Marlene enjoys reading psychological studies and reviews. The results help her in daily life challenges.
A friend of mine doesn’t talk to me anymore. It’s not because I did anything to her or said anything to offend her. We engaged in a political discussion where she and I share differing beliefs. “You voted for him?” It was the last thing she said to me before going silent and ending the conversation. My friend is highly opinionated and I should have known better than to say anything that opposed her opinion about a subject in which she was overly impassioned. The truth is I should have ended the conversation long before it became so intense that we ended up not being friends anymore.
I have learned that there is one subject that is becoming more threatening every day. It is the subject of politics. If you want to preserve a good relationship, avoid talking about politics with someone who is very opinionated about their viewpoint.
The Highly Opinionated Person
Scientists say the brain’s job is to protect us and when people present ideas that go against our core belief, the brain treats these ideas as if they are a personal attack, therefore causing us to act in ways that seemingly protect us from harm.
Jonas Kaplan, Ph.D. is a scientist involved in an experiment that studied the brain and how people respond to challenges to their core beliefs. Kaplan says, “It is well known that people often resist changing their beliefs when directly challenged, especially when these beliefs are central to their identity.”
We come in contact with people from all walks of life, however, the people who are the most difficult to deal with are the highly opinionated people.
Following are some basic ways we can get along with them.
Change Your Viewpoint
One of the best solutions to dealing with highly opinionated people is to try to see things from their point of view. Even if we think they are wrong, we should try to imagine the life they live and how they might have come to their conclusion.
Highly opinionated people tend to be what we generally call know-it-alls. They act like they know everything under the sun. Studies show that the know-it-all personality types are more likely to be people from technical engineer backgrounds. If we question their opinion, they quickly edify themselves, telling us they are the expert on the subject matter.
Whenever someone starts telling me how long they have been in business and how much they know about something, I stop talking immediately because I know there will be no success in rationalizing with this person.
In the workplace, the know-it-all is especially difficult to work with because instead of working with us and offering the feedback we need to proceed forward with a project, they simply take on the attitude that they are perfect. In their mind, they never make mistakes and they question why we are even asking them to validate their opinion.
Psychologists say that some people become arrogant because of the environment in which they grew up during their formative years. It all depends on whether or not they suffered trauma. A lot of things, including personality come into play.
When people grow up in an environment that is overly critical, they tend to develop a defensive lifestyle that places barriers around them. This barrier manifests itself from fear, insecurity, and vulnerability.
Understanding that the know-it-all may have likely developed their arrogant character trait as a defense mechanism and understanding that they may be living in a somewhat vulnerable state of mind, we can deal with them with a little compassion. Instead of pushing back on them, we can practice strategies that can help them relax, let down their barrier, and work toward a goal that is beneficial to everyone.
Perhaps if we have an opportunity to get to know them a little better, we can mentally walk in their shoes for a moment and gain some insight into how they came to develop their way of thinking.
Use Paraphrasing in Communication
Earlier, I mentioned my friend who no longer speaks to me because of our differing opinions about politics. If I had paraphrased some of my comments in the discussion, we might still be talking today. Had I thought about my friend’s personal dilemma, I might have stated my position more thoughtfully, considering why she took on her particular political opinion.
Avoid Saying You
I have learned to never use the word, “You.” The word you can appear to be confrontational. It immediately draws a person to a defensive stance. For example, if we are at work and we notice that someone left their coffee cup on top of the copy machine. Instead of saying, “Hey, you left your coffee cup on the copy machine.” Upon hearing the accusation, the other person is likely to become defensive and may make up excuses as to why the coffee cup was there in the first place. They may even lie and say the coffee cup is not theirs (even though they know you saw them put it there). This negative encounter could be avoided by paraphrasing the statement. Instead of using the word you, say, “Hey, I noticed someone left a coffee cup in the copy room.” Stating the obvious in this format avoids confrontation and allows the person to go in and remove their coffee cup with dignity.
Ask, Don’t Tell
When we are dealing with highly opinionated people, we need to learn it is not wise to tell people directly what we think. We need to ask clarifying questions.
For example, let’s say you have to make a decision about what color to paint the house. You want to paint the house white but your partner, who is highly opinionated, wants to paint the house blue. If you were to say to your partner, “I want to paint the house white,” your highly opinionated partner is likely to immediately defend his or her preference. They are likely to tell you what color is best because they believe they are somehow an authority on the subject of paint and colors. You will not win this little battle.
A better way to address the color of the house is to ask your partner what color they would like to paint the house. Keep in mind that having an open mind and seeing things from your partner’s point of view is part of the process. Here is an example of what a non-confrontational conversation might look like:
You: What color would you like to paint the house?
You: Really? What makes you choose blue? (You want to learn the story behind their selection so you can see things from their point of view.)
Partner: Well, when I was growing up, we moved a lot. The house I enjoyed living in the most was blue.
This tidbit of information allows you to move the conversation forward from an informed perspective. You have learned why your partner wants to paint the house blue, which allows you to have an appreciation for their choice of color and perhaps identify with the color blue in a way that you might not have considered if you had not asked the question why. You may still want to paint the house white, but now you have opened up a conversation that has a more compassionate tone and your partner may be open to hearing your suggestions. A compromise may have to be made but everyone's feelings were taken into account.
Pump Up the Compliments
Most people are afraid of failure. As stated previously, they surround themselves with protective barriers. This protective barrier can show up in the form of isolating themselves or not letting others see their faults. They have a need to feel accomplished and well-appreciated.
If we stop and analyze highly opinionated people, we may find that these people are actually suffering from low self-esteem. They need to be pumped up with positive feedback. I’m not saying we need to placate them, I’m saying we need to take notice of the good qualities in them and compliment them when we see them. Compliments are beneficial because people are more motivated to do something when they receive positive reinforcement.
A note of caution is in order; we should never deliver false compliments. People can see through phoniness and our efforts to falsely praise a person will backfire. They could label us as untrustworthy.
Know When to Walk Away
In some cases, no matter how we respond to people, they will stick to their opinion even when they discover their opinion is clearly incorrect. They don’t care. Once they put their opinion on the table, they stick with it to the end.
Some people try to be tall by cutting off the heads of others.
— Paramhansa Yogananda
There is no limit to how far they will go to assert themselves upon us. They will belittle us and do all that they can to make us feel inferior. In some cases, they may become so highly emotional that their actions may become harmful and dangerous. We must walk away from people like this. We will never change their mind. We will not win.
Tell them thank you for their opinion and then walk away from the conversation. It is especially important to walk away from the conversation when we have to live or work with the overly opinionated person. We must be careful not to offend them, however, we do not need to cater to their hostility.
If we notice a conversation becoming volatile, we simply need to acknowledge that we heard the other person's opinion and then walk away and tend to other business. If they are aggressive and pressure us for our opinion, we need to just tell them we want to keep our opinion to our self.
Do Not Take It Personally
We all have a set of luggage in the form of emotions that we carry around with us. How we deal with life situations has a lot to do with the teachers, mentors, and our nature to conform or not conform to societal norms.
In getting along with highly opinionated people, we need to analyze ourselves first to determine our reasons for reacting to their opinions. Are we being overly sensitive, or is this person simply being a jerk?
Whatever our answer, when interacting with highly opinionated people, also known as know-it-alls, following a few simple strategies should help us get along with them:
- Look at the situation from their point of view.
- Paraphrase and ask open-ended questions to discover what leads them to feel the way they do.
- Avoid the confrontational you when making a point.
- Show honest praise for their accomplishments.
- Know when to walk away.
- Do not take it personally.
We don’t have to be submissive, but it is good to know how to get along with highly opinionated people at home, at work, and in social environments where these people are bound to show up.
Video: Gain More Insight on How to Deal With the Highly Opinionated Person
The following video shows Mel Robbins, a renowned motivational and keynote speaker, giving some valuable tips on how to deal with the person who is a highly opinionated know-it-all. Her insights will help you take control of your mind, actions, and emotions so that at the end of the interaction with the highly opinionated person, you are left in a more powerful position.
How to Deal With Someone Who Always Has to be Right
Goulston M.D., F.A.P.A., Mark. “Know Any Opinionated People?” Psychology Today, October 13, 2015, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/just-listen/201510/know-any-opinionated-people. Visited October 30, 2018.
Kersting, Karen, “Keeping the peace.” American Psychological Association, June 2004, https://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2004/06/peace.aspx. Visited November 7, 2018.
Kaplan, Jonas, et al. “Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counterevidence.” Scientific Reports, December 23, 2016, https://www.nature.com/articles/srep39589. Visited October 30, 2018.
Carnegie, Dale, How to Win Friends and Influence People. New York, Simon & Schuster, 1937.
© 2018 Marlene Bertrand
Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on June 24, 2020:
It is so good to hear you were successful in thwarting what could have been a confrontational situation.
Anupam Mitu from MUMBAI on June 23, 2020:
Today morning itself I was encountered by a highly opinionated colleague of mine, but thanks to your article. I followed your suggested points. Everyone has got one's own perception and it's not possible to change it with arguments. In case of fanatics it's just impossible. So I remain quiet and the argument ended.
Thank you dear Marlene
Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on June 23, 2020:
Lots of love to you Anupam. And, congratulations on your decision to study psychology. Having a master's degree will give you the upper hand when it comes to figuring out people and their motives. Again, many congratulations to you!
Anupam Mitu from MUMBAI on June 21, 2020:
Marlene dear, I have fallen in love with you after reading this article.
How deeply have you studied and observed the people around you
Yes, I too have met such sort of people everywhere, where with the little knowledge people think that they own the whole world. But what I have learnt " If anyone thinks that one knows all, that one is either foolish or mad". Thank you! Thank you! Thank you dear!
I always was in a search of this guide, as I don't know how to deal with such fools. This article will definitely help me.
You know just to update myself and also because I love to explore human emotions, I have enrolled for masters in psychology. Honestly speaking, it was an easy decision but very tough to go ahead.
Lots of love and blessings
Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on December 12, 2019:
Thank you for your feedback Umesh Chandra Bhatt. I hope it helps you if you ever encounter someone who is highly opinionated.
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on December 12, 2019:
Nice article. Well narrated. Elaborate. Thanks.
Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 27, 2019:
I totally agree with you Deniz, and not just because I'm trying not to "stir the pot." But, people do seem to be more opinionated with age.
Deniz Tekiner on October 27, 2019:
Fine observations and advice. Sometimes people develop in different ways so become less compatible. I've noticed that with age many become more rigid with their opinions so discussing things with them may get more difficult unless you agree with them. If one has to always walk on eggs to avoid triggering someone, it's probably not going to work as a friendship.
Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on August 02, 2019:
Hi Audrey! It is interesting that such a simple, innocent word can cause so much harm when used carelessly or if someone is completely unaware. I agree with you about listening. It is the best communication tool on the planet.
Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on August 02, 2019:
A brilliant article, Marlene! I found these suggestions helpful for dealing with highly opinionated people.
"I have learned to never use the word, “You.” The word you can appear to be confrontational. It immediately draws a person to a defensive stance." Such good advice.
I do my best to just listen to people like this and try not to take anything they say personally.
Thanks so much!
Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on June 29, 2019:
Hi Gupi. Thank you for your feedback. I hope these tips come in handy if you ever need them.
Gupi on June 29, 2019:
Great tips and advice. Thanks for sharing.
Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on June 19, 2019:
Hello RTalloni, life is not a bowl of cherries, for sure. Yes, everyone is hurting or healing from something in their life and being sensitive to that fact makes it easier to get along with just about anybody.
RTalloni on June 18, 2019:
Such a good discussion on dealing with opinionated people with useful tips. This is a valuable read. I try to remember that almost everyone is hurting from something and their responses are often a reflection of the pain.
Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on June 18, 2019:
Pamela Oglesby, your strategy about listening first is by far the greatest strategy for getting along with anyone. I also like the idea of agreeing that it is alright to disagree. That one agreement alone can make a difference in whether people stay friends or part ways.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 18, 2019:
This article has such great advice to help us get along with difficult people. I try hard to listen first. I do have a friend with totally different opinions than me, and we just do not talk about those things. We can agree to disagree, but that doesn't work with everyone.
Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on February 21, 2019:
Hi Dream On. I can't say for sure that time heals all wounds. Right or wrong, the highly opinionated person is always looking for an apology for the times they think someone did them wrong. Unfortunately, going out of your way to make things go their way may cause you to go way too far for your comfort level. I don't know what happened in your situation at work. But, I have found that stubborn people just need to feel like they are superior or just simply "right." If you could find something about that person where you could say they were right or just pay them a compliment for something, then maybe you could close the gap between you and work together under better circumstances. I'm just throwing that out there in hopes that there is something that can be done to mend the wounds.
DREAM ON on February 21, 2019:
I wish I read your hub four days earlier. It could have saved me a lot of aggravation and trouble. The outcome would probably be the same. I have a co-worker that I have to work with and it's their way or no way. I go out of my way to make sure things go his way. Thinking I am a better person because of it. Then an incident went down that carried things way too far. I am wondering if time will heal all wounds. Thank you for a wonderful hub and great advice.
Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on November 20, 2018:
I have learned that lesson well, Rajan. I find life a whole lot better to just let them have their say and then move along without addressing their opinions on any level except to say I heard them.
Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on November 17, 2018:
Very useful pointers to deal with highly opinionated people. I just do not get into a confrontational mode with such people. It is so much more peaceful to leave them as such.
Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on November 16, 2018:
Hello Chitrangada Sharan! I am like you now. I avoid talking about politics to everyone. I just keep my opinions to myself.
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on November 16, 2018:
A wonderful article, which is so relevant and relatable!
We do find highly opinionated people all around us, don’t we? I am very poor at dealing with them, therefore I avoid such discussions, especially the political ones.
Sometimes, the cordial relationships suffer due to such highly opinionated behaviour.
Your article suggests some useful and valuable points on this subject.
Thanks for sharing this well thought of article!
Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on November 06, 2018:
Dora, thank you so much for your kind comment. It means a lot coming from you - a counselor who knows a lot about how to interact with people.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on November 06, 2018:
Marlene, your article is very helpful. Opinionated people, including me sometimes, are everywhere. The person who makes your final point a habit will find that it helps greatly, All your points together make great counsel.
Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on November 02, 2018:
Thank you for your feedback Sean. Your compliment inspires me to look deeper into finding successful ways of communicating with the people I encounter in life. Have a beautifully blessed day.
Ioannis Arvanitis from Greece, Almyros on November 02, 2018:
My dear Marlene, allow me not to stand at this excellent and helpful article you wrote, but to go a step beyond, to the quality of your character and the incredible lesson you gave us!
Facing a problem like this with your friend you could take the easy way of selfishness and criticizing. Instead, you looked inside; you found Love and offered us a great example! Thank you from my Heart!
Gratitude and Respect!
Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on November 01, 2018:
Hello Readmikenow! Thank you for your feedback. I can identify with your family policy. One time, two of my family members engaged in a full blown out fist fight over political views. It took months before those wounds were healed. It was the last time anyone ever talked politics in the family.
Readmikenow on November 01, 2018:
Well written article. When we get together as a family we have a agreement to not speak politics. It was difficult at first, but now we all prefer to talk about other things. Trust me, we have some very opinionated people in my family. Some things are just more important. Enjoyed reading this.
Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 31, 2018:
Thank you Manatita. I was hoping to present the lighter, brighter side of the subject. Peace be with you as well.
manatita44 from london on October 31, 2018:
A beautifully positive Hub. We have all met at least one of those people and I may even know a few right now. Coming online doesn't always help. Indeed, it can make some worse. It is the same old Love, which is the answer. You have touched on this in wonderfully loving ways. Peace.
Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 31, 2018:
Hi Mark! Yes. High maintenance is a good way to describe these people. Sadly, they don't see themselves that way.
Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 31, 2018:
Happy Halloween, Bill! You are right about highly opinionated people. A lot of work is involved in dealing with them. For the most part, I just walk away. But, there are times when these people simply need to be "handled."
Marlene Bertrand (author) from USA on October 31, 2018:
Hello Devika! You are such a gentle soul. I can't imagine anyone not being able to get along with you. Thank you for your feedback. I truly appreciate it and you for visiting. Have a beautiful day.
Mark Tulin from Ventura, California on October 31, 2018:
You reminded how difficult opinionated people could be and how high maintenance the are. While I know some relationships are worth the work, some aren’t. Good post.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 31, 2018:
I have a confession to make: I don't get along with highly opinionated people, and I don't try to. lol Life is just too short for that kind of aggravation. I know, that's not terribly loving of me, but hey, I have 7.6 billion to choose from, many of whom don't take so much work. :)
Happy Halloween, dear friend!
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on October 31, 2018:
Hi Marlene an interesting topic! I get on with people like me. I am not an highly opinionated person but have values too.