Dealing with Someone Who Presses an Insistent Viewpoint

Woman Insisting on Paperwork Revisions

Having other people agree with you brings satisfaction.  It not only proves that your opinion is correct to a certain extent, but it validates your sense of being persuasive.

However, when you encounter someone pushing their insistent viewpoint rather than discussing it clearly and calmly, wanting your input as well, there is no element of satisfaction for either participant in that conversation.  Argument rather than areas of agreement may ensue.

How do you deal with such a person in this situation?  The answer is simple: be mindful and kind.  But being mindful and kind is also the challenge.

Keeping Control with the Pause

Etiquette is the unwritten law that governs the manifestations of kindness and good feelings.  It is also the law that prevents expression of unkindness and the lesser traits of our nature.  In other words, etiquette calls on us to make things all right.

When tempers flare, it’s best to immediately refuse the impulse to toss out a sarcastic remark or to give a dirty look.  Controlling those first impulses by biting your tongue helps you be all right.  The pause taken as you allow yourself to keep control gives you the breathing space to see the problem.

What is the problem?  It’s the emotions of the person with the insistent viewpoint, which typically boils down to fear.  His own fear is the reason he is resorting to pushiness and insistence that others accept the point of view.  So it's important that your inner calm guide your actions.

Responding to an Insistent Viewpoint

Having taken your pause and recognized the problem, an appropriate response is in order.  A goal is to avoid further intimidation.

According to Dan O’Connor, Communication Skills Trainer, when someone is insistent, and upset with you or your opinion, you should not speak these danger phrases when responding:

  • “Calm down.”
  • “I know how you feel.”
  • “You need to…”

Mr. O’Connor informs us that these danger phrases will only further irritate the person.  They give the impression that you are appeasing or trying to correct rather than empathize. 

Instead, he advises us to:

  • Show understanding by saying, “I can see that…” or “I can understand why …”
  • Match the level of the other person’s emotion with a different emotion—but match it in intensity.  For example, if he is angry, you might say, with emphasis, that you are super curious as to what on earth happened that he is feeling so much intensity.  (Then, be sure to listen.)
  • Give a back-door command.  Instead of, “Remain calm and we’ll discuss this,” try “There’s no rush here.  Take your time.  I’d like to hear more.”

A final word of advice from Mr. O’Connor is to complement people on the behavior you wish they would exhibit.  “I’m surprised, given the circumstances, that you’re not even more upset.”  Or “Wow, you are really working to be kind, even though you’ve been really upset.”

It is important to remember, however, that if someone is uncomfortably confrontational, you have every right to leave the conversation or ask for assistance.

Helping you show up in any situation as recognizably respectful is the ultimate goal of etiquette.  Presenting an empathetic response to someone who presses his point of view, as shown in the examples above, rather than simply reacting to disagree or correct, can keep conversations from escalating.

You never know, once you help calm someone, they may present their viewpoint in a more clear, persuasive manner, winning your agreement.

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