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  • Bob Burg

“[Burg] has demonstrated that adding value to people's lives is the way to climb the ladder of financial success.”

~ Fran Tarkenton, Hall of Fame Quarterback and Founder/CEO GoSmallBiz.com

Exactly When Should We Agree to Disagree?

December 21st, 2012 by Bob Burg

disagreementSometimes, we’re just not going to successfully move a person to our side of an issue.

He or she is so deeply rooted in an ideology or philosophy that to change would be a renunciation of their individual, long-standing and deeply entrenched belief system.

Politics is a somewhat easy example to cite.

Despite the old admonishment to not discuss politics in polite company, it makes sense that, if we believe a certain thing to be important regarding our country, we are naturally going to want to persuade others toward that same end.

And, when approached correctly, there is no reason not to.

How we go about the persuasion process is important. We’re much more likely to be successful when coming from a place of respect rather than anger and vitriol.

I personally found the back-and-forth arguments I observed on Social Media during the recent presidential campaign — filled with personal, vicious and hateful insults toward those who disagreed with one another — extremely disappointing. I doubt that many opinions were ever actually changed, but I don’t doubt that friendships (or potential friendships) were harmed.

Of course, even with rational, respectful disagreement, that doesn’t assure persuasion.

So, I believe the question then is not, “should we talk about a certain topic?” but “when should we stop talking about that topic?”

I believe the answer is when you and the other person have reached a crossroad; that point where any further discussion cannot possibly help your relationship, but might just hurt it. At that point it is best to respectfully “agree to disagree.” This honors the person’s right to believe a certain way without agreeing with that way.

One benefit is that it leaves them much more open to your other ideas when you speak again. And, maybe you can even re-visit the current idea. This could never happen without their trust that you will — in the end — respect their right to believe what they choose to believe.

Yes, because the person knows you will not try to coerce or bully them into accepting your opinion, they’ll actually be more open to the possibility of embracing your opinion, should you be able to make your point persuasively enough.

Sure, know what to say and how to say it. And…know when to stop saying it.


Are you a coach, speaker or trainer? Or, would you like to be? Either way, feel free to check out our Certified Go-Giver Coach Program.

20 Responses to “Exactly When Should We Agree to Disagree?”
  1. Bob,

    I’ve read your “The Art of Persuasion” book and I couldn’t agree more. I completely agree when you say, “Because the person knows you will not try to coerce or bully them into accepting your opinion, they’ll actually be more open to the possibility of embracing your opinion.”

    Another very interesting article and I am sure a lot of great comments are going to flow in now. I look forward to them…


  2. Bob Burg said at 9:04 am on

    Kumar: Thank you, my friend. Greatly appreciated!

  3. Linda Ryan said at 10:03 am on

    Great post, Bob and it’s got me wondering how this relates when dealing with a coaching client, as compared to a friend. I concur that “agreeing to disagree” is a great option, yet what if doing that might mean the client doesn’t accept responsibility for their actions or lack of actions? I have been accused of “beating dead horses” when I feel an important point hasn’t been understood, because of my strong desire to help them move forward and not stay stuck in their habitual ways. (And because I think that horse might still be breathing!)

  4. Bob Burg said at 10:17 am on

    Linda: Regarding the client, that would be a different context so, it would need to be handled according to the results you’re looking to attain. Of course, if you feel as though you are “beating a dead horse” then you might need to make other determinations regarding how to work with your client and/or more effectively communicate your point. Maketh sense?

  5. Linda Ryan said at 10:57 am on

    It does-eth! I will refer to “the horse” to let them know I understand they want me to leave it as dead, yet ask them to consider WHY I’m still beating it. Sometimes that actually works and sometimes…not so much. Thanks Bobeth!

  6. Bob Burg said at 11:19 am on

    You’re welc-eth! 😉

  7. Bruno Coelho said at 11:43 am on

    Hi Bob!

    Excellent advice on the art of persuasion!

    One point that you touched is absolutely critical “he or she is so deeply rooted in an ideology or philosophy that to change would be a renunciation of their individual, long-standing and deeply entrenched belief system”.
    That’s belief system is the foundation that they used to build their whole Life! Their self-identity!

    It doesn’t matter the logic or the persuasive nature of the argument that you use IF they feel that they have to lose their integrity or congruence with who they are. This type of debate often escalates to emotional outbursts that don’t add any value to the conversation… Often it comes to a point when everyone involved are arguing more about *how* the other person is speaking than “what” they’re saying to them…

    I was studying this subject recently and I noticed two strategies that we can use:

    a) The Tony Robbins Change Strategy
    If, for some wild reason, you REALLY need the other person to give-up their current beliefs, the only way to do it effectively is to link or anchor an immediate, unbearable and huge amounts of PAIN to those beliefs.
    Then we should provide an exit and link an immediate, unbearable and huge amounts of PLEASURE to it!

    b) I rarely use the previous strategy (one of the reasons is because I just recently studied it). I use a different one…

    First, I always try that the other person speak first so they can have an opportunity to share their beliefs, point-of-view and the reason why they’re so passionate about it.
    I do not because it’s the right thing to do for this strategy but because I genuinely care about them and I’m hugely curious to know what drives them! I also comment that it’s always an enriching experience to understand a different point-of-view!

    By doing this you just showed them that: a) you care; b) you respect them; c) hearing and discovering another point of view doesn’t mean that you must adopt it!

    Now, it’s our opportunity to share our own point-of-view. At this point we must remember that there’s a time for them to accept it and a time for them to develop that new idea within. We should communicate that idea in a way that address their conscious mind (using logic, data and facts) and their unconscious mind (using stories and emotional vocabulary).

    The key now is feedback! Listen to what they say AND what they don’t say. What does their body saying? Are they showing signs that this new idea is challenging their current beliefs?

    At the end, the best way to persuade and influence is through our own example of how we’re living Life. It reminds me when I was a Jehovah witness! Most of the times, when people opened the door to me, they were trying to defend their beliefs EVEN before I said anything!
    My best persuasive argument was the way I lived. People couldn’t help but wonder what was the secret behind the life of happiness, peace and joy that I live! And that was my opportunity to share with them the lessons I learned.

    “There are many paths leading to the top of Mount Fuji, but there is only one summit–love” – Morihei Ueshiba

    One last thing we should remember is that we must always honor, value and love each other for what we really are – ONE! We’re all trying to make the most of this incredible miracle that it’s Life.
    When we stop judging each other and start loving each other (even those who challenge us), that’s when we get the chance to influence each other all the way to the summit of Life!

    Jesus said: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

  8. Bob Burg said at 11:48 am on

    Bruno: As always, lots of wisdom provided throughout your comment. Thank you for sharing with us!

  9. “The Art of Persuasion” Is truly an ART by the way… and… Why would you want to Beat Your Head against a wall… LOL.. As the old saying goes “You can lead a horse to Water, alas we CANNOT make him drink it…”

    I just did a Post on “Is it Feedback or Criticism ?” On the Both AND… Mentality and address the Huge Component on Compassionate Passionate Communications… and agreeing to disagree

    At the end of the day if you VALUE the relationship, friendship, business etc… You will CHOOSE
    to Agree to disagree and KNOW when to truly walk away from the situation in a way that honors both parties…

    Yes there are NLP – HYPNO – ANCHORING methods… HOWEVER… that doesn’t necessarily mean you should use them…

    I have found it sad that a lot of people MISSUE some of what they learn…
    In essence Manipulating people… there is a difference between effective persuasion versus

    As I like to say JUST Because I CAN… Doesn’t mean I Should…
    You really have to tap into people, look at their body language as they are speaking
    are they really READY – WILLING to let go of their point of view, position, belief system.. because if they are NOT and use NLP – HYPNO techniques you could be doing more damage than good… I think BOTH parties need to be willing to WANT those techniques they shouldn’t in my opinion be used without both parties consent because then it is manipulation…

    As Usual another great post…

  10. Bob Burg said at 1:49 pm on

    Carly: Thank you for your comments, and for sharing your wisdom with us. Always appreciated!

  11. Great insight Bob that we should all exercise in our personal lives as well.
    You are the best!

  12. Bob Burg said at 2:02 pm on

    Christie: Thank you. And HUGE Congrats on your new book!

  13. Lene Jytte Hansen said at 2:46 pm on

    I have no further comment to add! I totally agree with you Bob! 😀 I do!!!! And nothing you say can change that!!!!! – LOL
    OOOHHHH I love so much to do that Certified Go-Giver Coach Program – Gosh – would be a DREAM come true for me. I’ll reach out, when I can make it a priority to DO it!!!!
    Best wishes
    Lene 🙂

  14. Bob Burg said at 3:19 pm on

    Lene: Too cute, my friend! Thank you!

  15. Mike said at 10:46 am on

    Great article Bob. It had my mind racing and swirling around what was posted in social media throughout the campaign. In some circles, there are people who have a “In your face” attitude of I’m right, you’re wrong, so just get over it! I find it hard NOT to jump into the conversation, and at other times I remember the phrase ‘Pick your battles wisely’.

    There’s always the cafeteria style facts …pick and choose the ones that support an argument. But even then, there might be something in common to have an open and honest conversation.

    I have good friends with different views on many subjects. When things heat up and become tense, there is the agree to disagree moment. I believe face to face conversations and debates usually are more civil and productive than through social media. Different set of dynamics …and not hiding behind a computer screen and keyboard.

    There is one subject I’ll always hold my ground …my Grandmother made the best tasting cake doughnuts! 🙂

  16. Bob Burg said at 10:50 am on

    Mike: Thank you. I think you make a bunch of excellent points throughout your comments and in each paragraph. And, I’d have LOVED to have tasted your Grandmother’s cake doughnuts. No need to “agree to disagree” on that. I have no doubt they were the best! 🙂

  17. Perfect timing for this Bob. With the elections and the recent shootings, people have been flinging opinions all over the place. Discovering that sweet spot of agreeing to disagree is the key.

  18. Viola Tam said at 8:40 pm on

    Hi Bob,

    Thank you for another great topic that has opened up some interesting discussion here!

    We all have our unique belief and values. We have those belief so deep rooted that sometimes it is hard to accept others’ perspectives and belief. I trust that rather than persuading others to our point of view, how about we simply accept others as who they are?

    Different views and opinions. That is okay. We really have to learn how to agree to disagree. We have our own values and beliefs. Unconditional love and acceptance will allow us to ‘agree to disagree’.

    Have a Fulfilling & Abundant Life – yes, even disagreeing with others!

    Viola (The Business Mum)

  19. Bob Burg said at 9:03 pm on

    Joseph: Thank you!

  20. Bob Burg said at 9:04 pm on

    Viola: I think that persuasion is important – it is part of the progress of life. Also important, however, as you said, is to, at a certain point, accept others for who they are and for their right to have a certain belief/opinion, even if different from yours. Thank you for sharing with us!

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