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  • Writer's pictureDavid Nagai

How to Disagree Politely in English

Updated: Jun 6, 2023

Disagreeing with people is hard to do, isn't it? Doing it in your second language is even harder!

It's particularly difficult for Japanese because they're very harmonious. I really appreciate this harmonious part of the culture. However, the downside is that Japanese sometimes struggle to communicate necessary disagreement because they want to avoid conflict.

If you’re Japanese, I want to help you assert yourself confidently and clearly while also maintaining harmonious and positive relationships. When you don’t communicate clearly about what you think, the other person may dominate the conversation, and therefore dominate you and your situation.

As you speak, always be aware of your body language and tone of voice. If you demonstrate positive body language and a kind tone of voice, then your words will be well received.

Speak in a way that communicates curiosity and a desire to understand the other person. When they feel understood and can continue discussing openly with you, then more can be accomplished.

Disagreement can show that you're honest and intelligent. If a western English speaker finds out that you never share what you really think, they might actually consider you to be dishonest. Or, they may think you have no intelligent insight or discernment ability. Of course, you're just trying to keep harmony! But just remember that westerners may view someone who always agrees with everything as dishonest or less intelligent. Or, perhaps, as less involved or unengaged.

Here are ten examples of how to speak honestly about what you believe, but in a way that is harmonious and productive. Hopefully some of these tips will help you keep the conversation going toward a win-win negotiation.

1. That’s not how I see things, but you do have a point. I could be wrong, and I will definitely take your view into consideration. But maybe it’s not a black and white issue?

2. Thanks for sharing your opinion. I recognize your different view on this issue and also want to learn from you!

3. I hear what you’re saying, but I humbly disagree. Maybe we can talk about it more later?

4. You might want to double check the facts. I’m not so sure that’s accurate.

5. With all due respect, I’m going to have to disagree with you on this.

6. I actually have different views on this subject. Can you explain more about what you said and why you think that way? I truly want to understand.

7. Wouldn’t it be better if _____________?

8. I understand ______________, but what about ________________?

9. You seem to be forgetting _______________. What are your thoughts on that?

10. Have you considered ________________?

Remember, don't forget to keep these things in mind:

Body language

Tone of voice

Desire to understand

Ask questions if possible

Keep the conversation going


Want to connect with the changing world in English?

online or in Yokohama-Motomachi

to expand your:

creative thinking

global awareness

cross-cultural communication

(Advanced and intermediate only)

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