Why Disagree With Someone?

Bill Abbate

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If you are like most people, there are times when you do not agree with someone else. How do you deal with such situations? Do you remain quiet, immediately react and respond, or do you thoughtfully and respectfully disagree? Since the time will always come when we disagree with someone, let's look at how we can deal with these situations.

Before discussing techniques for disagreeing with someone, we will look at how we agree with others.


When we agree with something someone is saying, we often show it without uttering a word. Some will nod their head or utter a mmm in agreement. When fully agreeing with a person, we will say things like "I agree," "I understand," or "It makes sense to me," and other such phrases.

The real question is, do we agree, or do we agree to avoid any repercussions that may result if we show disagreement? In business, I often saw people agree with everything the boss said, regardless of what it was! This never sat well with me, especially since I was that boss during a good part of my career. If you are one of those types of people, stop it immediately! It not only harms your company, but it also harms you! Let me explain.

By always agreeing, you add little to no value and nothing to a conversation. Do this too often, and your value diminishes in the eyes of others. Everyone is familiar with the proverbial "yes man." They do not have a good image, do they? Why should they? Yes men quickly became irrelevant and did not last around me for long!

"Be aware of "yes" men. Generally, they are losers. Surround yourself with winners." Bear Bryant (1913-1983)

As a leader, you need honest input from others, whether they agree with you or not. If you are the type of leader who creates an atmosphere where others are afraid to speak up, shame on you! That is an amateurish and immature way to manage, and you will eventually fail!

"A few yes men may be born, but mostly they are made. Fear is a great breeder of them." William Wrigley, Jr. (1861-1932)

While human nature makes most of us want to be right and foster agreement, it can be unhealthy if taken to an extreme. How can anyone or any organization learn and grow when everyone is always in agreement? By operating this way, the organization will likely die a slow and sure death.

"We find comfort among those who agree with us - growth among those who don't." Frank A. Clark (1860-1936)

If you wish to take a short online test to see how agreeable you are, check out this link: How Agreeable Are You?


Being able to state an opposing view eloquently is the mark of someone who has a great future ahead of them if they have not already arrived. One of the wealthiest men in the world once stated:

"The ability to deal with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar or coffee and I will pay more for that ability than for any other under the sun." John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937)

The ability to get along with others is crucial for anyone in business and is essential for living a good life. This does not mean you have to agree with everyone, however! I can assure you Rockefeller was not in agreement with everyone else. He had a way with words and, like most highly successful people, had no use for yes men.

"If you have learned how to disagree without being disagreeable, then you have discovered the secret of getting along - whether it be business, family relations, or life itself." Bernard Meltzer (1916-1998)

You can bring real value to your organization and other people in your life by developing your ability to disagree without being disagreeable. Let's take a look at what is involved in better understanding this skill.

"You can disagree without being disagreeable." Zig Ziglar (1926-2012)

A few ideas you can use to disagree with someone while remaining respectful include:

  • Listening carefully and thoroughly to understand their point of view before speaking.
  • Staying calm, giving yourself time to think. Reframe and repeat what they say to ensure you understand.
  • Uncovering any common ground, making a point of what is in agreement.
  • Being thoughtful, seeing the other person as a valuable human being and not someone who needs straightening out.
  • Never putting down or ridiculing other people's ideas or beliefs, no matter how ridiculous you think they may be.
  • Not making it personal – discuss the topic of disagreement as calmly as possible, keeping your emotions in check.
  • Always maintaining proper decorum, being respectful and cordial, confident and firm.
  • Being thoughtful and measured in your response.
  • Never, ever using the word but! Replace it with and. For more insight on why you should never use "but," check out this short article How and Why You Need to Get Rid of But.

What other ideas would you add to these? I would love to read your insights and comments in the comment section below.

Final thoughts

Face it, there will always be things we agree with and disagree with when it comes to other people. That is part of what makes each of us a unique human being! The key is to treat those you disagree with respectfully, honoring them as an individual who can think and believe what they wish, just as you think and believe what you wish. Few fundamental human rights are more important than this!

Let's continue this conversation in the comment section below. What are your thoughts about seeking and establishing agreement, and how to deal with disagreement?

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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