I have observed that it is not only Mary who was quite contrary, but rather that the character flaw of contrariness is innate to all of us.
I offer as an illustration of my belief that people are either born contrary or become so at an incredibly young age, a story about my very, very, young son who was debating with me whether or not he should go to bed. The discussion went something like this:
Murray: It is time for bed.
Very Young Son: Time to stay up.
Murray: You have to go to bed now.
Very Young Son: Go to bed later.
Murray: Ok, enough stalling. Time is up.
Very Young Son: Time is down.
Unsurprisingly, he became a lawyer.
It appears to be human nature to resist doing what other people want you to do, and this tendency does not dissipate as we become older. I once had a partner named David, who was an absolutely brilliant litigator and a source of wisdom and guidance for the entire firm. However, it was very well known that if approached to provide his opinion on any legal issue, David would always argue the opposite of the position taken by the person presenting the issue for discussion.
Eventually we all learned that if we wanted David to help us develop arguments to support our analysis, we had to tell him that we believed the answer to be the exact opposite of what we actually thought was correct. David would then argue strenuously against our position and in so doing help us support our real position. Interestingly enough, we did have to be careful with how we used David’s arguments, because as a great litigator, he was equally convincing whether he was right or wrong.
Keeping in mind the tendency of people to be contrary, I would ask the reader to think about how often they have argued with someone about an issue, whether personally or professionally, and then received the desired response when the person quoted the old song by the 5 Man Electrical Band, “About what you told me, rollin’ it over in my mind, and much to my surprise I find that you were absolutely right, you’ve been right all along, you’re absolutely right and I’m wrong.” (Unless you are old like me, you may need to Google the reference.)
It doesn’t happen like that much, does it? And since it rarely happens, we really have to ask ourselves why it is that we all spend so much of our lives trying to get other people to see things our way. Or, as Run-DMC asked, “Mary, Mary, Why Ya Buggin?” (If you are old like me, you may need to Google this reference also.)
The next time that you are trying to convince someone to see things your way, you might want to ask yourself if all of your words are getting you anywhere close to where you want to go and why you are wasting your breath trying to persuade them that you are right.