Is there a word or an expression for "Someone who looks for problems and is not interested in solving an issue pragmatically"?

In particular in my case I described a solution that was OK within the context given. Someone else presented a hypothetical situation: "If ... then it is not OK." Based on this hypothetical, they insisted that the solution I provided was not good. The hypothetical was an assumption, and it was completely unknown whether it would ever occur. My feeling is that this person merely wants to discredit my solution.

What do you call such a person?

I think this person wants to promote his/her own answer and is thus trying to find irrelevant "issues" with the answers of others.
But I would also be interested in the expression for someone who does it without bad motives.

  • Do they want to attack you personally? (If someone else proposed the same idea, would the person say the same thing?) Or are they fixated on that one "..." condition? (If you proposed a totally different idea, would the person say, "But I'm still worried about ... and I think that solution doesn't solve it any better than your other idea"?) Or do they want to dismiss any idea proposed by anyone and will make up excuses to dislike any idea? Could you edit to give a little more information?
    – apsillers
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 17:52
  • Good question. I think that person wants to promote his/her own answer and thus trying to find irrelevant issues in the answers of others. But I would also be interested in the expression for someone who does it without bad motives too. I hope my explanation helps.
    – Ely
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 17:57
  • 1
    @Deepak You do not need any reputation to answer. (And you do need 50 reputation to leave a comment -- what you did here actually required more reputation! :) )
    – apsillers
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 15:18
  • 1
    Is there a reason this is cross posted on both ELU and ELL? One of them needs to be removed as cross posting is strongly discouraged.
    – Catija
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 16:23
  • 1
    The INTP or ENTP personality from Myers Briggs may give some insight into this person and their personality. Just a guess, but I suspect they enjoy the debate. Good luck. Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 17:31

9 Answers 9


I might say that the person is being contrary:

(usually of children) behaving badly; choosing to do or say the opposite of what is expected

Contrary usually means "in opposition to" or "opposite of":

The president's new tax plan is hard on poor families, which is contrary to what he promised when he was elected.

But when contrary applies to a person, it means the person disagrees with any suggestion.

The noun contrarian means "someone who behaves in a contrary way, especially with respect to popular opinion".

  • 3
    ...and the noun form is "contrarian."
    – Adam
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 18:48

Such a person could be described as a naysayer, one who consistently criticizes and objects to anything proposed.

  • I like the sound if this word, never knew it exists! So basically a naysayer is someone who tries to deny all possible solutions for the sake of their own. Interesting.
    – Scarl
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 23:22
  • 2
    @Scarl: Strictly speaking, a naysayer is one who rejects or criticizes or badmouths whatever proposals are made — not necessarily with an eye toward putting their own forward, although that's possible, but especially with no real visible agenda or apparent reason for doing so other than pessimism. Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 0:01

A person who tries to poke holes in the logic/reasoning/solutions of others is sometimes playing the role of Devil's Advocate. (One who argues against a cause or position, not as a committed opponent but simply for the sake of argument or to determine the validity of the cause or position.) This might be annoying but is not usually done with overt bad intention.

I can't think of a good term for someone who is doing this type of thing with bad intention.


This type of behavior is considered bad faith.
Thus the person you described, would be acting in bad faith

Always remember, this is very much an accusation. As in your example, it would indicate they were never actually interested in a solution.

  • 1
    This isn't exactly wrong, but it's rather over-general; it's perfectly possible to act in bad faith in all sorts of ways that have nothing to do with finding (real or imagined) faults in a proposed solution. Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 20:47
  • I agree it's general, but I don't think it's overly general, the example is just a very specific situation. This also would only be applicible to the example with intent. Without intent, then naysayer or in conversational "hater" would be a much better fit. Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 21:06
  • Bad faith also only describes the behavoir, not the individual, who would be clearly duplicitous. it's general but i dont think closer words exist for a bad faith critque. Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 21:09

You may be looking for carper or caviler. Both mean one who raises irritating and trivial objections, or finds faults unnecessarily

  • Both are somewhat uncommon words, but I think capture the meaning quite well. I wasn't familiar with caviler, so thanks for the new word! While looking it up, I also came across pettifogger, which is another great word I wasn't familiar with.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 17:23

If such a person acted in bad faith I'd describe them as an unfair or dishonest person but if their position were neutral they might be called critic, skeptic or negativist or if you like an expression: doubtful Thomas.


Such a person may be thought a sophist. Originally I think sophists were considered clever and could argue either side of an issue (from Ancient Greek teachings), but the name today connotes one of specious reasoning.

  • 1
    Sophist is an interesting addition, but to me it has more to do with how convoluted their reasoning or argument is than picking apart someone else's solutions.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 17:15

If the person is simply resisting change for no reason then "stick in the mud" would fit.

  • That really doesn't capture the sense that the asker is looking for. To me a "stick in the mud" is more of a miserable person that refuses to have any fun or change their circumstances to something better. There's no connection with nit picking someone else's ideas to death.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 17:09

Bear with me for a while when suggesting detail-oriented to describe this person.

When reading your context I recognised/remembered some similar situations I've been in myself, where I tend to present very detailed issues or problems with a presented solution. Usually this is not to be mean, but merely a representation of how I perceive and respond to solution due to my personality type.

This is based on theory from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and regarding this specific topic see Are You a Big Picture Thinker or Detail-Oriented?. And the very brief summary of this is that this particular person is detail-oriented and as such the natural response is to respond to details.

Due note that often this response indirectly is an approval of the idea, but to them there exists some minor issues they would like to address. If you are a big picture thinker, these suggestions is often conceived as critic or condemnation of the idea, which often is not the case.

  • This is not a psychology or workplace relations forum, this is an English language usage forum. This comment is inappropriate. Also: it's Myers with an "s", Myers-Briggs is hyphenated when referring to the MBTI, the theory underpinning the MBTI is called Type by its adherents, and, finally, in your use of "detail-oriented" in this "answer" and your use of Type in a comment above, you seem to be badly confusing the N/S and J/P axes. Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 22:24
  • @Codeswitcher, Corrected spelling. I know this is a language forum, but felt that the context given opted for an answer which required a slightly different approach. Have avoided going deeply into the MBTI side as it is language forum, but I do believe my main point will stand that detail-oriented could be the word the OP is looking for
    – holroy
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 22:31

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .