Session 23: Oppositionality vs. cooperation
We define oppositionality as a tendency to fight against whatever anybody else says or suggests, no
matter how sensible their ideas. We have provided a handout about oppositionality to use with your
Your job is to help clients relate habitual oppositionality to how your clients get into trouble generally
and specifically how an oppositional attitude increases the probability for a domestic violence episode.
It does so in several ways, such as : a) becoming angry at one’s partner when he/she says anything you
don’t want to hear; b) defying legitimate authorities, such as probation officers, just because they have
authority rather than because of anything they say or do; c) refusing to cooperate with treatment
guidelines; d) developing a passive aggressive life style in which people defy others by doing as little as
possible (only later to realize they have no positive goals or direction in life).
Remember that it’s always important to substitute positive behavior for negative behavior. The
substitute for oppositionality is called cooperation. Several ways of doing things are associated with
- An attitude that people working together can find mutually beneficial solutions to problems;
- Skill at listening to the other parties and taking what they say seriously;
- A willingness to compromise – to get some of what you want in return for letting other parties get some of what they want;
- Being able to negotiate civilly – without swearing, threatening, ridiculing, shaming, refusing to speak, becoming violent.
Role play possibilities:
- Your partner wants you to take vacation time to visit her relatives. You would rather take that time to go bow hunting.
- Your probation officer orders you to take an immediate drug screen. You know you’re clean but even so you feel like telling her to go to H___ because you hate her having power over you. This time, though, you …
- Your 13 year old (son or daughter) hates school. He/she’s ready to drop out. No sense arguing, though. He/she’s just as bull-headed as you. Perhaps through negotiation and cooperation the two of you can come up with a solution.
- Here is another kind of role play: Pick the two participants you think are most oppositional in group. Have them stand facing each other and just shout “You can’t make me” at each other a half dozen times. Then ask them how familiar that felt and what would be the eventual result of this argument if it occurred in real life.