How to Disagree with Someone Powerful?

4 min readJun 29, 2022


Photo by Toomas Tartes on Unsplash

How do you determine whether to speak out, when to speak up, and where to speak up when you disagree with someone more powerful than you, such as your boss or your boss’s boss? I will give some tips to assist you argue with this authoritative person in a more productive and assured manner. For instance, if your customer is requesting an unreasonable deadline or if your senior colleague needs your support for a doomed-to-fail concept, it is important to do a risk assessment before deciding what to reply. Avoiding confrontation with a superior is normal.

As humans, we automatically avoid situations in which we fear damage, emotional rejection, or professional failure. However, you may be exaggerating these hazards. Chances are you won’t get fired or make enemies for expressing your opinion, especially if you do it appropriately. The majority of us focus on the danger of saying anything, while communication expert Joseph Granny recommends we first consider the risk of being silent. What are your potential losses? What possibilities are you or your team overlooking?

What may occur if you do not bring up this problem now? Then, consider what is feasible. It may occur if you express your disagreement and ask which is worse. Especially if they employ someone you fear would be vengeful or if your business has a history of penalizing individuals for expressing their minds, you may conclude that speaking out is not worth the risk. In many circumstances, though, expressing your viewpoint will be the appropriate action. You must then determine when and where to express it. If you withhold your disagreement, you may be able to create a stronger argument.

This will allow you time to investigate the facts and ensure you have a complete understanding of the situation. It can also offer you time to discover like-minded colleagues, whose views and support may strengthen your argument. The delay will also allow you time to locate an appropriate setting for this chat, as the location of a private encounter is crucial. Working with this influential individual may be less dangerous than voicing your concerns in a more public setting.

Once you’ve determined when and where to voice your viewpoint, it’s time to choose what to say and how to express it. Holly Weeks, a communication specialist, reminds us that this is not a boxing match but rather a chess game in which you must employ strategy to maximize your chances of winning. While maintaining everyone’s integrity, it’s a good idea to set a method with this individual ahead of time, before there’s ever a conflict. “I was wondering how you wanted me to communicate my opinion if it varies from yours,” you can say.

When a dispute arises, they’ve already informed you how they’d like you to handle it, and they’ve given you implicit permission to offer your perspective, whether or not you’re able to establish the framework ahead of time. When deciding what to say first, here’s what I recommend. It may seem superfluous, but you don’t want the conversation to turn on whether or not you comprehended the initial message.

You want the focus to be solely on your ideas. In addition, request permission to disagree. I’d like to describe my thought process. Is everything all right? This may look overly meek, but it is actually an intelligent move that allows your superior to engage in the conversation without feeling threatened. When people respond positively, it has the added benefit of boosting your confidence before you provide your opinion, which is essential. Connect your idea to a shared goal, such as quarterly profitability, company morale, or the creation of an equal workplace. The discussion might then be refocused on attaining goals unrelated to your alternate viewpoint.

After determining what you will say, you must consider how you will portray your case and yourself in this delicate circumstance. First, stay cool. This is not always simple, but you should convey confidence in your neutrality. Therefore, take deep breaths and speak slowly and thoughtfully; I assure you that you will both feel considerably more at ease. humble. Your view is just that, your opinion, and you should be forthright and realize that phrases such as “I’m just thinking out loud here” or “Tell me where I’m wrong on this” open the door to debate and encourage inquiry rather than defensiveness. Remain objective and provide just the facts; do not provide any opinions.

Try this experiment to understand my point. You may explain your thoughts, for example, without using a single word, particularly a weighty one. For example, instead of declaring that I believe it is unwise to make a large purchase at this time, you may note that prices are decreasing. We might potentially save money by delaying our action. Avoid using terms like “stupid,” “dumb,” and “incorrect.” This keeps your criticism focused on the topic at hand as opposed to the individuals involved. Be kind yet assertive in your remarks, since this will permit me to outline the process of deciding when, how, and how to speak up! Consider the possibility that the penalties for disagreement are less severe than those for quitting. Delay commencing the conversation until you have accumulated sufficient data and ideas to provide the most persuasive argument.

When determining what to say, it is important to consider the optimal time and location. Therefore, restate the original idea so that individuals will identify you. Explain that you hold a different opinion and are requesting permission to share it. If you can plan ahead for a conflict resolution method, it will be much easier to select how to express the aforementioned points. To keep everyone’s composure, maintain your calm, breathe deeply, and speak gently. Remain humble and responsive to criticism; keep a neutral posture; and avoid employing evaluative words, which can be unpleasant and counterproductive. After expressing your opinions with confidence and clarity, remain gracious while recognizing their decision-making authority.




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