How to Agree to Disagree | British Conversation Skills

agree to disagree

HOW TO AGREE TO DISAGREE | BRITISH CONVERSATION SKILLS

Ladies who have worked with me previously will be well aware that conversation skills are one of my favourite topics to coach women around. I have written about acceptable topics of conversation in previous articles. Still, in this one, I wish to address the subject of how to agree to disagree politely from a British etiquette perspective.

Let’s be honest, we can’t talk about the weather or how you know the host all night! Sooner or later, small talk will move on to more contentious topics. Even the subject of the weather can now prompt climate change debates!

Obviously, we don’t want to go full throttle into complex subjects when we first meet someone. However, I would be doing you a disservice by not providing you with some guidance on how to handle yourself when these situations arise.

Is it okay to agree to disagree with someone?

Yes, it is acceptable to disagree, but there are ways to do this in a well-mannered way.

Why don’t the British like to disagree?

Interestingly, British culture tends to shy away from topics of debate, and I believe this stems back to our education system where philosophy does not form part of the school curriculum (in contrast to countries such as France, where it has been mandatory since the 19th Century).

The impact is that it is ingrained in French people from an early age to acquire personal reflection and the ability to build an ‘argument’ to support that belief.

The consequences of this are that they don’t view disagreements in such a personal way as the British. Lively debates are an integral element of the success of a dinner party, and nothing is taken too personally. It is highly respected if one can present an argument with evidence to back up that belief.

Not so in British culture; very few of us have been educated in this manner. Often a difference of opinion is viewed as a personal attack or a lack of respect, so diplomacy is vital if we are to build relationships whilst having differing opinions.

British culture is changing

Following the events of the last few years, for example, Brexit and the pandemic, I have noticed how the conversation has evolved. Now more than ever, we need to learn these essential skills.

Members of my Alumni Society will be joining my Confident Conversation Online Course in February to delve deeper into this topic so they can be equipped with the ever-evolving changes in British culture.

For those who aren’t joining this course, I wanted to give you three free tips for agreeing to disagree with someone, which are in line with British etiquette.

how to disagreee politely
  • “It’s a fascinating topic, but we will have to agree to disagree on this occasion. However, I really appreciate you sharing your views with me which I have taken on board. It’s important for all of us to understand a different perspective.”
  • “Well, whilst we don’t agree on the solution to the problem, I think we can both agree that the Government has some tough decisions ahead, and let’s pray they make the right ones for all of our sakes.”
  • “Oooh, Politics and Religion! As we’ve only just met shall we park those for a while? I wouldn’t want to jeopordise our friendship so early on!”

I hope you find these tips useful during these challenging times.



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