I don't disagree unless you agree to disagree

Be forewarned, this is a full-on rant that probably has no redeeming marketing communications value. But at least it’s about communications. I HATE, repeat HATE the expressions, “I don’t disagree” and “we agree to disagree.”

I don’t disagree? Why not say, I agree? Imprecision in language makes me mental; unless you’re trying to be vague or you really don’t agree, which I suspect is the case for most usage of this stupid phrase. “Yeah, I don’t disagree but deep down I don’t really agree with you but I’m trying not to ruffle feathers.” Just say what’s on your mind. And say it efficiently and succinctly.

We agree to disagree. I don’t think so. Where does that leave both parties? In disagreement. Plus, I haven’t agreed to disagree. Those are your words, not mine. I would never tell a client we agree to disagree. Unless you want to leave the issue unresolved. And it’s kind of insulting to presuppose that the other party is OK with that outcome. Work it out and move on. Life is short.

I welcome all comments from those of you who agree to disagree or maybe from those who don’t disagree. Can we agree on that?

— Kevin Flynn

8 thoughts on “I don't disagree unless you agree to disagree”

  1. Agreeing to disagree = impasse. It is sometimes inevitable between people. Do you need me to come over there and start singing Dave Mason songs to you?

  2. I agree (ha). I would rank this up there with two other phrases that get to me every time I hear them… “I could care less” (couldn’t!!!) and “I’m not gonna lie” (Do you lie normally and you’re just making an exception this time?) … some people will never learn!

  3. I cringe when I hear someone say, “So don’t I.” I’m never really sure if they are agreeing or disagreeing with me!

  4. Alright, here’s another type of statement that makes me cringe. It’s when someone says something like, “I don’t want to say anything bad about Susie but…” What they’re really saying is, “I’m about to say something bad about Susie but if I preface it like that, somehow I’ve granted myself permission to speak ill of someone. So this was the statement I overheard: “I don’t want to say anything bad about Susie but damn that muffin top chick is wearing clothing two sizes too small.” Ouch. Glad you didn’t say anything bad about Susie.

  5. Your rant reminded me of a saying that a friend of mind is fond of using when he is in agreement with you: “I couldn’t disagree with you less.” It’s just his dry sense of humor — loving to catch people off guard; causing them to mentally process for a few nanoseconds… “is he agreeing or disagreeing with me?” It always draws a comment or two, usually followed by a bit of a chuckle.

    But to your original point, you must admit that there are people who don’t do well with direct talk. Many of us (myself included) would rather we not dance around things, but simply speak what’s on your mind. “I don’t disagree with you” is a tactful way of dealing with the former types. It sometimes allows one to close a sale eventually even when two parties are not fully agreeing in the initial part of the discussion. The nature of some people is to shut off rational thinking and to “shut down” a stance of open-mindedness — going into full defensive mode — when their ideas are threatened. A skilled salesperson sometimes uses these very rhetorical devices you so despise to their advantage in these types of scenarios.

  6. “I agree” and “I don’t disagree” do not imply the same thing, and don’t even suggest the same thing.

    “I agree” would imply just that. Whatever you are saying I have no quips with and would stand right beside you in an argument.

    “I don’t disagree” more implies that you have not received enough information to justify taking a stand and backing it up, or you are undecided. I may agree, but don’t tell everyone because I’m not completely sure and need to research it more. It’s not about passive or active, it’s just noncommittal.

    Lastly, “agree to disagree” is just cliche for “I don’t want to discuss it anymore right now” or “I’m sick of listening to your point: I am not going to change my mind.” If someone says this to you, you’ve pushed too hard already.

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