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