The art of (respectfully) disagreeing

The art of (respectfully) disagreeing

Have you ever thought of how the world would be if we agreed on absolutely everything? Boring, huh? Disagreement is the spice of life and leads people to accomplish practically everything. 

We all have our own thoughts, opinions, and beliefs, which means disagreements are inevitable and can happen anywhere. However, whether it’s an argument with a family member, a friend, or a co-worker; whether it happens face-to-face or online, disagreements can escalate badly. Unfortunately, it’s very easy to get so wrapped up in our own beliefs that all common courtesy goes straight out the window.

There’s a big difference between just disagreeing and disagreeing respectfully. The first can cause hurt feelings and add fuel to an already tense fire. On the other hand, the second option is more mature an it leads to new ideas, diverse perspectives and a much more productive discussion.

So, how do we disagree with other people while still being respectful of their thoughts and opinions? Here are some tips for disagreeing… respectfully.

Read carefully before you answer

You post an opinion, or a link to an article on Facebook. Somebody adds a comment, disagreeing with your post. Try to understand this person’s argument before you answer. Half the squabbling online includes phrases such as “where did I say this?” and “learn to read.” Don’t be consumed in this kind of disagreement, it gets annoying for everyone – even for those who read your virtual fight.

disagreeing online

Listen to understand, not to reply 

Listening to reply is how most people communicate, unfortunately. What that means is that instead of paying attention to what the other person is saying, you are already thinking about what you want to say in response. Listen carefully and unbiasedly. Be honest and respectful in your responses, and remember to talk and listen in the way that you would want to be talked or listened to.

Focus on facts

Sometimes, in our quest to prove someone’s wrong, we get overwhelmed by emotions and forget the facts. However, a respectful disagreement is one that prioritizes logic over emotions. So, don’t forget to focus on the reasoning and information supporting your disagreement. Not only will that make you more convincing, but it will also make it clear that this isn’t personal.

Avoid the ad hominem arguments

Ad hominem arguments involve attacking one’s opponent instead of rebutting his argument. When the ad hominem appears, it’s generally a sign that a healthy exchange of ideas is not possible. Unfortunately, people engage in ad hominem attacks all the time. You can do better. Using personal attacks and insults will not lead to a productive dialogue.

Don’t be ashamed to admit you’re wrong 

The easiest way to escalate a simple disagreement into a fight is when you insist on something that you know is wrong, and vice versa, when you do not admit that someone else is right. If you think something they’re telling you is right, even though it goes against your point of view, say it. If we never changed our opinion, then every discussion would be in vain.

angry brothers fighting

Don’t turn your opponents’ mistakes against them

The fact that your opponent made a mistake in reasoning, or even made a spelling mistake while writing his argument, does not automatically void it. Prove him wrong by using powerful and logical arguments instead.

Avoid hasty generalizations

Your experiences aren’t global truths. The fact that your cousin’s ex-boyfriend was a taxi driver and overcharged unsuspected tourists does not mean that all taxi drivers are thieves. Remember that a small sample size does not accurately reflect our entire population. So, do not make arguments that you can’t clearly support.

Do not appeal to nature

The appeal to nature is a logical fallacy that occurs when something is claimed to be good because it’s perceived as natural, or bad because it’s perceived as unnatural. Guess what! That is a bad argument. First, because the quality of being ‘natural’ is difficult to define, and second, because the fact that just because something is ‘natural’ doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily good.


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Nelly Polyzou

Nelly Polyzou

[email protected]

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