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Disagreeing Respectfully – 1 Word You Need To Stop Using

Getting into the New Year, one of my personal themes –something I’m really trying to work on– is being able to trust myself in different situations. It’s about being able to disagree if you think something is wrong. It’s about speaking up in situation where you don’t agree. And that’s tough for everybody, but especially to do in your second language. In this post, you will learn how you can do that in a respectful way, in a way in which you remove yourself from the the ego and the emotion of it and make it easier for yourself.

Accept that disagreements are important at work

Disagreements are important in the work context. They help you improve and thrive, individually and as a team. Disagreeing with someone doesn’t mean thay you are not getting along. On the contrary, it leads to more ideas being shared and it contributes to keeping innovation flowing in your team.

What’s important to understand is that we don’t always disagree the same way. Different cultures tend to disagree differently and learning about the different styles will help you adapt your message and tone.

Objectivity is key

Use facts and numbers to add objectivity to your argument. Disagreements work best when we don’t make it personal, so stay away from claims such as “you’re wrong” or “I think you’re wrong”. Instead, focus on what’s being said and approach it from a perspective. This way, you are not criticizing the person, but rather, expressing an opinion on the message.

Let’s agree to disagree

Know when to let go and accept that finding a solution immediately is not always possible. You sometimes need to “agree to disagree”, which is a great phrase to indicate that you’re putting the discussion on pause for now and you will come back to it at a later point.

  • Let’s agree to disagree.
  • I see what you’re saying. We may just not be on the same page at this point.
  • I understand where you’re coming from. Shall we table this for now?
  • That’s a valid point. Should we pick this up in a couple of days?

Stop using the word “BUT”

Remove the word “but” and let the first statement stay as its own sentence. Make a pause, and then continue. Let’s take an example where a colleague is asking to make big changes before an important deadline, and you don’t think it’s a good idea to do it.

The first option could be to tell them something like, “You’re only making things harder for everyone else by trying to make these changes”, which would sound extremely harsh in most contexts. It may be true, but it is too forward and harsh for a professional setting –especially if it’s an international one.

A second option would be to say, “I see where you’re coming from, but I’m concerned, we might be getting too close to the deadline for major changes”. While this option is much better, there is one word that is getting in the way: BUT. For many, the key for telling apart what is is real and not real, is this very word. “When you hear the “but” in a sentence, then you know everything before that is just them trying to be nice”.

The third, and probably most effective one, is to remove the “but” from the previous example: “I see where you’re coming from. My concern is that we might be getting too close to the deadline to make these major changes.” Instead of using the word “but”, we give it a pause to let the first part sit in. It gives the first statement the respect it deserves.


Listen to this podcast episode. Aplpy these tips, practice, and leave out the word “but”. Learn how to say no politely in different cultures and how to improve your active listening. These tips will truly help you thrive at work and communicate effectively.

This article works as supporting material for our podcast episode 34. You can read the transcript below. Make sure you check out all our other Talaera Talks episodes and subscribe to get new episode alerts.

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Talaera Talks – Transcript Episode 35

If you are learning English, including new English words and expressions will help you with effective communication. Remember to check out our other episodes on how to make small talk, how to deliver engaging presentations, how to speak English fluently, and many more: visit the podcast website. Listen to it on your favorite platform.

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Welcome to Talaera Talks, the business English communication podcast for non-native professionals. My name is Paola and I am co-hosting this show with Simon. In this podcast, we’re going to be covering communication advice and tips to help express yourself with confidence in English in professional settings. So we hope you enjoy the show!

Welcome back to another Talaera Bit. My name is Simon. And wherever you are, I hope you’re doing well. This is exciting. This is my first Talaera Bit of 2022. Crazy how time flies, but here we are in January. Today, I want to talk about something where it’s just a short small tip, but something that I’ve been thinking about recently, as you know, getting into the new year, one of my, I guess, personal themes, or something that I’m really trying to work on is, you know, being able to trust yourself in situations and disagree if you think something is wrong, and really kind of speak up in a situation. And that’s tough for everybody, but especially to do in your second language.

So today, I want to talk a little bit, just very quickly about how we can do that in a respectful way, in a way to where you kind of remove yourself from the the ego of it, the kind of emotion of it and make it a little bit easier for yourself.

So the first thing to think about is that it’s you know, disagreement is important in the work context. You know, disagreement doesn’t mean that we’re not getting along. It’s important, right? And we talked about this a little bit in a previous episode where we talked about how to say no in different cultures. So if you’re interested in that topic, I would recommend checking that episode out. But yes, it’s interest, it’s important to disagree. That’s typically what’s going to lead to more ideas being shared, and you know, kind of get that innovation flowing in a team hopefully.

The second is to think about that objectivity is key. So we’ve talked about this a lot, using facts and numbers, as well, we don’t want to make it personal. So that’s staying away from you know, facts, like you’re wrong, or I think you’re wrong. And instead, focus on what’s being said, what you’re saying is wrong, or what I think what you’re saying is wrong, because so keeping the kind of personal aspect out of it.

And then the other point is, you know, knowing when to let it go and say, you know, let’s just agree to disagree, which is a great phrase to say, Okay, let’s just put this on pause for now and come back to it. So we don’t always need to find the solution right? Now, sometimes you just need to agree to disagree. So what are some phrases that we can use to politely disagree and do that in a professional way? And I’m just going to give a couple today, we’re going to start with kind of three statements here. From someone and let’s just say I’m disagreeing with someone. I’m disagreeing with you. I don’t, you know, think what you’re saying is right. And we’re trying to make changes before an important deadline, you’re you want to make these big changes, and I don’t I think we should make the you know, keep keep the the project the way it is, and not make them so not make these changes, so close to the deadline.

So here are three different statements. I could say number one, I could say, you know, you’re only making things harder for everyone else by trying to make these changes. Okay, so that’s a that’s a bit forward a bit harsh. It could be true, right? But it is a bit forward. A second one, I could say, I see where you’re coming from, but I’m concerned, we might be getting too close to the deadline for major changes. Okay, so that is a little bit I think it’s a little bit better. But I hear a lot from students is their key of what they know is real and not real. What they say is, oh, everything watch for the but when you hear the but in a sentence, then you know everything before that is just them trying to be nice, right? So that can also lead to some Yeah, to some issues of that as well what the other person thinks. Then you could also try this one. I see where you’re coming from. My concern is that we might be getting too close to the deadline to make these major changes. Okay, so the difference here between those second two is I’m just removing the but and making it its own center. And then giving it a pause to kind of let that sit in. Instead of I see where you’re coming from. But my concern is, it’s, I see where you’re coming from, you know, my concern is that we might be getting too close to the deadline. So that’s giving that first statement, the kind of the respect it deserves, right? Instead of, I see where you’re coming from. But now you can use this in a lot of different ways. You might see these, you know, professional ways to disagree, as I see what you’re saying, but I understand where you’re coming from. But that’s a valid point. But a lot of times what we hear is everything before, but is, you know, just being polite, or doesn’t really matter. So a good tip for today is just to remove the but let it stay as its own sentence, and then continue. You know, I understand where you’re coming from. My concern is that we might be getting too close to the deadline for these major changes. On slides, two, four, and five, you know, we we spent about two weeks on those. So that’s going to really make things difficult. So there, I’m making it very clear that I respect that opinion. I understand where you’re coming from. And that’s just a statement, not I understand where you’re coming from, but, and then I use Yes, objective slides to four and five, slides two, three, and five, whatever you want to do, right. But using it objective and bringing numbers into it, we used two weeks on those. And that’s going to make it so that you’re disagreeing objectively, and there’s not so much emotion in it. And as well, the other person feels listened to because it wasn’t just a that’s a valid point, BUT… Instead it was that’s a valid point. My concern is that, that that that.

So I hope that you can take this, again, like we talked about in all the other episodes, take it, apply it, practice it a little bit, leave out the “but”, right. It’s a very easy habit. But when we’re trying to respectfully disagree, it’s a good way to kind of show the other person that we respect what they’re saying, and that we want to at the same time, bring in our own point, as well check out that other podcast episode that we talked that I talked about, about, you know, understanding how to say no in different cultures and how culture impacts this as well. Right. So here we’re talking on a real interpersonal level. But it’s also important to remember the culture aspect. So that is it for today. I hope wherever you are, you’re doing well, you’re having a great start to your year. And, as always, keep learning.

And that’s all we have for you today. We hope you enjoyed it, and remember to
subscribe to Talaera Talks. We’ll be back soon with more! And visit our website at for more valuable content on business English. You can also request a free consultation on the best ways for you and your team to improve your communication skills. So have a great day and keep learning!

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