Meeting phrases target training

Meeting Phrases: Disagreeing politely and diplomatically

How do you disagree with colleagues in meetings?
You’re in an international meeting with people from all over the world and it’s time for you to agree or disagree with the solutions being offered. Unfortunately, you can only agree on one solution – so you have to disagree with someone.

However, disagreeing with a colleague at work can be problematic. If they believe you’re being too direct – or even rude or aggressive, it could have serious consequences for your business.

If this has happened to you, you may be working with a different business culture, one that expects disagreement to be softened or said indirectly to save face and maintain good working relationships.

Here are some common diplomatic and polite ways of saying “no” which you can use in meetings to disagree politely and diplomatically.

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Meeting phrases for disagreeing politely and diplomatically

1.  The partial agree

  • I agree with you to a point, but…
  • I understand what you are saying, however…
  • I see what you’re saying, but…

2.  Using words or phrases to soften your disagreement

  • I’m afraid, I don’t agree.
  • I’m sorry, but I just can’t agree.
  • Sorry, but I really can’t agree to that.

3.  Disagreeing using general doubt

  • Hmm, I wonder if it’s true that….
  • Hmm, I’m not sure it can work like that.
  • Hmm, I’m not sure whether it’s possible.

4.  Avoiding the negative

  • I don’t think that’s such a good idea. (NOT It’s a bad idea.)
  • I don’t think I can agree with you. (NOT I disagree with you.)
  • I’m not sure it’s the best idea. (NOT it’s the worst idea!)

Following these simple examples will help you maintain good business relationships when working with other business cultures and keep things positive and diplomatic in international meetings.  Want more ways to improve your meetings? Check out our seminar on facilitating meetings for more info on how.


1 reply
  1. Will
    Will says:

    Hi Jenny,
    This is a really concise guide to a massive topic, so I do appreciate this. An additional strategy is to use a question to make a statement less direct. E.g. Instead of: “This just won’t work”, say “can you envisage any difficulties with this solution?”

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