Disagreeable and Agreeable:
Disagreeable Agreement for a More Inclusive Workplace

Arin N. Reeves
October 2011

Many politicians from Barry Goldwater to Barack Obama have embraced the notion that “you can disagree without being disagreeable.” Inherent in these sparse but punchy words is that being disagreeable is a bad thing.

In late July and early August of this year, as the debt ceiling negotiations crossed every line of disagreement and disagreeableness that American politics has drawn over the past few decades, the electorate quickly downgraded its opinion of the president, Congress and everyone even remotely connected with the disagreeable debacle. We wanted our politicians to disagree if they must, but we did not want them to be disagreeable while they disagreed.

If you scan the political polls and voters’ sentiment, it seems that we really abhor disagreeableness, and we will consequently think less of people who behave in this way. If being disagreeable is a negative thing, people who decide to be disagreeable do so at peril to their careers, right? Actually, not quite.

Think Smarter. Lead Better.

  • The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.

    Albert Einstein
  • In our work and in our living, we must recognize that difference is a reason for celebration and growth, rather than a reason for destruction.

    Audre Lorde
  • Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their own customs, privileges, or beliefs.

    Leo Tolstoy
  • There never were in the world two opinions alike, no more than two hairs or two grains; the most universal quality is diversity.

    Michel de Montaigne
  • Diversity and independence are important because the best collective decisions are the product of disagreement and contest, not consensus or compromise.

    James Surowiecki
  • The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.

    F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Controversial' as we all know, is often a euphemism for 'interesting and intelligent.

    Kevin Smith
  • I not only use all the brains that I have, but all I can borrow.

    Woodrow Wilson
  • Honest difference of views and honest debate are not disunity.They are the vital process of policy among free men.

    Herbert Hoover
  • One must even beware of too much certainty that the answer to life's problems can only be found in one way and that all must agree to search for light in the same way and cannot find it in any other way.

    Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in.

    Isaac Asimov
  • Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.

    Malcolm Forbes
  • When we lose the right to be different, we lose the privilege to be free.

    Charles Evan Hughes
  • America has believed that in differentiation, not in uniformity, lies the path of progress. It acted on this belief; it has advanced human happiness, and it has prospered.

    Louis D. Brandeis
  • Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.

    Stephen R. Covey
  • Difference of opinion is helpful in religion.

    Thomas Jefferson
  • Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilisation.

    Mahatma Gandhi
  • Honest difference of views and honest debate are not disunity. They are the vital process of policy among free men.

    Herbert Hoover
  • Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.

    Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.

    Tony Robbins
  • Diversity creates dimension in the world.

    Elizabeth Ann Lawless
  • Wide differences of opinion in matters of religious, political, and social belief must exist if conscience and intellect alike are not to be stunted, if there is to be room for healthy growth.

    Theodore Roosevelt
  • Wit lies in recognizing the resemblance among things which differ and the difference between things which are alike.

    Madame De Stael
  • Peace is not unity in similarity but unity in diversity, in the comparison and conciliation of differences.

    Mikhail Gorbachev
  • Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.

    Stephen R. Covey
  • It is not that I'm so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.

    Albert Einstein
  • Differences challenge assumptions.

    Anne Wilson Schaef
  • The biggest mistake is believing there is one right way to listen, to talk, to have a conversation -- or a relationship.

    Deborah Tannen
  • Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.

    Walter Lippmann