This episode highlights the cultural differences between non-native speakers and native speakers, particularly the British, when it comes to disagreeing. While non-native speakers tend to be more direct, native speakers prefer a more tentative and polite approach to disagreements.
Listen and learn phrases and techniques that can be used to express disagreement in a respectful and nuanced manner. From softening statements with expressions like "I'm afraid" to indicating partial disagreement and understanding the other person's perspective, the episode provides listeners with practical examples of how to soften the impact of having a different opinion.
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Hello, welcome to PoLoop Angielski, the podcast that aims to help you along your linguistic journey to better English skills. I'm Jacek Olender, and today we are going to take a look at the art of expressing disagreement. Get ready to fine tune your language and explore alternative ways to disagree with finesse, and politeness. So, let's dive in.
If you've ever been discussing issues in English, you might have noticed that there is a significant difference between the way foreigners and native speakers, especially Brits, express disagreement. non-native speakers are more likely to be straightforward firing quickly: "I don't agree," before they present the argument about why they disagree with something that was said. And don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being straightforward in expressing disagreement. "I don't agree," is a very concise statement, short with no unnecessary words, and it should be used when you don't mind being blunt. Which means being honest, even if this could upset someone. However, in most situations, you might prefer a more tentative tone. Being tentative means approaching the disagreement in a less direct or assertive manner. Instead of outright rejecting or dismissing someone's viewpoint, a tentative approach involves expressing hesitation, doubts, or alternative perspectives. It allows for a more nuanced and polite exchange of ideas, while showing respect for the other person's opinion. Being tentative is particularly important in formal settings or at international meetings, where participants come from various cultural backgrounds. So when you are tentative, you're a bit unsure, a bit hesitant, rather than openly confrontational.
So as "I don't agree" might not always be the best choice, let's explore some alternatives that you can use to express disagreements more politely. First of all, we can soften our disagreement by starting a sentence with one of the softeners - phrases that would make your opposing view sound more friendly. I am afraid. I'm sorry. With respect. Frankly, I'm afraid I don't agree. I'm sorry, I don't agree. With respect, I don't agree. Frankly, I don't agree. We have already made the first step to be more tentative, but we can do better than that. Now, we will swap 'don't agree' for 'can't quite agree', to further point out that we want to agree, but we simply can't. The word "quite" as well as "entirely", which is also used in this context, when we add them before the word "agree", hints that we might agree to a certain degree, but not completely. I'm afraid I can't quite agree. I'm afraid I can't entirely agree. By using these phrases, you either express regret for being unable to agree or underline that your lack of agreement comes simply from you trying to be honest. So what we have now is a more polite disagreement sentence. I'm afraid I can't quite agree. Or I'm afraid I can't entirely agree. Let's imagine that during your annual appraisal meeting, your boss says that she's not happy with your performance. You can respond: "I'm afraid I can't quite agree with you assessment." You might even add a clause to show that you are not angry about her feedback. Which brings us to the final version of our first disagreement alternative. "I'm afraid I can't quite agree with your assessment, but I appreciate your viewpoint. I'm afraid I can't quite agree with that assessment, but I appreciate your viewpoint."
In the second alternative, we will skip the word "agree" for the phrase "to be convinced" or "to be sure". For example, "I'm not entirely convinced," and "I'm not entirely sure," suggest a slight reservation or hesitation in accepting the opposing view. During a brainstorming meeting, instead of "I don't agree with the idea", you could say something like, "I'm not entirely convinced this idea will work". When we say we are not convinced or sure about something, we indicate that our disagreement is partial. The same purpose is served by such tactful phrases, as "I agree up to a point, but ..." , "to a certain extent, I agree with you, but ...", "you have a point there, but ...", "it's an interesting point, but...", "I can see your point of view, but ...", "I have some sympathy with your position, but ...", and my favourite, "I see where you're coming from, but ...", which works perfectly when someone has just returned from the toilet. Sorry, for my poor joke. Naturally, the phrase is idiomatic. And it has no connection to someone's previous location, but shows understanding or empathy with someone's perspective. Using it, you acknowledge that you understand their position or arguments before presenting your own opinion. "I see where you're coming from, but I believe there might be another way to approach this problem", you might say. So, let's revise these partial disagreement phrases. Please repeat after me. I agree up to a point, but ... To a certain extent, I agree with you, but ... You have a point there, but ... It's an interesting point, but ... I can see your point of view, but ... I have some sympathy with your position, but ... I see where you're coming from, but ... One more thing, you can swap "but" for "however", to give your disagreement a more formal feel.
Okay, let's move on to the last alternative to "I don't agree", which actually doesn't mention disagreement at all, but allows us to suggest an alternative viewpoint directly, which obviously implies that we don't agree with what was suggested earlier. So instead of disagreeing with someone's opinion or suggestion, we can simply say, "I wonder if it might be worth considering ...," and now you say what your alternative suggestion or opinion could be. So for example, "I wonder if it might be worth considering a more cautious approach to address this matter". The sentence can actually stand on its own, or you might add it to an already stated partial disagreement. For example, "I see where you're coming from, but I wonder if it might be worth considering a more cautious approach to address this matter." Let me repeat this. "I see where you're coming from, but I wonder if it might be worth considering a more cautious approach to this matter."
Okay, as I'm sure you noticed, all these sentences are somewhat formal. But what about a friendly discussion with colleagues? When we want to be friendly and respectful, but maybe a little bit less stiff? less formal? No problem. We have a few options to choose from. Let me give you some ideas. "I'm not sold on that idea, Bob, if I'm being honest." "I'm not too sure I see that way." "You know, I'm not 100% convinced about what you're saying." "I'm not completely sure I see eye to eye with you on this one." "I have some doubts about what you're saying, mate." "I'm not entirely comfortable with that suggestion, to be honest." "I'm a bit on the fence about that one." This last one, you can say even if you're sitting in a comfortable chair, as sitting on the fence is an idiomatic way of saying that you're not sure what you think or which side of the argument you support. Let me give you an opportunity to repeat these sentences. So repeat after me. I'm not sold on that idea, Bob, if I'm being honest. I'm not too sure I see it that way, you know. I'm not 100% convinced about what you're saying. I'm not completely sure I see eye to eye with you on this one. I have some doubts about what you're saying, mate. I'm not entirely comfortable with that suggestion to be honest. I'm a bit on the fence about that one.
So to sum up, embrace the art of British politeness in all your discussions and debates, and avoid blunt statements like "I don't agree". Opt for more tentative and subtle ways of expressing disagreements. Start with one of the softeners: I'm afraid, I'm sorry, with respect, frankly. Say, "I'm not quite convinced", or "sure" to show hesitation about disagreements. Underline that your disagreement is partial or that you understand other people's perspectives.
This brings us to the end of today's episode. I hope you found these alternative ways to express disagreements helpful, and that you'll incorporate them into your English conversations. But before we wrap up, I wanted to let you know about something which is actually connected with the topic of this episode. This summer, I'll be running a special online course designed to enhance your communication skills. So over a period of four weeks, we'll be practising exactly the kinds of things I was talking about in this episode. We'll be learning how to present compelling arguments, mastering the art of giving opinions, we'll learn how to clarify information, interrupt respectfully express support, or opposition. I named the cause "Career Booster", and it's for those of you who wish to get more confidence when participating in all kinds of meetings. So whether you're a student or a professional, it doesn't matter. If you're interested in developing communication skills in English, which you can use in your discussions, in conversations either at work or at schoo, join me this summer. You can find the link with details in the notes to this episode. And I'll be looking forward to spending a very productive time with some of you this summer. Thank you for tuning in today, and join me next time for more language exploration learning. Until then keep practising and refining your English skills. Goodbye.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai