A disingenuous phrase has crept into business conversations (at least ones I’ve been a part of) the last few years:

“I don’t disagree with that.”
The phrase is, of course, almost always followed by the speaker disagreeing with something someone else was saying.

The person I first heard use the phrase was a sales person – a generally positive individual. Perhaps his use of the phrase began as a way to soften points of real difference. Unfortunately, its use has spread. Now it serves as a telltale sign that somebody is throwing you a small “agreement bone,” only to zing you with a major point of contention masquerading as concurrence.

Here’s an alternative: actually listen to what someone is saying and find something on which to agree.

From there, legitimately build on the point of view they’re sharing. You might get so far in agreement you don’t have to go back and point out what you don’t disagree with!
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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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2 Responses to “How About Agreeing with Something for a Change?”

  1. Brett says:

    One of the lessons in the Dale Carnegie Course is on this topic, stated in the course as Disagree Agreeably. From the course outline:

    “The unexpected presents significant opportunities to make unique contributions. As these opportunities occur, we have the choice to speak up or remain silent. Voicing our opinions is inherently risky, yet remaining silent also comes with a cost. Our silence prevents others from benefiting from our ideas and experiences. In this session, we will learn a process to organize our thoughts and practice stating our opinions when we disagree with other people.”

    The key is to get your own ideas across without trying to negate the other persons. As you say, you may find that you actually agree on more than you disagree on.

    It is a hard skill to learn; it is almost as hard to learn how to be on the receiving end of this type of discussion.

  2. Mike Brown says:

    Brett – It’s true this is a challenging skill; that’s why it sets effective communicators apart from others.

    It’s the very savvy communicator who can learn to begin with points of agreement to bring the other party into the conversation, rather than putting them on the defensive through a strong initial challenge.

    Looking forward to having you comment again on Brainzooming.