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Techniques > Conversation techniques > Elements of the Conversation > Disagreeing

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Disagreeing is common during conversation, and occurs where one person does not agree with another and states this in some way.

The disagreement may be minor, partial or major. It may be a simple statement of disagreement or it may include a rationale, counter-argument or alternative proposals.

Disagreement may simply be stated as the listener not agreeing or may include further detail. Positive disagreement is rational and done with concern for the other person's feelings. It may also be negative, including suggestions that the other person is ignorant, manipulative or otherwise has bad intent.

Expressing a disagreement may require the person to interrupt the speaker and can require careful phrasing to ensure the objection is understood and accepted.

The disagreement may be accepted, ignored or lead to further conversation and even raised emotions and heated argument.


Sorry, Melanie. It's a good thought but I'm not sure I agree. Could we explore some other options?

You're completely wrong.

Why did you say that? It doesn't make sense.

Pardon coming back to this, but what you said yesterday is important and I've been thinking about it. I do like the idea but I can't agree on a few points. Can we discuss these? 


When a person makes an assertion or otherwise presents an argument, they may well seek explicit or tacit agreement from those who are listening. In explicit agreement, they ask for agreement, in which case disagreement is relatively easy to bring up.

When the statement seeks tacit agreement, the speaker continues to speak, assuming they have agreement. It can be more difficult to disagree here, especially if the speaker makes a number of points with which you disagree. To disagree, you may need to stop them and 'rewind' the conversation.

If the other person is unable to accept the disagreement, then conflict may ensue. There are a number of tactics they may use, such as ignoring the disagreement or personally criticizing you for not understanding. A useful response is to accept that you do not agree and probe further for information about why you do not agree.

It is difficult to disagree in either situation with a person who is more powerful or where the relationship is important. Such situations may require diplomacy and tact, for example in careful phrasing or by taking the disagreement to a private setting. A way of doing this is to indicate that you are taking them seriously, respecting the person before disagreeing with what has been said.

See also

Argument, Power, Relationships

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