Some people seem to enjoy arguing more than others. You may know someone who is constantly starting debates or disagreeing with people’s opinions. So what do you call someone who argues a lot or seems to like provoking arguments? There are several terms that can be used to describe argumentative people.
Common Terms for Argumentative People
Here are some common names for people who argue frequently:
- Devil’s advocate
Let’s explore the meaning behind each of these labels in more detail:
A debater is someone who regularly engages in debates and likes to argue their point of view. Debaters enjoy intellectual discussions and contests where they can use reasoning and persuasion. They are skilled at argumentation and debating both sides of an issue. The term “debater” has a fairly neutral connotation.
This term refers to someone who takes a stance they don’t necessarily agree with, just for the sake of argument. Devil’s advocates play the skeptic and present counterarguments. Their goal is to strengthen critical thinking and create a more well-rounded discussion. However, some devil’s advocates just like arguing for its own sake.
A disputant is a person who disputes or argues about something. They are confrontational and regularly engaged in disputes. Disputants are combative and uncompromising in arguments. The term has a somewhat negative connotation.
Dissenters habitually disagree and object to prevailing ideas or popular opinions. They tend to be nonconformists who speak out against the majority. While dissenters are not necessarily belligerent, the term implies a defiant or contrarian attitude.
Controversialists stir up controversy through unpopular, provocative opinions. They incite arguments intentionally. The motivation is often to shock people or draw attention to themselves. Controversialists get a reactionary rise out of being disruptive and clashing with existing norms.
Why Do Some People Argue So Much?
What motivates some individuals to argue far more than most? Here are some potential reasons why certain people are predisposed to arguing:
They Enjoy Playing Devil’s Advocate
Some individuals simply enjoy debate and find it intellectually stimulating to argue controversial viewpoints. Though they may not agree with the counterarguments they present, they argue for the sake of critical analysis.
They Want to Stand Out
For some people, arguing may stem from a desire to stand out from the crowd. By taking an unconventional position, they draw attention to themselves. Arguments can serve as platforms to demonstrate intelligence or education.
They Have Trouble With Empathy
People with lower emotional intelligence and lack of empathy may be more likely to argue. If someone struggles to see things from other people’s perspectives, they will be less likely to understand objections or let go of their own opinions.
They Have Insecurities
Insecurity can also trigger argumentative tendencies. People who lack confidence may subconsciously try to appear smart or superior through arguments. Putting others down can temporarily boost fragile self-esteem.
They Struggle With Anger Issues
Some serial arguers have underlying anger management issues. Staying combative gives these individuals an outlet to vent frustration and hostility. The roots of their anger may have little to do with a given argument.
They Love Playing the Contrarian
For some, arguing stems from a personality prone to instability or rebellion. They resist rules, norms and expectations. These contrarians get satisfaction and power from provoking the status quo with controversial opinions. Getting a reaction empowers their nonconformist identity.
They Feel a Need to Be Right
Many who argue frequently have an overwhelming need to be right and prove their superiority. Admitting they are wrong threatens their self-worth and ego. They will stubbornly cling to arguments to avoid bruising their sense of self-importance.
They Perceive Arguments as Fun
Some frequent arguers have personalities that thrive on confrontation, shock value and chaos. To them, provoking volatile arguments is fun. They enjoy pushing people’s buttons and eliciting emotional reactions. For them, arguments are about entertainment.
Negative Effects of Being Argumentative
While an argumentative personality may seem harmless, this habit can have detrimental consequences if left unchecked:
Constant arguing fosters resentment and strains personal relationships. Friends and family may come to see the argumentative person as hostile. Frequent disputes create an emotionally volatile environment.
Arguing on a regular basis is a stressful behavior pattern than can lead to anxiety and irritability. The urge to debate every issue is an exhausting way to move through life. All that conflict and agitation takes a toll.
Isolates the Person
An argumentative attitude often results in social isolation. People avoid spending time with someone who seems combative and incompatible. The argumentative person ends up lonely since no one desires their antagonistic company.
Reinforces Negative Personality Traits
Arguing too much leads to negative self-perpetuating cycles. The more someone argues, the more insecure, frustrated, self-righteous and detached from others they can become. Arguing validates and strengthens maladaptive thinking.
Prevents Learning and Growth
Frequent arguers have difficulty learning and benefiting from constructive criticism. Believing they are always right makes them unable to absorb new perspectives. They dismiss objective ideas that contradict their own views.
Closes Off Compromise
An argumentative stance fosters stubbornness and closes the door on reconciliation or compromise. The mentality becomes dangerous in situations that require cooperation, teamwork and reasonable flexibility.
Unchecked, an argumentative persona can transform into hostility and verbal abuse of others. Once arguments get heated and personal, they can cross lines into harmful aggression. Intense conflicts can turn into lasting vendettas.
|Strains personal relationships through resentment
|Leads to anxiety and irritability
|Isolates the Person
|Results in social isolation as people avoid the arguer
|Reinforces Negative Personality Traits
|Validates and strengthens maladaptive thinking
|Prevents Learning and Growth
|Makes the arguer unable to absorb new perspectives
|Closes Off Compromise
|Leads to stubbornness and inflexibility
|Can transform into hostility and verbal abuse
Coping With an Argumentative Person
If you have an argumentative person in your own life, here are some tips for constructively coping with that relationship:
Avoid Taking Arguments Personally
Remember that chronic arguing often stems from inner pain or weakness. Do not take their combative words at face value. Their behavior likely has little to do with you.
Refuse to Engage
When drawn into a petty debate, simply refuse to take the bait. Walk away or change the subject instead of getting hooked into a frustrating squabble.
Set Firm Boundaries
Clarify which behaviors you will tolerate and which you will not. Make clear that verbal abuse or disrespect will end the discussion immediately. Follow through and leave if boundaries are crossed.
Use “I” Statements
Avoid accusatory “you” statements like, “You’re so arrogant.” Instead, say “I feel hurt when you insult my opinions.” This makes the conversation about your feelings rather than attacking their character.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
If they make questionable claims, ask open-ended follow up questions. This can guide them to question their own stances. For example, “What led you to adopt that perspective?”
Find Common Ground
Look for common values, interests or goals you share. Highlighting these reminds the arguer you are on the same team. Mutual good faith can replace antagonism.
Research Healthier Communication
Studying active listening, conflict resolution and nonviolent communication techniques will prepare you to handle disputes in a more positive manner. Knowledge empowers patience and progress.
Know When to Walk Away
At a certain point, you may have to accept cutting ties with a chronically argumentative person. If their behavior becomes destructive to your well-being, you have the right to remove yourself from that situation.
When to Seek Professional Help
In severe cases, an argumentative personality may require professional intervention. Counseling, anger management courses, family therapy or conflict mediation services should be considered if arguing:
- Leads to dangerous hostility or violence
- Causes depression, anxiety or emotional trauma
- Damages career, academic or financial stability
- Isolates the arguer from nearly all relationships
- Reinforces extreme narcissism, paranoia or delusions
- Reflects an underlying, untreated mental health disorder
- Persists over many years without self-awareness or change
A licensed mental health professional, such as a psychologist or family therapist, can assess the arguing behavior and develop an appropriate treatment plan. They can also diagnose any underlying conditions that may be causing the argumentativeness.
People who regularly argue, dispute or contradict others have earned several labels like debater, dissenter or controversialist. Though we may be tempted to call them harsher names, it is important to understand the psychology underlying this behavior. Argumentativeness often stems from inner vulnerabilities and maladaptive attempts to cope. An argumentative personality can stem from emotional needs like insecurity, narcissism, anti-conformity and cognitive biases. Without self-awareness and proper guidance, chronic arguing leads to damaged relationships and isolation. However, through research, communication tactics and professional help, relationships strained by argumentativeness can ultimately be mended.