Dr. Sharmila Subramanian

The oxymoron “agree to disagree” might remind you of Will Smith’s blockbuster MIB (Men in Black). The scene where the criminal Boristhe animal escapes from the LunaMax, a moon-based maximum security prison; he comes to Earth to seek revenge from Agent K, who had blown Boris’ arm forty years ago. As usual, there is a tussle between the good and the evil due to disagreements. There seems to be a never-ending war between the two disagreeing parties. Thus, the disagreement continues…

Leave alone fiction, practically, there are lots of disagreements at our workplace. These differences when expressed overtly, lead to dysfunctional conflicts that affect the organisational climate. In order to contain the negative emotions associated with vehement disagreements, one needs to seek refuge in consciously crafted courteous communication techniques. These techniques are presented here as “Agree to Disagree” formulae.


Imagine, if there were no differences in the world, how dreary the world would be! Think of Nature with only one hue; think of music with only one note; think of paths with only one direction- how bleak and dull it seems! Now, think of variations- contrasting hues, scales and notes, mountains and seas, adventures and peace- it gives us an impression of life in action. 

As the world is marked by profound diversity, it is natural that you hold a wide range of beliefs, opinions, and values. These differences can be a source of growth and progress, but they can also lead to conflict and division. Respecting diverse perspectives is crucial for fostering an inclusive society. Each individual brings a unique set of experiences, cultural backgrounds, and beliefs that shape their worldview. While it may be challenging to comprehend or agree with opinions that differ from your own, it is essential to recognize that diversity of thought leads to innovation, creativity, and progress. On the other hand, rejecting variation in thoughts and opinions gives rise to uncouth disagreements.

Well, to avoid such a scene, you may like to consider disagreement as another variety of thought that never occurred to you, or you didn’t perceive it to be valid. It can happen while you are in a group discussion or a meeting or on a negotiation table or simply involved in a conversation. Therefore, at work (even elsewhere) we need to treat disagreements with prudence.In the paragraphs that follow, we shall look at ways to present how to “agree to disagree”. 

Positivity is the Key

Disagreements between parties are rooted in contrasting opinions and feelings. It is difficult to control negative thoughts when the other party is in defiance. However, carrying a positive attitude helps you see the other party’s perspective. You may not accept their opinion but you are sure to respect their point of view. This makes you a debater who is not a skeptic, rather a scrutinizer. You may not only present your logic without fear, but also decently disagree with others.

Sins of Listening


You may never like to listen to someone who opposes you. This is instinctive, but not a cultured behaviour. In order to win over others, you need to avoid the deadly sins associated with listening- predicting or forecasting the other party’s intention, rehearsing your own response, being judgmental, and placating (saying yes for the sake of saying so). By avoiding the sins of listening, you actively listen to other person’s views and understand them in proper light. Active Listening is another way to let the other person know that you are in disagreement only after listening to the idea as a whole.

Formal Tone of Politeness

While you disagree, your volume increases and your tone turns irreverent. This leads to heated arguments and the debate gets personal. There seems no end to such debates as both the parties get involved in a shameful blame game trying to tarnish each other’s image. Consciously maintaining a formal tone of politeness helps in keeping the discussion under control. This demeanor requires emotional intelligence and constant communication practice. To remain decorous in a fiery debate is the best example of “agree to disagree”. 

Expressions that make you a champion

“You may be correct, but”; “I respect your opinion, but”; “Your suggestion appears to be popular, but”; “I might have agreed with you, but”, “I appreciate your feelings, but”, are examples of the “but game”. These expressions politely introduce disagreement. By using these sentence openers, you can speak up your mind without hurting the sentiments of the other party.

Facial expressions are also great feeders in a face-to-face debate. Showing a cool and composed expression helps in sailing through the debate with ease. Proper eye-contact, a soft nod and a serious thoughtful face can make the other person comfortable whereas, aggression and sarcasm can disorient the discussion. Thus, when you express your contrasting thoughts, the listeners may reciprocate with the same sense of responsibility

Code-mixing if you please


“Areybhai please listen”, “Sunobhai”, and “Agyan, you have the right to say” etc. are examples of mixing languages. Sometimes, code-mixing makes the language used in a discussion or a debate more communicative. There are less chances of making mistakes due to inappropriate choice of words. In India most of the people are polyglots. They easily add words from one language to another as per requirement (listener or the context or the effect). This code-mixing makes the conversation or discussion less rigid and more familiar. Therefore, the presentation of disagreement is well accepted.
So next time, when you are in disagreement with someone, just remember that you actually “Agree to Disagree”.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)