We’ve all been there. You’re in a group or possibly just in a conversation with one other person, and then it happens, someone chimes in and says “I’m just going to play devil’s advocate.”. This is then followed with the person hurling shitty contrarian opinions in whatever direction the discussion happens to be going. This practice of proverbially hurling shit like a lower primate trying to reproduce a Jackson Pollock, is veiled as constructive criticism. Oftentimes the individual who offers to play devil’s advocate is the same person over and over again. They love it. It makes them giddy when they get the chance to do it. You can see their eyes light up. You know this person. They lack empathy. These are the people who are consumed with being right as opposed to doing right. This person could be prone to one-upmanship; no matter what you’ve done they’ve done it better. These people are control freaks. Perhaps they are insecure about their intelligentness, so they fall back on being contrarian. The bitch of it is that they believe this practice, and the way they’re doing it, is actually helpful.
Watch this person. He’s not playing devil’s advocate, he’s announcing that he’s an asshole.
Playing devil’s advocate is intended to give people an alternate perspective, thereby exposing a possible flaw in the presiding argument. This could then steer the discussion back on track and avoid poor decision-making. See? Like that.
Here’s how you’re doing it wrong: Your contrarian opinion has no point other than being contrarian. If you’re playing devil’s advocate for the sake of looking smarter than everyone in the group by figuratively shitting in the sandbox that we’re all playing in, then I’d like to invite you to take your Tonka truck and go home. If you’re unsure if you’re doing it wrong, then examine how your playing devil’s advocate. If it’s a situation of just shooting down an idea and there’s no pearl of wisdom to be gleaned from the statement; it doesn’t lead anywhere other than down, and it offers no solutions, then you’re the asshole.
You don’t have to be.
Here’s a good rule of thumb; if you’re going to shoot something down, then offer a better alternative. If you really want look like a prodigy, then solve the problem. Don’t compound it with arrogance.