Bring it to Barb


Dear Barb,

Why is it so important for people to prove you are wrong? It makes me want to work harder to show how wrong they are. It seems that the older people get the more opinionated and right they seem to be. Is there a trick to being persuasive in a conversation without being offensive or confrontational?

Signed, Always Seem Wrong

Dear Always,

Telling someone they are wrong is usually unnecessary and does the opposite of endearing them to you. It strikes to the core of anyone’s ego. There is a trick to actually showing disagreement called the “Ransberger Pivot,” which turns it into a polite conversation without telling somebody they are wrong.
The idea behind it is pretty simple. Instead of arguing, listen to what they have to say, and silently ask yourself what’s important to them. First understand how they feel and why. Be patient, look them in the eye and look for parallel views and verbally validate what is similar. Most of the time there is common ground that you share with them and you can use that as a starting point to leverage your position.
I don’t know that age is necessarily a factor, but as you get older you do get wiser, well, most of us do. But we are never done learning. Some older people think that they don’t need new information, but believe me, especially in this high-tech age, they will be left behind in the dust! Embracing new information is fun. Ignorance is no longer bliss.
Focus on what you agree on instead of disagree on, as this creates more likelihood that they will listen to what you have to say, allowing you the opportunity to correct them without them losing face.
Resist jumping quickly to correct someone in a conversation no matter how tempting it may be. You’ll find less uncomfortable debates or un-needed escalated discussions and more interesting perspectives using this method of disagreement. Maybe even turn it into a heart-to-heart talk or a reason to fact check something. Matching their emotions, but not their intensity, is also a great way to connect, making them feel like you are listening, because you are! Sometimes, however, you may have to just look at them and say, “We should agree that we disagree and that’s okay.” You don’t need to care about anyone’s approval. Isn’t the freedom to be different and unique grand?

Barb Rock is a mental health counselor for the House of Matthew Homeward Bound program in Tacoma, and the published author of “Run Your Own Race: Happiness after 50.” Send any questions related to mental health, relationships or life issues to her at

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