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.