Can We Disagree Without Being Disagreeable? (If wishing made it so…)


I prefer speaking with people who think differently than I do. It’s more interesting. It’s more challenging. It makes me think. It opens my eyes to other perspectives. And sometimes it makes me angry. But it’s all 100% healthy.

And unfortunately our society – in business and politics, and especially on social media – is becoming one where we aggressively slap down those who disagree with us, and gravitate towards people and voices that tell us what we want to hear.

We see it everywhere. So many of us tend to watch the news shows that spout out ideas consistent with our own. Many hard line conservatives watch Fox News exclusively. And many hard line liberals are only happy when watching people like Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. More and more business leaders seem to want to surround themselves with aides who are going to agree with them, reinforce their already-formed ideas, and act like sycophants. And heaven help the person who dives into the social media space and suggests an idea that conflicts with main-stream think. You’ll get shouted down and virtually attacked. I recently had a friend post something on Facebook that was complaining about something. And I responded, agreeing with their point, but suggesting another way of looking at it. The next time I went online, I had been “unfriended.” Sad…

This is unhealthy, for all of us.

The distinction here is that we can and should be able to disagree with each other, without attacking each other. We can and should be able to disagree without being disagreeable. Earlier this morning I said goodbye to a dear friend who is moving to another city. He’s been a buddy for years now, and we disagree on lots of issues. We’re pretty far apart on most issues (although not as far apart as it sometimes might seem to someone listening to us debate.) And I’ll miss the regular opportunities to discuss, to debate, to think about things from his perspective. He challenged me. Sometimes he made me realize I was wrong. Sometimes his argument reinforced my beliefs. And I think I did the same for him. Our conversations were fun, sometimes frustrating, but never boring. There were many times that our conversations appeared to be heading towards a nasty eruption. But they never did. Because we found ways to discuss important issues without making it personal, and without attacking each other. We disagreed often, but were never disagreeable.

We’ll all be better off, and the business and political discourse in the United States will be far more productive, if we all learn to listen to people who have an opinion different from our own. We can listen to each other, and when necessary agree to disagree, without allowing the conversation to become nasty.

So you and I disagree? That’s great. You are the one I want to chat with at the cocktail party. Let’s make each other think. And when the conversation is over, smile, shake hands and move on.

I look forward to speaking with you.

Have a great day.

The Latimer Group currently offers a workshop for our clients on Listening Skills and Followership. It would be our privilege to have you and your team join the discussion. To learn more, e-mail us at

Photo by Oli Dunkley used under the following license.


4 responses to “Can We Disagree Without Being Disagreeable? (If wishing made it so…)”

  1. I agree with you 100%. Collegial disagreement and debate comprise the backbone of progress. Lisstening to and considering another’s point of view respectfully open’s one mind; shouting down an opposing point of view closes it and stifles progress.

  2. Graham says:

    To disagree ….with logic and knowledge to support our view is an opportunity to evolve. Yet all too often our generalisation of reacting either logically or emotionally to objections, problems and ideas becomes i feel ego based. A power struggle of ideals. To disagree brings knowledge forward. For example a survey in usa showed mothers on average slaps a child under 5 at least 3 times a week. Disobedience or a mothers stress is offered as the reason why. Who is teaching our children that agression is a justifable it therefore right that people can justify slapping another or being physically agressive to respond to being disobedient…obviously not. Does the child understand the agression from their main caregiver? Their protector? Yet their personality is believed to be formed within the first five years. Just a thought….are there better ways of learning healthy interaction? Is physical aggression normal and justified for human beings? What other ways might we embrace individuality and evolve….yet culture seems not to like individuality…preferring conformity. What do you think?

  3. […] style that you don’t like or that distracts you?” And if the person is going to be honest with you, you’ll get some great […]

  4. […] last month, and at each one, I attempted to address this topic specifically. I wanted to talk about how to disagree without being disagreeable. I wanted to discuss how people of opposing views should be able to communicate better. And before […]

Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.