I have found "Whistling into the wind" online but I do not think it fits because it seems to mean that your words are not heard, whereas the opposite should mean that you're being informed by someone of a 'fact' with which you strongly disagree.

I generally respond, "you're preaching to the choir", when somebody 'vents' to me about something that I too take some issue with, which may be an evolution of the idiom used when you tell someone something they already know, rather than something they agree with.

  • 1
    Banging your head against a wall is one opposite. – John Lawler Dec 6 '13 at 21:08
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    My first thought is "Preaching to the wrong choir". I feel like I've heard that before, at least. – Stephen Schrauger Dec 6 '13 at 21:15
  • If you're preaching to the choir, it means that you simply expressing what everyone already agrees upon. Whereas the opposite, IMO, would be if you were preaching to people who were completely apathetic and indifferent, so whistling or spitting in the wind fits quite well. – Mari-Lou A Dec 6 '13 at 21:59
  • But the opposite of agreeing upon something is not being indifferent, it's disagreeing, and that's why I don't think that suggestion works well. – JuJoDi Dec 7 '13 at 6:11
  • Choiring to the preacher? – Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 7 '14 at 11:47

14 Answers 14


I think casting pearls before swine is a good opposite. It means giving advice, guidance or direction to those incapable of appreciating or acting upon it.


I say "You're banging your head against a brick wall" or "You're wasting your breath".

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    "banging your head against a brick wall" doesn't actually imply that the other party actually supports the opposite view. – Pacerier Jul 9 '15 at 4:44
  • Mmm, I've added a new suggestion: feeding the trolls. – ᴇʟᴇvᴀтᴇ Jul 9 '15 at 20:42

You might say “You’re talking to a fence post” (ie, talking to someone who might as well not have ears), if you want to add a slight bit of humor via self-deprecation. More bluntly, you can say “Talk to the hand”. Wikipedia mentions “Talk to the hand, the ears ain’t listening” and “Talk to the hand because the face don’t understand” as variants, but it also call the phrase “quickly dated slang”.

  • "talking to a fence post" doesn't actually imply that the other party actually supports the opposite view. – Pacerier Jul 9 '15 at 4:45
  • I've only heard 'talk to the hand' as something the person who doesn't want to listen says, not the person trying to speak. And yes, it's extremely dated! The full form I remember is "Talk to the hand, the face ain't home." – Caleb Jul 9 '15 at 23:38
  • @CalebBernard, regarding your first sentence, that is ok because the question as phrased is asking what the one who doesn't want to listen can say. – James Waldby - jwpat7 Jul 10 '15 at 0:05
  • Ah, you're right. Very good then! – Caleb Jul 10 '15 at 0:06

................Preaching to the deaf!

  • "deaf" doesn't actually imply that the other party actually supports the opposite view. – Pacerier Jul 9 '15 at 4:44
  • Quite so (and, with the possible exception of 'preaching to the wrong choir', neither do any of the others on offer. But the title is 'What is the opposite of “preaching to the choir”?' and we're entitled to answer that. As John Lawler says, 'Banging your head against a wall is one opposite.' The title needs editing if OP doesn't want an answer not specifying support of the / an opposite view. But OP seems happy enough with 'casting pearls before swine', which does not guarantee that there is an opposing viewpoint. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 11 '15 at 21:58

Another option might be: Leading a horse to water.


Almost all of the suggestions given above are pretty good.

You could also tell the person they were barking up the wrong tree or that they had {got hold of / grabbed} the wrong end of the stick if you were primarily trying to indicate that they had misunderstood your position (as opposed to directly disagreeing with it).


To me, the opposite of preaching to the choir, which involves putting arguments before people who are already convinced, is the act of persuading skeptics.

Therefore, I submit that the opposite is winning hearts and minds.

  • If they're open to being convinced to change their minds. Generally that's not the case. – Hot Licks Feb 22 '15 at 20:08

I think "preaching to the choir" is like selling eggs to a chicken; fitting a square peg in a round hole; raking leaves on a windy day.

The OP could say something like "selling Chinese products in Nigeria" - every average Nigerian home boasts of not less than 10 made-in-China products, including phones, radios, TVs, fans, DVDs, fancy lights, kids' toys, clothes, drinks, and films.

  • I have edited your answer, but I didn't know what "gen" meant so deleted it. You can always click the "edit" button and make changes yourself :) – nxx Apr 12 '14 at 2:15
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    "Selling Chinese products in Nigeria" is a terrible phrase to use. First, most people outside west Africa will have no idea how many Chinese-made products the average Nigerian owns. Second, does the claim that the average Nigerian already owns many Chinese-made products mean that it's easy to sell them more? Or difficult, because they already have all the ones they need? – David Richerby Dec 7 '14 at 11:49

When a person says "You're preaching to the choir", I think they mean that since they already know or agree with your information, you should find a different audience. So wouldn't the opposite of that be something like: "Go on, I'm listening", or a phrase that would indicate that the person is receiving and valuing the information as something new and interesting, and ready to be convinced?

  • But it doesn't always mean the speaker should find a different audience. Depending on your tone of voice, they could take it as encouragement to keep talking. – miltonaut Dec 7 '14 at 11:25
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    I think it's clear that the question means opposite in the sense that "preaching to the choir" means you're wasting your time by trying to convince people who already agree with you, so the desired phrase should mean wasting your time by trying to convince people who will never agree with you. If the question was looking for a phrase meaning "Not wasting your time by talking to people", the askwe wouldn't have accepted the answer they did. – David Richerby Dec 7 '14 at 11:47

There actually is an opposite term: Preaching to the pews.

I can't find a good online reference, but I've heard it used before in exactly the context of "not preaching to the choir". A pew is a long bench, like is often used in churches.


We always said

Right church, wrong pew

  • 1
    That sounds like it should be funny but I don't get it. Is the intention that certain pews (like maybe at the front) believe certain things and others believe possibly other things even within the same church? – Mitch Feb 22 '15 at 23:12
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    Forgive me - I'm dyslexic and totally turned the saying around backward. Properly it is: Right pew, wrong church. Though I suppose the way I originally posted it would work, too. :) I found this definition: Idiom Definitions for 'Right church, wrong pew' Right church, wrong pew means that someone is very nearly right, but something is wrong. usingenglish.com/reference/idioms/right+church+wrong+pew.html also this for right church, wrong pew: An idea is nearly right, but still off target; you're in the right place but not specifically – Mari Feb 24 '15 at 0:01

"Paddling upstream" "Going against the grain" I considered "Playing devils advocate," and it sort of fits in that you are presenting an unpopular opinion for the sake of discussion. But in that case it is an opinion you may not actually believe or be passionate about.


How about a modern expression like "Feeding the trolls"?

Given that online trolls intentionally take an opposite stance to you and generally become nastier and more antagonistic the more you talk to them.


Besides "casting pearls before swine", here's some other alternatives:

protected by tchrist Feb 26 '15 at 1:56

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