Book a Demo

The Key To Agreeing And Disagreeing Effectively Across Cultures


Agreeing and disagreeing are a fundamental part of collaboration. Learning how to do it effectively without offending anyone gets more difficult when you are interacting across cultures. Whether you need to improve your English for work or for your personal lives, this post will provide you with a wide range of tools –phrases, frameworks, strategies, and tips– to agree and disagree effectively across cultures.

We'll start with phrases and tips for agreeing and phrases and tips for disagreeing, and then we'll look at the cultural differences that will help you navigate multicultural situations.

Phrases and Tips for Agreeing

Agreeing and Disagreeing - Phrases for Agreeing - Talaera

We'll start with the easy bit - agreeing. Agreeing with someone is generally a good feeling around the world, and as a non-native English speaker you just need to learn useful phrases to do it effectively. There are many ways of expressing agreement; in this section, we will cover the most common expressions.

Different ways to say I agree

  • Yes, that’s right.
  • That makes sense.
  • I’m with you.
  • I think / believe so, too.
  • I see what you mean and I (must) agree with you.
  • I see it that way, too.
  • I was just going to say that.
  • You have a point there.
  • That’s a very good point.
  • That’s so true.
  • Yes, of course.
  • Yeah, absolutely. I feel the same way.
  • I know, right?
  • That’s for sure.
  • No doubt about it.
  • We see eye to eye. *Idiom!
  • We're on the same page. *Idiom!

Ways to show that you strongly agree

  • Absolutely.
  • I'm 100% with you.
  • I couldn’t agree more.
  • You’re absolutely right!
  • I (completely / really / totally / absolutely / honestly / truly) agree with you (on that)!

Express partial agreement

Use these phrases when you agree with part of what someone is saying, but not everything:

  • I agree with you up to a point, but…
  • While I agree with… I think…
  • I see where you’re coming from, and I am with you, but…
  • That's true, but…
  • While I see how this is true, I'm still on the fence about... (on the fence = idiom that expresses uncertainty)

Agreeing across cultures

Agreeing is generally very similar across cultures. However, some cultures tend to be more enthusiastic than others. For example, in the U.S. people tend to use upgraders to agree with other people. This means that they may say things like "Oh, absolutely!" even when they don't agree 100%. Understanding these nuances will help you create the right expectations when having a conversation.

Phrases and Tips for Disagreeing

Agreeing and Disagreeing - Phrases for Disagreeing - Talaera.png

Now, disagreeing can be uncomfortable for many people. Especially in professional environments and speaking in a second language. In this section, we will look at useful phrases for disagreeing and you will learn an effective framework to disagree politely.

Different ways to say I disagree

  • I’m not so sure about that.
  • I’m not sure I would agree with that.
  • I respectfully disagree.
  • That’s not always true.
  • To be honest, I don’t agree with that.
  • That might be true, but…
  • Yes, but…
  • I beg to differ. (formal, more common in the UK)
  • Let's agree to disagree. (This expression is used to finish a discussion, when you decide not to argue anymore about a difference of opinion, even when the parties haven't found a solution.)

How to strongly disagree in English

The truth is, we very rarely strongly disagree in English. In most cases, we soften our disagreement. However, if you hear a comment that is unacceptable or unprofessional and you still want to be adamant about it, you may use one of the expressions below. 

  • I don’t agree!
  • I totally disagree!
  • Absolutely not!
  • That’s not right!
  • I’m not sure about that.
  • I’m sorry, but that’s totally unacceptable!
  • I’m sorry, but there’s no way I can accept that.
  • I have a completely different opinion on that.

A framework to disagree politely

To politely disagree in English, we recommend this two-step framework:

How to disagree politely

Step 1:  Either (a) understand, (b) pretend you're unsure, or (c) apologize.

(a) Show that you understand the other person's opinion.

  • I see what you’re saying but I think…
  • I take your point but that’s not the way I see it.
  • True, that is a fair point, but I have to say I disagree…
  • I understand where you are coming from, but…

(b) Apologize before introducing your disagreement. ⚠️ Careful here! This doesn't mean that you should apologize for not agreeing with someone. It is simply a way in which we traditionally apologize politely in English.

  • I’m sorry, but I don’t agree with that.
  • I regret to say that I don’t see it the same way.
  • I apologize, but I need to disagree with that.

(c) Pretend to be in the middle or unsure about your position. Even when we fully disagree, pretending to be unsure or to partially disagree is a way to soften your disagreement and be polite.

  • I’m not (100%) sure I agree with you on…
  • I’m not fully convinced.
  • I don’t know if I agree with that.

Step 2: Offer a solution. Offering alternatives shows that you are willing to reach an agreement and that you care about the conversation.

  • The way I would go about it is…
  • My suggestion would be to…
  • Instead, I wonder if we/you should/could...
  • An alternative solution might be…

General tips on disagreeing

Tip 1. If you get emotional during debates, try referring to yourself in the third person. Self-distancing allows you to stay cool while you share your opinions. For example, imagine you asked for a pay rise and your manager offers you a very small increase. You can either tell them "I disagree with this offer, it's unfair because I work hard" or you can use the third person and say "This amount doesn't match the current market standards." See how in the second one you are detaching yourself from the situation?

Tip 2. Keep in mind that your own actions may be interpreted differently in different cultures (and by different people). Develop your cultural intelligence and be mindful of potential differences in communication styles.

Cultural Differences in Agreeing and Disagreeing

Agreeing and disagreeing across cultures - Talaera

Have you noticed that some people feel very uncomfortable confronting other people while others feel totally fine openly saying they disagree? Apart from individual differences, it may also be influenced by the culture they grew up with. In this section, we will look at some cultural differences and share some easy-to-apply tips to navigate day-to-day professional situations.

Confrontational vs. non-confrontational cultures

As Erin Meyer very well outlines in her book The Culture Map, some cultures are more comfortable with disagreeing than others.

Disagreeing The Culture Mal Erin Meyer

The Culture Map, Erin Meyer

In confrontational cultures, finding the truth or the best solution possible is the priority. In these cultures. disagreement and debate are considered positive for the group and will not negatively impact the relationship. These cultures are comfortable openly saying "I completely disagree". Some of the most confrontational cultures are Israel, France, Germany, Russia, and the Netherlands. In Germany, for example, they have the word Sachlichkeit, which refers to objectivity or functionalism. They are taught to separate someone's opinion from the person expressing the idea. 

In other cultures where confrontation is avoided, they prioritize group harmony. In these cultures, disagreement and debate are considered negative for the group. It is inappropriate to openly disagree with someone and it may negative impact the relationship. Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, Ghana, or China are some examples. In these cultures, protecting another person's face is more important than stating what you believe is correct. 

Important reminder! These frameworks and guidelines can be very helpful to navigate multicultural environments. However, not all Western and Eastern cultures are the same, and not everyone within those cultures will behave the same way. The continuum confrontational - avoid confrontation is a tool to compare cultures. For example, compared to Japan, people from the U.S. are confrontational, but in comparison with Germans, Americans avoid confrontation.

Quick tips to disagree if you're from a confrontational culture

If you're from a rather confrontational culture, like Germany, France, Russia, Netherlands, Denmark, or Italy, and you need to cooperate with people from more reserved cultures, here are some quick tips:

  • Don’t corner people or force them to speak up
  • Find ways to brainstorm anonymously
  • Have a meeting before the main meeting
  • Give people notice to prep their ideas before the meeting
  • Consider 1:1 meetings
  • If you are the manager, consider not participating in some brainstorming sessions

Quick tips to disagree if you're from a non-confrontational culture

If you're from  culture that prefers to avoid disagreeing openly, such as Japan, India, Mexico, Sweden, China, or Saudi Arabia, and you are working with people from more confrontational cultures, you can follow these quick tips:

  • Don’t take their confrontations personally
  • Using a positive language may make it easier for you to speak up and you will make sure it's well received by others
  • Talk to your colleagues and manager about how you like to work (e.g. distribute agenda in advance)

Inspiring Quotes about Agreeing and Disagreeing

Dont raise your voice, improve your argument. – Desmond Tutu Agreeing and Disagreeing

"Great workplace cultures do not need agreement as much as they need to create room for disagreement." – Diane Gray

"You can disagree without being disagreeable.” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg

"For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate.” – Margaret Heffernan

"Don't raise your voice, improve your argument." – Desmond Tutu

"I may disagree with you, but I am not against you.” – Marushia Dark, Thelema: Book 0 - The Fool

"Our agreement or disagreement is at times based on a misunderstanding.” – Mokokoma Mokhonoana

"We seldom learn much from someone with whom we agree.” – Mokokoma Mokhonoana


The same way some cultures are more direct than others, some cultures disagree more openly than others. Develop your Cultural Intelligence (CQ) and work on communicating effectively across cultures with our free resources. If you are serious about improving your communication skills for the workplace or helping your teams communicate more effectively, explore Talaera's communications training.

English training

Check out our free communication resources and share them with your international teams. For any additional information or questions, you can also reach out at Interested in getting the best offers and receiving free content on Business English communication? Subscribe to our newsletter and we will keep you in the loop with offers, free events, and development materials!

If you enjoyed this article, keep reading:

Talaera Talks - Transcript Episode 70

This article works as supporting material for our podcast episode 60. You can read the transcript below. Make sure you check out all our other Talaera Talks episodes and subscribe to get new episode alerts. Listen to the episode on your favorite platform.

listen-on-spotifylisten-on-apple-podcasts listen-on-google-podcasts

Paola Pascual 0:03
Welcome to Talaera Talks, the business English communication podcast for non native professionals. My name is Paola and I am co hosting the show with Simon.

Simon Kennell 0:13
In this podcast, we're going to be covering communication advice and tips to help express yourself with confidence in English in professional settings. So we hope you enjoy the show. Hello again, welcome back, wherever you are. This is Talaera talks. And as always, my name is Simon and I'm joined by Paola. Paola, how are you doing today?

Paola Pascual 0:37
Hi, Simon. Doing great doing great. It's always great to record this episode. So it's fun. And you know, there's there's a lot of information.

Simon Kennell 0:46
So much going on. And I mean, we're getting close to wrapping up the end of the year, how are things down in Spain,

Paola Pascual 0:55
things are going well, and it's gorgeous weather now it's not too hot. It's not too cold. It's Always Sunny. You know, it's it's nice. It's pretty nice. It's very busy here at Talaera. We have a lot of plans, we have something very exciting. Coming up. I don't know if you can guess what it is? Or if anyone can guess?

Simon Kennell 1:15
No, I think we've mentioned it a couple times. But we'll talk a little bit more about it towards the end of the year. But yeah, I mean, things are just as busy as ever. And a lot of people out there want to learn business English and want to improve. And it's just awesome to see. And yeah, I mean, we're working with some really, really interesting companies and people and you know, one of the topics that we hear a lot about. And it's actually something that I want to ask if you agree or you disagree is exactly that agreeing and disagreeing. Right. And this is something that I was just having a discussion with one of our students about recently, who was leading teams, and he felt like, there was this dynamic in the team where one of the salespeople was very aggressive, and was very kind of forward and would disagree very vehemently. Right, he would be very strong in his disagreement. And that kind of rubbed some people the wrong way. And they felt a little like, yeah, a little bit, kind of put off by that. Right. And so, the question is, is like, okay, was this just because he actually really felt like he should disagree like this? Or was this a language barrier? Or what, what is the actual situation here? Maybe he, you know, modeled this behavior from someone else and thought, This is how I should be, you know, acting. But it is, it's an interesting topic. And yeah, one we want to discuss today. Paulo, would you agree that this is an interesting topic? Or would you disagree?

Paola Pascual 3:07
100%? With you, I totally agree with you. And I love this topic, because it is, it is, I mean, we've done some of this before, a lot of this before where we mix language, aspects, like we're going to give today we're gonna give a lot of phrases and, and tools that people can use to both agree and disagree. But then we're going to mix it up with cultures, like how do people agree and disagree across cultures? And why do we see some people as very rude or too aggressive when they disagree? So here, we're going to look at the reasons why this happens, and how you can navigate, for example, multicultural meetings, or discussions where you're when you're talking to someone from a different culture, a different background, and make sure that everyone you know, is as happy as possible.

Simon Kennell 3:58
Right. And it's, it can be difficult when you're in a multicultural situation. Because you, you rely on your own way of of navigating, you know, very often and so, when you're in a situation, you can just disagree the way you that you would when you're around your car, you know, your own colleagues or your own friends. And exactly to your point, if you're not aware that how you disagree with people, you know, maybe different, it can really cause some some tension, right? And that's something to be to be mindful of. So let's Yeah, let's hop into it. And we'll start with the nice one. We'll start with agreeing. And, you know, there's a lot of different ways to agree when you're in a business meeting. What Yeah, what are some examples? Let's just go through this one, and we'll obviously spend more time on disagreeing. But tell us a little bit about a great deal.

Paola Pascual 5:00
Yeah, so there's many, like many different ways to agree or to say, I agree. You say, Oh, yeah, I agree. But you can also say, Yeah, that's right. That makes sense. I'm with you. I think so too. Or, you know, I see it that way too. And, again, there's many, many different phrases where you can create, but these ones are the ones where you just clearly and simply say, I agree. Yeah, but sometimes, you want to make it like, really, really powerful and really strong. And how do you do that? Simon? What What can you do to like, say, Yes, you know, 100%? That could be one of them. Right? 100%?

Simon Kennell 5:39
I use that all the time. 100% I'm with you. Absolutely. Everybody. If you listen to this podcast, you know that I unfortunately, use the term Absolutely. 100% of the time, right. Always saying absolutely. And that is, again, we'll talk about the culture side of it. But being American, we tend to use these upgraders. Right, by saying like, absolutely, totally, you know, 100% This is really high. Right. Another way could be, you know, saying I couldn't agree more. Like, you know, this is showing that I'm, I'm completely with you, right? I don't know what what do you usually use if you're in agreement and strong agreement?

Paola Pascual 6:27
Oh, I'm 100% with you. I totally agree. Those would be the two ones.

Simon Kennell 6:33
Yeah. You know, I also use Now that's what I'm talking about, right? Maybe that's a little bit more slang, but I use that a lot. But yeah, I'm 100% with you, is probably Yeah, my most common one also. But it can be one of those things, right? You may cross culturally, you may run into people who are agreeing with you, but in their culture, are agreeing with you really strongly. But it doesn't necessarily seem like that, you know? And that can always be a little bit of a, of a weird dynamic, like, okay, maybe I feel like I'm overly excited right now, as an American, I should calm down a little bit. And that can be I don't know if you've run into that as well.

Paola Pascual 7:18
Yes, it can be very confusing. I've heard this from students that they tell me out, but then I have my colleagues in the United States, and they always agree 100%. And then they object, right? And then they have some things that they don't really agree with. And then I'm confused. Because like, if you're 100% Agreed, then why there are some are there some things that you don't fully agree with? You know, so it's totally, it's such a cultural difference, and it can be shocking for some people.

Simon Kennell 7:48
And I think speaking as an American, what I would say is I do that, as well. I almost just said, I do that all the time, you know, which is again, using these upgraders. Right? I wouldn't be like 100%, I'm totally with you. But another thing we can do or and adding on to that we could do this and this and this, right? And it's like you just said you were 100% with me. But now you're adding some critique. And again, that's where we're using these upgraders alive. So I totally agree with you, most often just means Yeah, I agree with you. Now, what about if we're not in total agreement, but it's somewhat it's kind of where we're agreeing. But we want to, we want to show also that we have some other thoughts? How would we how would we do that?

Paola Pascual 8:39
A very common phrase to do that would be to say, I agree with you, up to a point. But yeah, the up to a point, I agree with you up to a point means yes, I agree with you. But it's not 100%. There's some things that I don't fully agree with, or while I agree with this is the part you're cool with, I think. And then there's where you introduce them the the objection that you have, or I see where you're coming from, but surely this one, I see where you're coming from. But it's also used to disagree in a very, very polite way, right, when we use that, but is a very, very common way in English to disagree.

Simon Kennell 9:24
Right. Right. And, and so this is an interesting one, because I think, especially when we're in a business setting, we want to be polite, and we're going to talk about this, you know how to disagree politely. We want to be polite. And a good part of that is showing that maybe you agree with some parts of it, right. And that's a it's a good way to do it. And I love this. Yeah, I agree with you up to a point. But I think also we should consider, you know, X, Y and Z. I use this I see where you're coming from, because I'm not sure or how much of it is I agree with you. Versus, like I understand your, your feeling right, or I understand where you're coming from, it could be a little bit of both right, but I use this a lot. It's like, I see where you're coming from, you know, with that, and you're right about this, this and this, but I also feel you know, these things. And I feel like it's a good way to have a, you know, have a discussion.

Paola Pascual 10:28
Yeah, based on understanding and saying, Okay, I understand the way you're thinking, and I understand the reasons why you might be thinking that, but here's where I think. So. I like that. Right? So that's what we have for agreeing. That was the easy part. Right? Everyone feels comfortable agreeing with others. But what about disagreeing Simon? How do we how do we do that?

Simon Kennell 10:51
Yeah, this is the, you know, how do you eat an elephant, right, one bite at a time, this is like the elephant right here that we need to get through the disagreeing, there's so much into disagreeing that is really difficult, because it's, at the end of the day, it's about some type of confrontation, it's about, you know, you're needing to put a block into some type of conversation where you bring in your own point, that may not be the same, right? So, you know, there's a lot of different ways to disagree. And because we're talking about business, English, usually in a business situation, we we want to be, quote unquote, professional, right. And so being professional typically is a little bit more polite, right? And doing that politely. So we can disagree, but kind of in a little bit of a soft way. And this is maybe how we would do it. When we're thinking of all of the cultures, and we'll talk about this, you know, there is a kind of general framework for disagreeing, you know, in most, most, most cases shouldn't be very, very hard, and it shouldn't be too soft, right? It should be somewhere in the middle there. And so these are some different ways that that we can use, right? So you can say something like, I'm not so sure about that. Or I'm not sure. I would agree with that. And if you want to be very formal, you could say like, yeah, I respectfully disagree. Right. So those are some three good options that I saw that you added, which one, would you say you use the most?

Paola Pascual 12:32
Yeah, I'm not so sure about that. That second, that's one that I use quite often. I'm not so sure about that. I would try to avoid the I respectfully disagree, unless I have a very close relationship with the other person. But what about you?

Simon Kennell 12:49
You know, it's funny, I, I would use the second one. Right. So I'm not sure I would agree with that. But being the American, I would add an upgrade? Or I would say, I'm not sure. I would totally agree with that. I would add in that point of saying like, maybe I agree with you, 90%. But I disagree with you that 10% I'm not so sure. I would totally agree with that. Yeah. And that's kind of the one that I would use now, if we're needing to strongly disagree, right? How would we navigate that?

Paola Pascual 13:25
Yeah, so the same way, we tend to use upgraders. For agreeing, we would say I totally agree with you, I 100%. Agree, we would not do that with disagreeing. Right, we would very rarely say, Oh, I totally disagree with you, or I have a completely different opinion on that. You could use those. But it's usually with extreme cases where they were super rude, they were over the top, you know, it's, we save those for very, very specific situations. But other than that, we put together a little framework. It's a two step framework that can help you disagree politely, strongly, or partially, or just in general disagree. And so in the first step, you would choose one of these three options that we're going to give. And then you always offer an alternative solution. That's how you are proactive. That's how you tell people, Hey, I'm not only here to disagree, but I actually want to find a solution together. So as we said, there's two steps. The first one is choose one of these three options that we're gonna give, in the other one offer an alternative solution. Now, those three options, the first one is show that you understand the other person's opinion. And Simon, you were talking about your favorite one before where you said, I see where you're coming from. You could use that one, right? I see what you're saying. I take your point or true that's a fair point or, again, I understand where you're coming from. So that could that could really work right? I Mmm. And then you always offer an alternative, a tentative solution, like, for example, the way I would go about it, or my suggestion would be to do this and that or instead, I wonder if we could do this. Right. So that's one solution.

Simon Kennell 15:18
So you could add it together kind of like, you know, Paul, I see where you're coming from. But I think you should probably use this solution instead.

Paola Pascual 15:28
You nailed it.

Simon Kennell 15:30
There you go. All right.

Paola Pascual 15:32
Yes, that's awesome. So yeah, here, the first option would be that you show that you understand the other person's opinion. The other option, very, very common is to pretend to be in the middle or unsure about your position. You can say, Well, I'm not sure I agree with you. Or I'm not fully convinced. Or I don't know if I 100% agree with that. Right? That's where you're pretending to be unsure, even if you're sure that you don't agree. But this is just like, the way we soften the disagreement.

Simon Kennell 16:07
Are you lying here? Paul, are you lying in this situation?

Paola Pascual 16:12
I'm not fully sure if this would be considered lying.

Simon Kennell 16:18
No, it's not lying. Right? It's softening it right? And that's what I'm talking about before?

Paola Pascual 16:23
Yes, it's protecting the harmony of the group. Yeah, it's not really lying. And then again, you always offer an alternative solution. And then the third option, right, we say it was two steps. And then for the first step, we chose between one of those three options, the first one was showing that you understand, the second one is to pretend to be in the middle or unsure. And the third one, and we have to be careful with this one is apologizing before introducing your disagreement. And the reason I say we have to be careful with this one is because this is what we've traditionally done in English for many years. Right? You apologize? I am so sorry. But I don't think I can agree with that. Or I apologize. But I need to disagree with that. And I learned to do that at school, to be honest. But then now there's this big trend that says you shouldn't apologize for disagreeing. I don't know if you've heard that.

Simon Kennell 17:20
Yeah, so So this is a this is an interesting one, right? Because I think it's about what is the intent behind, like, this apology, you know, before disagreeing, right? If we think about the one that we just talked about, where we're, you know, pretending to be kind of in the middle or a little bit unsure. It's what you said, it's about group harmony, right. And I think this is maybe somewhat similar is the apology is to try to soften this, this disagreement, because for many people, and in many cultures, disagreement can be very conflict based, right? It's very, very, it can be very scary for people. I mean, I know, there are people and I've had to learn myself to learn how to disagree. And, you know, do that in a way where you're strong about your opinion. But you want to be careful also not to, if you're in a culture where if you disagree openly, that means that you could be you can be showing some type of disrespect, there's a there's a little bit of almost a cultural thing where you you put that in. I don't know if I was taught to do to apologize for disagreeing. But it was I was definitely taught to soften any disagreements. And that was that was a big one. But again, I mean, I think it depends on the situation. I know, I've apologized before disagreeing before. But it depends, right? If, you know, if I think someone is making, like a statement that's morally or ethically, you know, wrong. Or against my own views, I'm not going to apologize for disagreeing. Right. But yeah, I don't know. Like, I don't know. Would you agree with that?

Paola Pascual 19:15
I Yeah. I mean, I'm totally with you. And here, I wouldn't also say that I'm in favor of apologizing for not understanding. So I mean, we provided three options. The the first two are my favorite. But still there is a third one that is used. It's very commonly used, especially in the UK. We've, we've I've heard that in the UK quite a lot. So it's a reality you can embrace it, you can use it or you can just use one of the other two.

Simon Kennell 19:46
Yeah, that's why we have three options as always the rule of three There you go. There you go. There you go. All right. So so general tips on on disagreeing. What should we know? Yeah,

Paola Pascual 19:57
so there are because this one is the tricky One, right disagreeing can be a little tricky. And before we even get into the cultural differences, there's one tip that is that can be useful. And that is, especially if you're a person that gets emotional during debates and you know, heated conversations. Try to refer to yourself in the third person, right? Instead of saying, I disagree, you could say something like, well, that option may not be that helpful for this thing, you know, like you self distance from the topic, providing more objective arguments. And that way, it helps you regulate your emotions, and you can keep your cool. So that could be one that's sometimes helpful. I don't know if you've ever heard that,

Simon Kennell 20:45
like, so if you're in a, you're disagreeing about a salary raise, for example. And then you're using it, as you know, that offer that you had comparative to the market rate is not is not what I found. And so it's not I'm not saying this isn't fair to me, or this isn't about me, I'm putting it kind of in the third in this objective view. Right. And that's maybe making it easier for me to to navigate that emotionally. Is that what you're saying? Yep,

Paola Pascual 21:22
that's exactly what I was when I was referring to try to exactly instead of saying, I don't deserve this, you can say that offered doesn't match the standards that I found.

Simon Kennell 21:32
Right? This market. Nice, nice. Okay.

Paola Pascual 21:36
Yes. And then also, just be super mindful. We've talked about cultural intelligence many times, and it's something that we're passionate about, it's a very, very important skill when you're working across cultures, but really be mindful of the differences and just know that your actions, your words may be interpreted differently, based on who you're talking to. So just just be mindful of those differences. And then we'll talk about, okay, what are those differences, right, but just be aware that you may have the best intentions, but if you yell at someone, it may be normal in your culture in your culture, and it may be totally unacceptable in a different culture. Or if you say, I totally disagree with you, that can be really, really hurtful in some ways.

Simon Kennell 22:24
Right? Right. And it's yeah, it's important to, like you said, be mindful and natural that that CQ cultural intelligence comes in. Now, speaking of cultural intelligence, we have these different, these different forms of cultures, these, this scale of confrontational and non confrontational cultures. And this is when we come to disagreeing, and we love Erin Meyer at Talaera. And we discuss her work a lot, you know, built on a lot of other cultural studies, and we have these kind of two ends of the spectrum, right? When it comes to disagreeing.

Paola Pascual 23:03
Yep, we do. So there are some cultures that are more comfortable with confrontation, they're okay saying I disagree openly. And, you know, if you disagree with me, then that's not something bad, you're not attacking me, you're just trying to come up with a better solution. And those cultures towards that end of the spectrum are Germany, France, Russia, Israel, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Spain are also towards that end of the spectrum.

Simon Kennell 23:35
Yeah, so that is that is much more. And again, it's how you view it, right? I wouldn't being Danish, I wouldn't say this is confrontational. I would just say, Oh, no, it's just objective, right? It's just, you know, it's just disagreeing. Right? And that's because in this culture, you know, disagreement and debate is positive, right? It's seen as like, this is a good thing for our group to disagree and debate openly. Because then we can come to the best solution, right. And now, this may be different from the other end of the spectrum, which tends to avoid confrontation. And which, which cultures are those that we're talking about? So some

Paola Pascual 24:22
of those cultures are Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, China, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, and if we look at, you know, especially the Eastern cultures like China, Korea, Japan, they they tend to see disagreement as a negative thing because it affects the group dynamics that may impact the relationship and there's this concept of Nancy or face, you know, the, the the expression saving face, and it's really to make sure that you protect the person's face. and that it's more important than stating what you believe is correct? No, it has to do with group harmony. And that's more important than just us speaking up and saying, Oh, I disagree,

Simon Kennell 25:11
right. And face is a big thing, not only, it's not just the person, you're, you're not talking about the person's pride, right? You're talking about the person's status, you're talking about the person's role in society, you're maybe even talking about their person's family, and who and what they represent. So there is a lot in that one, in that one idea of faiths, right in that one concept. So, you know, coming from a more Western society, if you're just, you know, not actually doing this, but sticking your finger in someone's face and saying, Hey, I disagree with you, you can be right, pushing all of these things and adding conflict to all of those different points, where from your perspective, you're saying, Oh, I'm just disagreeing with you. Because, you know, I respect you. And I want to come to a conclusion, right. So it's really important to, to learn how to navigate that and to be mindful of that,

Paola Pascual 26:11
yes, and see where they're coming from. We talked about that phrase, like I see where you're coming from, try to see where they're coming from. So we set that confusion societies are like these ones that Eastern societies may protect, or may want to protect the group and the group harmony versus the individualism. And, and then some others, like Germany, and I learned this when I moved there. When I moved to Berlin, I learned this thing, and I'm going to pronounce it really, really badly. But it's cephalic eight, which is something like objectivity. And when they say I disagree, or like, I strongly disagree, it doesn't mean that they're, they're not disapproving you like they're not saying, you as a person are wrong. It's more saying, oh, objectively, the thing that you're saying does not match with what I believe, you know, so just seeing it from an objectivity point of view, instead of a personal attack, it's really helpful as well.

Simon Kennell 27:12
It's like, I'm disagreeing with your idea, not with you. Right. And so you have to, you have to know that I am not my idea. And that's, that's a very,

Paola Pascual 27:22
I like that. I am not my idea.

Simon Kennell 27:25
It's just an idea. Right? That doesn't mean it's me. Right? And, and I think that's a difficult one to remember, sometimes, especially when you're very passionate about making something work. At least I found myself before where I've kind of married myself to this idea, right? And, and maybe know the difference between ideas and values, right? There's like, this idea for this project is not like my life value of how I see the world. Right. And that needs to be, you know, something that we that we work on, I think, yeah,

Paola Pascual 28:00
I love that. I really like that. Okay, so let's say we have a meeting, and that meeting has different people from different cultures. How can we navigate that to make sure because agreeing and disagreeing is important, we have to do it. And but there must be a way where everyone has understood what the other person meant, and is not offended. Simon, do you have any tips to navigate these multicultural meetings?

Simon Kennell 28:29
Yeah, so I think the best way to do this is to set aside guidelines before the meeting on how we do this. And this, I think, is to include some sort of activity or space or object or something that D personalizes the disagreement, right. And that's where it's what you talked about, right? about making it objective, these, these disagreements need to be objective, and they're not about us, because when you have so many people from different cultures, you never know, who might take offense to this or who might feel attached, or who just might be married to their ideas, right. So, you know, separate the people from the ideas. And you can use this like a anonymous idea box, you can use it as you know, I think you had the idea of putting, you know, ideas on the board and so that now the ideas are just out there, now they're just there. And then we can we can work with them. They're not attached to a single person. And I think that's a good way to kind of depersonalized it. What do you think

Paola Pascual 29:37
it is? It is a really good way because as you said, here is where you can fully then say, Okay, I am not my ideas, right? Yeah. Which I really, really liked. There's also one strategy like try to read the air. We talked about this. You don't want to be ky and that's an expression. So you want to be able to read the air and understand the different cultures that you have in there and try To somehow adjust your language with the upgraders and downgrades are so upgraders make your message really, really strong, like, absolutely, totally. They're okay when you agree, but they can be really strong and harsh when you're disagreeing. So here you may want to use downgrades, like sort of partially up to a point, to a certain extent, kind of, and that way you make sure that you know, you soften the message in case anyone gets offended.

Simon Kennell 30:30
Yeah. And I think also for big, multicultural teams. You can you can crowdsource, right, you can crowdsource ideas. You can, I mean, voting works, you know, like, people have their own anonymous poll where they can vote for something, vote for an idea or a choice. And that can if it comes down to it that can that can work as well.

Paola Pascual 30:52
Yes, absolutely. And there's something that we always bring up when we talk about cultural differences. But I still think it's important to keep hammering, and that is two main things. One, there is no right or wrong, there really is no right or wrong, and there is no normal. So what's normal for you may not be normal for other people. It's just a matter of understanding those differences and just accommodating them. It's not even, it can be tricky, but it's really not impossible. And it just takes practice. And then the other thing is that when you learn about cross cultural differences, you should learn them just by comparing them to other cultures. Because the US, for example, can be very confrontational. If you compare them to a person from Japan, perhaps, but they can be too vague. If you compare them with person from France. Yeah, potentially, we don't know. We are all individuals. And we all have our very specific communication styles. But we're talking in general terms and based on a lot of like different studies. So yeah, just be mindful of those those things.

Simon Kennell 32:05
We're all different versions of gray. Right? It's different shades different shades of gray. And that's, yeah, that's just what it is. So there is no Yeah, black and white and right and wrong. And I definitely agree.

Paola Pascual 32:18
Exactly that exactly. That's so we're wrapping up. We talked about some phrases for agreeing and some phrases for disagreeing, we gave a lot of framework for disagreeing with those three steps. And, and we also talked about some cultural differences. We'll be adding a lot more phrases to the blog post that we're adding to the episode description. But Shall we wrap up with some very, very quick tips for both confrontational and non confrontational cultures?

Simon Kennell 32:47
Yeah, let's do it. Okay,

Paola Pascual 32:49
so tips for confrontational cultures here again, it's Germany, France, Russia, the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy. Imagine you're from one of these countries and to cooperate with people from more perhaps reserved, or non confrontational cultures. What can you do Simon?

Simon Kennell 33:08
So I'm from Denmark, and I'm going to work in Japan, I should consider that I shouldn't corner people and force them to speak up, right? I shouldn't be like, this is your job description to speak up. So you better disagree with me now, you know.

Paola Pascual 33:26
And, you know, you're totally right there. But there's also more subtle ways to coordinate people. And that is just to say, so, Anna, what do you think, just doing that in a meeting? If you know that they're from non confrontational cultures? It may be just putting them in the US? Yeah.

Simon Kennell 33:44
I mean, I learned that lesson firsthand. In Vietnam. I've said, I've told that story before, where I did that exact thing in a meeting in Vietnam. And I'd like ruin this poor woman's month. Like, it was horrible, you know? And so yeah, definitely don't do that. You know, you can find ways to brainstorm anonymously, you know, like you said, creating, you can create a virtual whiteboard. Yeah, have the meeting, have a meeting before the main meeting. So you can get ideas from people and get a sense. You know, I think give people notice to prepare ideas, so they don't feel, you know, shocked when you call on them in the meeting. And yeah, consider some one on ones. Definitely, if you're thinking about different status points, where Who do you who should you meet with before the meeting, so people know that they're, you know, clued into to what needs to happen, which managers should you meet with, so that they feel that you're taking their point of view into consideration. And I think that's a big point. Now, let's flip it and say you're from a non confrontational culture and you're going to work with people from more of a confrontational culture, like say, Yeah, say you're from Japan going to work in Denmark, what should you consider?

Paola Pascual 35:02
Yeah, so here, the first thing is don't take their confrontations personally, if they tell you, that's totally wrong. They're not saying that about you, but about the idea that you brought up. So don't take things personally, do try to speak up, find the framework that works for you. And perhaps that is by soften in your message, or there's a very, very interesting technique. And that is to frame your disagreement in a positive way using positive language. And this can help you, you know, it may be easier for you, because you're not using strong words or you're not using negative words. And you're you make sure that it's well received by others. So instead of saying, this won't be finished, I disagree. This won't be finished by December 1, then I can say, or you can say there's one big finish until December 1, right? That's something negative, you could say, well, this will only be finished after December 1, right? There, you're just reframing it saying the same thing. And super important, and you said this before Simon, but I just think it's so so so helpful. When you work with a multicultural team, talk to your colleagues and managers about how you like to work. For example, if it if for you, if you find it helpful to get the agenda in advance before the meeting so that you can prepare and think well try to communicate that with them so that they can also accommodate the whole thing for you. And yeah, those are those are some of the main ones. Um,

Simon Kennell 36:41
yeah, I don't think I've ever talked about agreeing and disagreeing so much, but it was still super interesting. Like, that was a really fast, like, 45 minutes. Wow. So much in there, right? And it is, it's just like anything, there's so many layers to disagreeing. And yeah, it's, it's a fascinating topic. And hopefully, you know, everybody listening today could, yeah, get some good tips out of this.

Paola Pascual 37:06
Yeah. And if you have a multicultural team, feel free to drop this link, you know, this episode here and there and educate your teams, your friends, your colleagues. And our goal is always to create to bridge cultures and to create this way of like understanding each other, even if we come from very different backgrounds. So if we can help do that, even 100%, then then I feel with we've achieved our our goal

Simon Kennell 37:34
100%. I agree with you totally. Great, well, wrapping up, Paola, anything that we should add any upcoming webinars and things people should be watching out for.

Paola Pascual 37:48
We have a lot of exciting webinars coming up. One of our favorite ones, of course, is working across cultures, that's going to be December the fifth. So I encourage everyone to join, but we have advanced emails, small talk, providing constructive feedback, there's so much going on. So always go on the free resources page, check them all out. And if you ever want to have more personalized training, then you can always talk to us, Halo Even if it's just to say, Hey, I listened to your episode every Tuesday, then that always makes us happy. So you know, we love communication.

Simon Kennell 38:23
Yeah, exactly. Right. And to all of you managers out there, you know, coming up towards the end of the year, you're probably going to have to do some performance reviews and evaluation and have those meetings and we work with managers a lot with those specific things. And, as always, it's important to communicate during the whole year, of course, but especially towards the end of the year, when it comes to those specific points. So yeah, let us know if you're interested. Besides that, Paola, as always a lot of fun. And to all of you out there as always keep learning.

Paola Pascual 39:00
And that's all we have for you today. We hope you enjoyed it. And remember to subscribe to Talaera talks. We'll be back soon with more

Simon Kennell 39:08
and visit our website at for more valuable content on business English. You can also request a free consultation on the best ways for you and your team to improve your communication skills. So have a great day and keep learning!

Business English Podcast