Three Cheers For Contrarians

Excerpt (via University of Derby)

You’d be hard pushed to find a woman who doesn’t worship Coco Chanel — it’s her we have to thank, after all, for making trousers, T-shirts and little black dresses both chic and indispensable. In transforming women’s fashion, she transformed our lives. Whether we would have welcomed her as a friend, however, is a different matter. Despite being capable of great charm and wit, Chanel was remembered by her friends as proud, angry, sarcastic, mean and exasperating. She belonged to that breed of people who manage to inspire, impress, confound and infuriate us all at the same time: the contrarians.

Most of us have encountered such people, and even if you haven’t yet, you’ll know when it happens, because whatever you say, they’ll automatically say the opposite. It’s a personality trait that is virtually impossible to hide. Although contrarians may behave in similar ways, American psychologist Robert Sternberg points out that not all contrarians are the same.

There’s a spectrum of behaviour, ranging from the person who’s irritated by consensus and bureaucracy, to the type who thinks rules are made to be broken and the counter-intuitive thinker whose intelligence gives them a different perspective on life. ‘The more creative a person is, the more contrarian they are likely to be,’ says Sternberg. ‘There are also, though, contrarians who aren’t creative, they’re just disagreeable. And there are those who get their self-esteem from being contrary.

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