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Why Saying "Let's Agree to Disagree" Never Really Works

Two women were chatting about work. One, Sue, was a staunch defender of the management team while Jill thought the management team had no idea what they were doing. As the spittle started to fly and the arguments got stronger and stronger for each side, Sue finally says, “well let’s just agree to disagree.”

Easy way to solve it, right?

It can seem at times this is the best way to end an argument. But does it really end the argument? Or is it just sending the feelings below the ground to fester and explode in another way? And, more importantly, have you gained any new insights, knowledge, or opportunities?

To see this clearly, let’s use Outcome Thinking™ to see what message is being sent BEHIND that message. What we are ultimately telling the other person is that we completely disagree with them and that we don’t see the logic in what they are saying.

This then causes the listener to dig deeper ROOTS behind what they believe. This means they become deeper entrenched in their way of thinking and LESS likely to let new ideas and new ways of thinking in. And, of course, why should they let in new ways of thinking if you are telling them that you will not let new ways of thinking in either?

Outcome Thinking™ takes a different approach. At the root of Outcome Thinking™ is the realization that you can not judge and that you may not have all the information. Therefore, there is a quest to explore what exactly the other person means by what they are saying. This is contrary to traditional thinking. With Traditional thinking you interpret what the other person said based on WHY YOU would say what they said.

So for example, if someone says, “I can’t believe you said that!” You might think, “I would never say “I can’t believe you said that” unless I thought the person was totally wrong. So she must think I never should have said it. Maybe I offended her.” In the meant time what the other person meant was “I thought that was funny.”

So let’s go back to the two ladies who are disagreeing.

Here would be an example of the conversation using Outcome Thinking™:

Jill: This new management team has no idea what they are doing.

Sue: Share with me what you have seen them do that makes you see them as incompetent.

Jill: Well for one they closed our plant in Rochester. That makes no sense at all.

Sue: So you feel they didn’t do a good job of explaining why they closed that plant and therefore, it seems to be a bad decision.

Jill: Yes. I have three friends that worked there and they are all out of work now. These are people that did a great job for the company and now they have nothing.

Sue: Closing the plant in Rochester was a rough move. I understand that management team had to choose between closing the plant immediately, closing the plant and relocating all the employees at a huge cost company or actually dissolving the entire division of the company, which would have impacted 5 times as many people. Sometimes management does have to make some tough choices. Even though it would have been financially easier to just close it, they felt the right thing to do was to relocate all employees that wanted to relocate at the company’s expense. I do know they did offer all employees either the choice of relocating to a similar job or getting a severance package. What did your friends say about the choices and why they did or didn’t pick the opportunity to move?

Jill: My friends didn’t mention they were given that choice. I thought they were just told it was closed down. I guess that sheds new light.

Sue: So what else has the new management team done that you feel doesn’t make sense or was it just that?

Using Outcome Thinking™ Sue was able to gain great knowledge- that the management team didn’t do a great job of communicating what they were doing and why to the rest of the company- and she can bring this knowledge back so that with future changes they avoid these problems.

Jill learned that she didn’t have all the right information. Because Sue used Outcome Thinking Jill wasn’t forced in to a corner but was able to see her friends may have omitted information due to their frustration or anger. This gave Jill an opportunity to re-evaluate her position.

So every time you feel yourself wanting to say, “let’s agree to disagree,” take a step back and instead ask probing questions to find out exactly where the other person is coming from.


As the leading Outcome Strategist, Anne Warfield shows people how to say the right thing at the right time every time.  The revolutionary Outcome Focus® Approach shows how to build a candid corporate culture of communication that allows you to lead, present and negotiate transformationally rather than transactionally. When applying Outcome Thinking® our client’s results include sales cycles reducing by 75%, turnover reducing by 30%, silos evaporating, and a 25% savings of time by executives.  Find out how you can maximize your corporate culture for greater productivity and results!  Contact us at 888-imp-9421, visit  www.impressionmanagement.com,  or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .