8 Tips to Help You Disagree Without Being Disagreeable

Over the last few days I’ve watched two attempts to discuss an incident devolve into a dog fight.

We can disagree w/o being disagreeable

8 Tips to Help You Disagree Without Being Disagreeable

You think your position is right. You want what is best for your people. You want things done in the way that works best for your department. So you argue your points strongly. That’s good, but don’t overdo it. You won’t win every battle. After all, your boss is looking after the best interest of the entire organization, not just your part of it.

Instead of establishing a reputation as a stubborn naysayer, try these tactics to help you disagree without being disagreeable:

  1. Ask clarifying questions about the proposal in front of you. Make certain you and others clearly understand the issue before you voice your objections.
  2. Assess the framing of the issue. If the situation was positioned as a solution to a problem, try and encourage the team to think about solutions as if the issue were a potential benefit. If you frame the same issue as either positive or negative, you may very well develop a completely unique solution for each situation.
  3. Strive to understand the assumptions behind the current position or idea. Listen carefully and if you hear a flawed assumption, politely suggest that it be reviewed.
  4. Don’t make your disagreement personal, focus on the business issues at hand. No one appreciates a personal attack.
  5. Instead of suggesting yours is the only answer, position it as an option to be considered.
  6. When describing your approach, treat the other idea respectfully, while carefully describing the benefits that yours offers above and beyond the other approach.
  7. Ask for an opportunity to prove your case with a trial run of your idea. Many executives will appreciate the spirit of giving someone a shot to prove their point.
  8. Don’t expect to win them all! You are in a marathon, not a sprint.

The Bottom Line

It is important to foster a culture in your company where differing opinions are encouraged. Be certain as a manager that you are not overtly or inadvertently suppressing the free exchange of ideas. If everyone always agrees with you, it’s a sign that people are not comfortable sharing their true views. And most of all, learn to disagree without positioning it as a life and death issue and alienating people in the process. After all, no one wants to be that executive mentioned in the opening of this article. 

Updated by Art Petty


Usually " I’d agree with you but then we’d both be wrong" done


I do appreciate sarcasm! It is a service I provide free of charge. :innocent: