Consider the following scenario:

You have an acquaintance, who would probably be really good at turncoat (the game in which one person has to rapidly switch sides again and again on a topic). Whenever you bring up any topic for conversation, their prime goal is to contradict you and prove you wrong, regardless of their opinion on the matter.

For example, consider the following two hypothetical conversations:

  • Case 1:

    You: Did you hear of Hyperloop, designed by Elon Musk? Sounds promising, don't you think?

    Them: Are you kidding me? That sort of technology has been proven to be infeasible by scientists at MIT!

  • Case 2:

    You: Have you heard of Hyperloop? Far-fetched, don't you think?

    Them: Far-fetched? For your information, Elon Musk has already started trials of the prototype!

You get the point.They always want to 'prove' you wrong, regardless of whether the 'facts' they quote are accurate or not. In the hypothetical conversations stated above, they could easily pick either side of the argument and go on to 'prove' they're right!

If their arguments are weak (consider case 1), you often debate with them and defeat them, but it gives little satisfaction as they just smirk. Plus, you're a pacifist and don't like arguing.

How would you deal with this irritating habit of your acquaintance?


Thanks everyone, I found all your answers very helpful! They certainly have helped me deal with such situations better!

  • 8
    btw, you call this kind of person a "contrarian" (but this isn't English StackExchange). Waiting for someone to contradict me...
    – geokavel
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 0:34
  • The answer to this question will depend on your cultural context. Could you add a country tag?
    – user288
    Commented Aug 5, 2017 at 16:36

17 Answers 17



It's almost always a no-win situation when two people argue or debate over something (and especially when temper has reached critical levels).

What I suggest is to pretend to agree with them no matter what - but you don't have to actually believe their side. Calculate your risks, though. If this is a matter that will come back to you later, like, your stance on political issues, don't agree or disagree. Just casually shrug it off.

It's a strange advice, yes. But consider this.

You: Did you hear of Hyperloop, designed by Elon Musk? Sounds promising, don't you think?

Them: Are you kidding me? That sort of technology has been proven to be infeasible by scientists at MIT!

You: Oh, yeah? Interesting.

That's it. They'll go away. You'll be back to your business as usual.

Update: See David Mulder's answer nicely explain why some people behave this way.

  • 1
    This is good advice. I've seen people use this strategy of simply conceding points - it can thoroughly discombobulate a person who wants to argue. Also often the arguer really is right (from a certain point of view) so it's not dishonest to agree with their point. Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 8:03
  • 1
    I agree. I do this - and started doing it from the other side. As a teen I was very pedantic and would "correct" my friends at every opportunity if they said something that wasn't quite right in my eyes (not quite in the contrarian way mentioned in the question, but it came off that way with some people). I realised that being right is rarely important, but annoying everyone around me was going to be an issue, so I started just nodding along or saying "oh!" to stuff I thought was wrong, unless it was actually important at the moment.
    – LangeHaare
    Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 10:47
  • 2
    @LangeHaare It's hard to tell the right amount. We've had plenty of very fun discussions based on correcting a misconception, but I've certainly also pushed it to the point of being annoying too often. With my friends, we've learned to simply say "Not really all that interested" when we go too far, and that's the end of the annoyance :) One important bit - it's not important to prove you're right, but it certainly is important to follow the truth; it's not the same thing. When people see you honestly concede once in a while, a lot of the annoyance disappears.
    – Luaan
    Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 11:21
  • 1
    I tend to concur with your answer. However, pretending to agree might come across as very smug when it is clear that you don't really agree. It might be better to just state that you don't feel like debating (this or whichever topic) at the moment.
    – user510
    Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 14:38

Change the question

The strategy I am aware of, which usually also works very well with people you don't know much, or people you absolutely don't want to leave a bad impression with (because of dating, business, etc) is not to express your opinion first. Instead of:

You: Did you hear of Hyperloop, designed by Elon Musk? Sounds promising, don't you think?

You: Have you heard of Hyperloop? Far-fetched, don't you think?


You: Have you heard of Hyperloop? What is your opinion about it?

At this point, they cannot argue with you because you are asking them to tell you about the topic. You did not express any judgment on it so they don't know your POV.

But most people who like to argue, or like to feel considered, will gladly tell you what the "right" (in their mind) answer is.

Listen to it and wholeheartedly agree, then go on with something else.

  • 8
    That's helpful in most cases, @Andrea Lazzarotto ,but the person in my example goes out of their way to argue with the speaker, even for the most innocuous statements like 'Black is a popular car color.' Still, thanks! (+1) Commented Jul 28, 2017 at 16:03
  • @HarryWeasley if that is the case, you should edit the question, or submit a new one as this one perfectly answers your question as asked.
    – virtualxtc
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 16:42

As someone who is/was in the bad habit of doing this I would say this type of behavior can be triggered by presenting extremist positions. If you tell a person like me

The hyperloop is amazing

I will gladly point out the physical difficulties which make it practically impossible. At the same time when someone would tell me

The hyperloop is a useless hype

I would probably point out that even if the hyperloop doesn't ever get build, at least the research and money that gets thrown into it might very well end up useful in other areas. People like this feel the need to 'balance out' any extreme positions when they feel like the real answer is more nuanced.

Now to answer your question, I think the best way to approach these kinds of people is to ensure you keep nuanced positions. And whenever such a person takes the opposite position of you realize that their opinion isn't as extreme as what they present. People who enjoy debate (note that debate has nothing to do with arguing) will often realize that to properly answer or consider any issue there isn't a simple one-sided answer. So in a conversation with such people, it's valuable to realize that they aren't trying to antagonize you by opposing you, but instead, they sincerely would enjoy debating it.

Now, that doesn't change the fact that you might hate debating something. And the feeling of someone contradicting you, again and again, is something most humans sincerely hate. If it's a friend or anyone you have a better relationship with I would personally just recommend sitting down with them and telling them that you don't share their love for debating stuff and that it often leaves you feeling antagonized. Don't expect that to change their behavior, but it will allow you to drop a reaction like

Fair point... but like, do you agree at least a bit that it might be far fetched?

One last thing that I have to note is that there are also people who only purely want to 'win' any conversation they get into. Those are the people who will attack in response to a question like the above. Personally, I am not entirely sure how to handle those type of people best, although I would personally go with variations of

I doubt you're right, but who knows, maybe I am wrong.

That way you don't give them the satisfaction of winning, without antagonizing them too much.


If someone is truly doing this, it's pretty easy to walk them into contradicting themselves or taking an absurd position. Once they have, you can press them to defend it. If you do this, it may humiliate them so I guess it depends on whether you want or need to remain friendly with the person in question.

So decide whether you want to teach the person a lesson or not. If not you probably just want to sidestep the debate with an "oh really?" or "that's interesting".

  • A reasonable and useful answer, @JimmyJames , thanks! As the speaker wishes to avoid arguments, I guess the second course of action is suitable! Thanks (+1)! Commented Jul 28, 2017 at 16:08
  • @user1982 IMHO it would need not only good amount of expertise/knowledge but also from top of the head, in the very subject, to prove them wrong by bringing ‘em into contradiction with their own statement and one can have such knowledge in only limited subjects. But still in most of the cases lies/arguments are so weak that it works out, especially if you pose it out as a question to them. Hence +1 to you
    – old-monk
    Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 5:55

Dangle some tempting bait of something preposterous but actually true. A few round of that and they will most likely be disgusted at their success rates and drop it.

One of the ones I have used with success is "I have seen antimatter.", but you probably can't use that one.



As a devil's advocate, I'm often "Them" in your conversation, so I'll try to answer based on what would influence me, and leave it up to you to determine whether it's a general solution.

The trick to dealing with them is that their position typically involves expending a great deal of energy rapidly. If I want to challenge your claim that the Hyperloop is awesome, the first thing I need to do is to come at you with enough force to keep you off balance. Otherwise, we run the risk of the conversation becoming grey instead of black and white -- which is bad for such an attacking personality.

The most fundamental thing to understand about this approach is that it's all about making you lose, rather than trying to make them win. They're not trying to "win" the argument directly. They're trying to make you "lose" first, and then proclaim themselves the winner by default. That's the game. However, if you refuse to lose, or refuse to lose meaningfully, then they can never claim their win by default.

So the first trick you can leverage is to simply only engage with this person in simple boring single-round sparring on topics that you don't actually care about. Did you actually care about the Hyperloop? Then don't ask them. This solution is exemplified in several answers, including NVZ's.

The next trick is the one mentioned by Andrea. If you don't make any statements that can be construed as an opinion, they can't attack it. This may be boring, but it can be entertaining to some people. From time to time, when my Devil's Advocate hat is hung up, I'll have fun trying to refuse to be goaded into verbalizing an opinion. It's actually a pretty neat game, I think. The key here is that they can never make you lose, so eventually, they will become frustrated because it's the only way for them to win.

Beyond that, the question I'd ask is "why do you want to have this acquaintance in the first place?" What value do you get out of it? If they're only annoying, just stop hanging out with them. If there's a reason to hang out with them, reflect on that reason. Maybe you just have to work with them as a coworker. Use this to your benefit. Have a meeting you want derailed? Invite them, sit back, and watch the fireworks! Maybe you're feeling lethargic, with no energy to get up and fight. Go hang out with them. Let them put all the energy into the fight, leaving you with more than you started with.

There are more advanced approaches too. If you can keep a conversation moving, it's hard for them to lay into any one topic. By the time they plan their attack, you've moved on. I, myself, have trouble with this approach, but I've seen it used very successfully. Eventually, they lose track of what They should attack.

Having a discussion with them can actually improve your conversation skills greatly, though no credit can really be given to them. If you can avoid being skewered by them, then you're that much more invulnerable in a discussion where your partner isn't trying to make you lose. If only They understood this more, and held their punches in a way that made it easier to learn.


I have a relative who does this and it is excruciating. I don't want to just agree, because often I disagree vehemently. Also, I know that if I agreed, they'd flip to the other opinion or find a reason to claim that I hadn't thought of something. So, my strategy is to avoid comparing opinions and NEVER ask for agreement.

  • Instead of "Did you hear of Hyperloop, designed by Elon Musk? Sounds promising, don't you think?" say "I think Hyperloop, designed by Elon Musk, sounds promising." If they disagree, simply ask "what makes you say that?"
  • If you don't want to know their opinion, don't ask for it.
  • If you want to know their opinion without the debate ask, "What do you think of X?"

You know all that is to be learned from Elon Musk? Why are you discussing it? Because it's interesting? Great! "tell me all the downsides and I will come back with answers to your objections". Someone who is truly interested will do.

If you are not willing to invest the time, then be light-hearted about it. This person thinks of conversations as boxing matches, and you can play boxing with him, if you like to argue. Or not. Your Choice.

The secret of changing people is changing your reaction to them.


I agree with Jimmy James. People who disagree for the heck of it can be baited into their own ditch. They are so habitual to their behavior of contradicting others opinions, they can't and do not keep track of their own opinions. Whereas, someone who knows what they are talking about, has sound knowledge of the direction in which the conversation is heading.

  1. Lead them to contradict themselves. They will eventually be cautious when interacting with you.
  2. Before sharing your opinion, ask his/her opinion. Then dismiss it and continue talking from where you left off. Don't follow up to their opinion.

First, if you've got quick access to technology, and the person really blows you off, you can say something like "Wow, that's really interesting. That's something I'd like to google right away! Asking you questions about it might be wasting your time. I'm obviously missing a lot."

There's also always the bland "You've given me a lot to think about."

For me it's maybe not so much about what I say but more about not feeling helpless going into a conversation. Having a safety valve or two, or more, depending on the situation, means I won't dread speaking to certain people.

I'm also reminded of two quotes from movies. They help lower my blood pressure. And if I think of them during a conversation, I know to make exit plans. You may have your own favorite movie, but I like these, because they're not specifically about arguing.

A famous quote from War Games is where the computer says "The only way to win is not to play" about nuclear war. This applies to arguments, too.

The other is from the Marx Brothers' Animal Crackers.

"Suppose nobody in the house took the painting."

"Go to the house next door."

"Suppose there isn't any house next door."

"Well, then. Of course we gotta build one."

In other words, even when there's no real reason to argue, let's argue! I find it's good to have a jokey perspective on the matter even if the joke isn't very good, or even if you can't share it with anyone.

This helps us accept the hard truth that some people argue for the sake of arguing. We'd like to think people are better than that. But they can have a bad day, and that's worth taking into account, too. So it's have several ways not to raise tensions that don't feel like you're jollying the other person along.


Although multiple answers have mentioned this, I'd like to repeat that all arguments are a no-win situation for all the participants. The simple reason is that an argument is generally subjective in nature, with few absolute cases possible. Also, the person arguing can conjure up as many "facts" as he wants to just to prove you're wrong (although Google is always there for youツ).

Whenever there is an argument, there's always some people on both sides. The reason is that humans like to try and see both sides of the coin. For some, arguing just for the sake of it is enough, whereas there are some whose arguments have real points hidden in them.

Take your own example:

Are you kidding me? That sort of technology has been proven to be infeasible by scientists at MIT!

This argument has no real strength behind it, as your friend has no reasons backing his argument.

In all such cases, I have observed that the best way to react is to say:

Really now? I didn't know that! Go ahead and tell me about it.

This is because the person arguing is going to keep making up some excuse or the other to prove himself right in this case. The next thing you could do here is Google it up instantly (provided you have a proper internet connection), and see for yourself. If the argument your friend has made was false, then you can tell him about it, and he will shut up soon enough.

Now, there still exists the case where your friend has truly made a point. In this case, your best bet is to agree with him/her, saying something along the lines of:

Oh! I didn't know that...

As you may have noticed, in both the cases, I say that I didn't know what the friend was saying. This is because the friend in concern here thinks he knows it all. Know-it-alls are very, very stubborn and will never accept that they are wrong and you are right. Mirroring people like this helps to make them feel like they have won. See this answer. Agreeing blindly also leaves them blank, but then they don't exactly feel like they've won either, so this method is good if you want them to leave you alone without you losing the argument. Andrea's answer is also perfect in this case.

Thus, the best way to deal with these people who compulsively argue is to just let them win, however you like it, even if they're saying that Angelina Jolie is their father. (ツ)

  • 1
    What if they think that everything on the internet is BS?
    – Mazura
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 18:24

I don't like game-playing of that kind. I'd say, call it. Don't ask questions if they will play games with it, because you want dialogue and they want points. You're a friend/colleague, not a target for someone else's game.

"Not interested, sorry".

If patient, wait a long while - weeks or months - and then tell them your perception of how they act, with a couple of examples of how you feel, and tell them you don't enjoy it, and you'd like them not to.


When you are dealing with a person who always want to 'prove' you wrong, the strategy that you adopt depends on what you want to do.

  1. If you don't want a war - Don't even talk to them as far as possible.
  2. If you want a war but no major bloodshed - As it is mentioned in many answers, don't reveal your point of view first. Let them reveal their stance first and then make your move against it. However, the biggest limitation to this technique is that you can't always control this as most of our conversations are not planned to this extent. You may just say anything which can reveal your opinion and it may be used against you. Moreover, always confining your opinion in front of them can be emotionally exhausting.

    You: I should carry an umbrella today. I think it will rain today.

    Them: Nah! I have seen such clouds a million times. Only a fool will carry an umbrella in such a weather.

  3. If you want a win-win situation after full on war: Use their own arguments as a question rephrased against them. This is based on the premise that the more one speaks the easier it gets to defeat them. So, the only thing you have to do is to make them speak and speak and speak. The arsenals that you can use in this technique are labeling and strategic silence. Labeling- Rephrasing a part of their sentence as a question against them to make them reveal more and more. Use the subsequent answers to ask more questions and then either eventually maneuvering them towards your own viewpoint or just leaving the topic at a point where they don't have anything more to say. If you find their answer insufficient to ask anything, just be silent and look at them. This is the strategic silence and in most of the cases, they will start telling even more. Also, keep a few insignificant points at your side to avoid suspicion.

You: Did you hear of Hyperloop, designed by Elon Musk? Sounds promising, don't you think?

Them: Are you kidding me? That sort of technology has been proven to be infeasible by scientists at MIT!

You: Proven to be infeasible?

Them: Yes, I heard it from one of my friend in college.

You: (Silent looking)

Them: He had read about it in the newspaper a few days ago.

You: In the newspaper? I didn't find it?

Them: Yes it was there. He was very sure about it. Also, he told me that tests in MIT are still going on.

You: Tests are still going on? So isn't their finding final?

Them: No it is final but they want to reveal even more information about it.

You: Information?

I guess now you get it where it is going. Such a maneuvering will give them the impression that the result of this conversation is their own view point and so it needs not be contradicted.


Two options come to mind:

  • Don't discuss with them at all (what's there to gain?)
  • Agree with what they say and drop the topic until it gets boring for them. "Elon Musk started a prototype? Interesting. Well, I guess then you're right. non-committal shrug"
  • If I had written this question, it would have asked for something other than these two probable outcomes.
    – Mazura
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 18:20
  • 2
    @Mazura If you had written this question, you should have pointed out what it is you're trying to achieve ;-) I don't see the point of arguing with somebody who's just trying to be contrary and/or keep the discussion going for the sake of discussing. If you want to "win" every debate with every fool you're clearly going to have a hard time in life. Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 22:10

When someone is behaving in a way that I find annoying, I prefer to confront the behavior directly.

You: Did you hear of Hyperloop, designed by Elon Musk? Sounds promising, don't you think?

Them: Far-fetched? For your information, Elon Musk has already started trials of the prototype!

You: You know, I'm not sure whether to be impressed with your knowledge, or annoyed with your need to always be right. Either way, it makes having a conversation with you difficult.

If there are other people involved, they are probably attention-seeking, and will receive your comment confrontationally. That's fine if you are prepared for their bad reaction, and willing to lose their 'friendship'.

A more gentle way would be to take them aside and deliver the message personally to save them face.

You could also add this advice-

You appear quite intelligent, but I suspect you would build more productive relationships if you practice a more cooperative conversation style.

This puts you in the role of social-skills mentor and ally, rather than enemy, and may actually strengthen your relationship.


I'm sometimes the "them" in your question, but I do it for a reason other than arguing for the sake of arguing. If they're like me, this could probably work on them.

When I hear a statement like the ones in the question, that seems a lot like:

I have read the headline of a news article and now wholeheartedly agree with it, without thinking it through or looking anything up.

I confront this, to try to stop you from being misinformed.

The easiest way to deal with someone like this is to show that you've given it some thought and/or researched the subject when telling them about it.

  • 1
    OP's interlocutor is argumentative no matter what the facts are and regardless of how well either side is informed.
    – user510
    Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 14:36

They always want to 'prove' you wrong, regardless of whether the 'facts' they quote are accurate or not. In the hypothetical conversations stated above, they could easily pick either side of the argument and go on to 'prove' they're right!

If their arguments are weak (consider case 1), you often debate with them and defeat them, but it gives little satisfaction as they just smirk. Plus, you're a pacifist and don't like arguing.

How would you deal with this irritating habit of your acquaintance?

There are various techniques depending upon the subject and how it's introduced. This being the StackExchange Interpersonal Skills site we are limited to offering polite and productive advice.

You should probably listen, if they are a friend of yours, and assess the percentage of the fact versus fiction - are they simply misinformed or an outright liar, are they trying to pick a fight or call you stupid; is this the kind of friend you want.

Having heard their point of view ask how they know this and their own expertise in this area. If the source and extent of their knowledge is not well supported you can simply explain that. There's little to argue if they tell you that they acquire their knowledge at the local bar and were kicked out of remedial school. Explain that you don't value their opinion.

If they're mostly correct are you certain they are wrong about the remainder - you don't want to be the person about whom you complain, the argumentative idiot. You might well learn something if you listen, you might discover what they are trying to accomplish: time wasting, rumor mongering, nuisance, combative - perhaps your friend is ill, and you'd be a better friend recommending that they get help.

If it's going to cost you money or risk your safety you should neither concede nor spend a lot of time debating it. This isn't the sort of friend you want to keep.

Oobligating them to remember and involving someone else usually puts an end to such behaviour. For instance they say "they know all about something because they always get 100% on tests", someone else comes along and you simply say "ask Einstein here, he just said he always gets 100% on tests". Another example is they bring something up and you reply "but the other day you said the opposite", agree or deny you explain that the time available to deal with that subject has expired; they ought to have made better use of your time. Etc.

Do a cost risk analysis if you must. One neighbor of mine put another in their place, explaining that they are useless and should leave; while it's more rude than I would have been I too reaped the benefits.

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