-- Chapter from Courage -- The Courage to Disagree Chapter from Courage -- The Courage to Disagree
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  Chapter 41 from
Formulas, stories and insights

By Rabbi Zelig Pliskin 

Other Available Chapters
4  20  57  65 

The Courage to Disagree

• “I am afraid that if I disagree with people, they will dislike me.”

“I am afraid that people will consider me difficult to get along with if I argue with what they say.”

“I associate disagreeing with being obnoxious.”

It can take courage to disagree with what others say. When you do disagree, be respectful of the person with whom you disagree. As is often said, “Disagree without being disagreeable.” Do not make any put-down comments. For example, do not say anything similar to:

• “That’s ridiculous. How could you say that?”

• “Only an idiot would think that way.”

• “That was a stupid thing to say.”

Rather, when you disagree, start with a statement such as:

• “It seems to me that...”

• “Let’s explore the possibility of looking at it this way.”

• “I may not be right, but at present I would say...”

When you disagree politely and respectfully, you will not be disliked, people will not consider you difficult to get along with, and no one will consider you obnoxious.

Be on the lookout for role models of people who disagree in a dignified manner. Listen to their tone of voice and the patterns of what they say.

You might find it easier to disagree if you ask permission, as it were, to disagree. For example, “Could I share with you the way I see things?” Not many people will consistently refuse to hear what you have to say.

Begin with an “agreement frame.” That is, start off by acknowledging the points you agree on.

“I see that we agree about the basic issue. What I see differently is...”

“We both want to get along harmoniously. At the same time there is a point with which I seem to differ with what was said.”

At times the point you do agree with is minor. Nonetheless begin with that rather than with your disagreement.

Every time you disagree respectfully, you are increasing your level of courage. This reframe will make it easier for you to state your opinion even if it is in the minority.

Have the courage not to disagree if you see that the person you disagree with will take it too personally or will get angry at you and nothing will be gained by your disagreeing.

I work for a major international company where I am in middle management. At times before a business meeting, I speak to a number of people who will be attending and I pre-sell. That is, I present my position to them and see how they react. I find it very frustrating when people tell me before a meeting they will vote with my position, but don’t. They frequently are too intimidated by a person with a stronger personality and vote against the position they had agreed to. I discussed this with an older individual and he advised me to include a booster shot of courage. I realized that this was missing. The people I work with are highly intelligent and competent. But when they lack courage, they aren’t able to stand up to a position they feel is incorrect. I usually have the courage of my convictions. And now my goal is to help those people increase their own level of courage before we go into the meetings.

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