Disagree Effectively (and Elegantly) - 4 Key Ways

16 February, 2018

Learning to disagree is a very useful art. With it, you can avoid falling into a mere discussion, effectively managing the speaker to avoid conflict and define your position with elegance. We can accomplish all of this without being offensive or using mere insults. This is without a doubt a great tool based on smart disagreements that we should all know how to apply on a day-to-day basis.

Let’s face it, if there’s something that a lot of us don’t know how to do well, it’s disagree. Moreover, to this day there are still many who confuse terms and think that disagreeing, in reality, is synonymous with fighting. This is a mistake. Therefore, we must clarify one key idea. To disagree means to not agree with an idea or an opinion and this does not have to pose a threat or a grievance to anyone.

“It is better to discuss an issue without resolving it, than to resolve an issue without discussing it.”
-Joseph Joubert-

Also, another element to consider is that disagreeing in some aspects defines your individuality. It gives your ability to have your own opinion and not just defend your ideas. You must argue intelligently in order to enrich the communicative process and the relationship itself.

Two coworkers are arguing.

People who know how to disagree skillfully know a very simple secret. In order to disagree effectively, you have to keep your calm. You have to listen carefully to the speaker and understand that nothing said should be taken personally.

The moment you assume that what is being said is a threat, the argument will start and everything is lost. That is to say, if the person in front of you tells you that the most beautiful color in the world is green you don´t have to have an argument just because you believe it is yellow.

Therefore, a good idea would be to keep an open and relaxed mind. Don’t take the other person’s arguments to an emotional level. Also, understand that, to disagree, you don’t have to threaten or underestimate the opinion of the other person.

2. Disagreeing is a very beneficial exercise

In our day to day lives, this is something that we stumble across very often. People are accustomed to seeing the world from their own point of view, and only in this way. Reasoning with them can be an impossible task, we know. That’s why sometimes, either because of fatigue or in order to not waste time, we say to ourselves that it’s better to stay silent and agree than to naturally say “I don’t agree with that.”

Make no mistake, learning to disagree will allow you to do several things. The first is that it will let you reaffirm your identity, self-esteem, and opinions. The second is that it’ll let you be much more sociable. It’ll enrich your relationships and allow you to always be coherent with what you feel, say, and do.

Two people are pulling at a complicated knot.

3. Watch your tone in addition to your words

Often, when we’re talking to someone and we choose to disagree with some fact, concept, or idea, our tone of voice changes and we raise our voice. At that very moment, our arguments will cease to matter because that threatening tone will give rise to a discussion and lead to a moment of tension.

To avoid this, it’s best to work on our emotional regulation. You have to understand, once again, that disagreeing with something shouldn’t be seen as offensive. Let’s watch our emotions and listen to our tone of voice.

“Not because you’ve made a person go silent have you convinced them.”
-Joseph Morley-

4. Paul Graham’s hypothesis

Paul Graham is a British computer scientist and essayist who has gained considerable fame after his work  entitled “How to Disagree” was published in 2008. In it, he explained that in order to learn to disagree, we must understand that there are certain more profitable levels of discussion. Just as there are levels where the dialogue can lead to the least useful scenario, to insults and grievances.