READ: Elements of Argumentative Speaking

2 You can agree to disagree

You Can Agree to Disagree

We all feel strongly about certain issues. I feel it is very important that we learn how to argue a point with integrity. Arguing with integrity includes stating your own position and allowing the other party to state their position as well. Instead of creating a hostile argument that results in hurt feelings and flared tempers, each person needs to agree to disagree. This means respecting the other person’s opinions, data, and claims. It also involves sharing your time and sharing your analysis of the information.

For his course Debate and Argumentation, Douglas Gibb wrote about the importance of relational skills in arguing persuasively. He outlined eight interpersonal principles that apply here:

  1. We can disagree without being disagreeable.
  2. We can agree to disagree.
  3. We can value the other person’s opinion.
  4. We can mentally cooperate with the other person.
  5. We can willingly admit when we are wrong.
  6. We should never deceive ourselves or others in any way.
  7. We can self-disclose our motives, purposes, and reasons.
  8. We can contribute to the growth and development of the other person.

Dr. Gibb explained that agreeing to disagree involves loving and supporting your audience (whether that means one person or many people) and approaching your listeners with an attitude of friendship. Be hard on the problem but soft on people! Arguing persuasively is inseparable from friendship and commitment. The essence of speaking is not to use the audience to make us happy, but to serve and affirm the ones we speak to. We can learn, to our surprise, that what we need more than anything is not to be appreciated and loved, but to love and support the audience as they, in turn, love and support us.

Douglas Gibb, Debate and Argumentation Strategies: Communications 353(Provo, UT: BYU, 1994), 19–20.