How To Piss People Off … And Make Them Love You For It

by Jason Falls |

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is a guest entry from Stuart Foster, a marketing consultant in the Boston area. He specializes in brand management, social media and blog outreach. He is a frequent commentor at SME and blogs regularly at

Stuart Foster
Stuart Foster

Pissing people off is an art form. Do it right and you not only incite a great conversation but you might initiate change as well. Do it wrong and end up on the wrong end of a flame war. It’s a tricky line to walk but one that I have found to be extremely effective. Here are a few tips that I utilize on a daily basis or when I’m feeling like inciting conversation:

  1. Make a statement that can be argued both ways.
    The goal: to incite a conversation/debate. This way you can facilitate all parties being heard as each side of the fence will have valid points to argue. You can even have more fun by playing devil’s advocate in comments.
  2. Don’t be afraid to take on anyone, regardless of status, notoriety, or position.
    Call out b.s. when you see it and don’t hold back. The only way you can be heard is if you are completely open with your stances, opinions and ideas. You can’t hold back or try and change your personality … if anything you should personalize things more.
  3. Take a strong initial stance but allow for circumstantial deviation.
    Allow yourself planned retreats and advances. This way you can go for the low hanging fruit and gather time to plan a counter-attack. It also allows you some legalese wiggle room.
  4. Go for the jugular when debating … but explain your points.
    You can absolutely eviscerate someone in commenting, blog posts or conversation. Just make sure you do it while making salient points. You can be a dick, just make sure your argument is practically unassailable while doing so. Pwn smartly.
  5. Do it with a smile.
    Be charming and don’t take yourself so seriously. The Fugees named a song “Killing me Softly” for a reason, do the same with your words. So go for the perception of effortless cool.
  6. Think about your points thoroughly and carefully.
    Map out ideas for any possible direction the conversation could go (and keep notes of them). I have about 4-5 notepad docs open at anytime to jot down new ideas I get.
  7. If all else fails: Laugh and move on.
    You can’t win them all but you can enjoy the defeat or victory as a win for conversation.

Being a squeaky wheel can piss people off, but it’s worth it if it drives the conversation in the right direction or gets everyone back on track.

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About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).