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Last updated: Sep 11th, 2018

How to Disagree - A Simple Way to Disagree Respectfully

This is an article version of the message in my YouTube video by the same name. This was my YouTube debut, the first vlog-style video I ever published on the site! You can watch the video here:

Disagreement is common; people do it every day, but they don't always do it in the most effective ways to get their point across. Here are some of the ways I prefer expressing disagreement:

These ways of expressing disagreement are straightforward, and often effective at leading to productive dialogue, but it is common for people to express disagreement in ways that I don't like or recommend.

Less Respectful ways to disagree (that I don't recommend)

Here are common ways I see others express disagreement that sometimes lead to conflict escalation and people talking past each other:

When I say "I disagree", I am communicating how I feel. If I say "You're wrong." I'm passing a kind of judgment on the other person. In my experience, saying "You're wrong" is more likely to come across as abrasive or disrespectful, relative to just saying "I disagree." When people feel disrespected, they are often less likely to continue to listen to me, and they may also mirror or escalate the level of disrespect and start communicating with me in a less respectful way.

What if you're not sure whether or not you agree?

People rarely know how they feel about every point in a conversation, and they often need time, reflection, or further discussion to figure out where they stand.

When someone makes a key point and you're not sure whether or not you agree with it, you can voice it in the following ways:

These sorts of statements communicate that you're not fully in agreement (yet) with the other person. They often communicate that you need to think, reflect, or discuss the matter further in order to figure out how you actually feel about the matter in question. These statements often have the effect of slowing down the conversation.

These statements also have the advantage of communicating that you are open to the possibility that the other person is correct, but you're not yet convinced. This can help to establish good faith in a discussion, communicating to the other person that you are listening to them, open to being convinced of things, and interested in reaching a consensus or agreement with them.

I've found that these statements of the form "I'm not sure if I agree with that." often contribute to a conversational dynamic in which both I and the other person are able to influence each other positively and learn from each other.

In Summary

Refraining from statements like: "That's wrong" or "You're wrong." and instead expressing disagreement more like "I don't agree with that." can lead to better conversations, often enhancing your ability to influence others as well as your potential to learn from them. These communication patterns are especially beneficial and important when conversing or discussing with people with whom you have differing views. I think this leads to much more productive dialogue, in which people are more able to learn from each other and often more easily able to reach a consensus on controversial issues.

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