How to Politely Disagree.

How to politely disagree about politics, religion and other touchy subjects.

I hate making a scene. I hate it when other people make a scene. I hate it when people disagree about something, and then suddenly, what could have been a friendly debate, turns into a loud screaming match where no one is listening except for the bystanders.

How to politely disagree with someone is a skill we try to teach children when they’re little. Such as not to throw a temper tantrum when they’re told they can’t have a third cookie, or when their older brother says it’s his turn to watch his television show. We try to teach children to:

  • Listen to the information or facts with an open mind.
  • Consider the other person’s point of view.
  • Ask clarifying questions to really understand what they are saying.
  • State their opinion or desires with a calm “inside voice.”

So adults, if we know what to do, then why do we sometimes forget our manners when someone pushes our buttons and starts egging us on about their political viewpoint or aggressive stance on an issue? We should, and can, do better. Below are a few tips to keep in mind when someone begins to tread on your beliefs and values.

Politely Avoid. If you truly believe having the discussion or debate with the other person will not go well because of previous “discussions”, or because you know the other person can’t control his/her temper, or because you are in an environment or situation where you don’t want to have the discussion, then you must try to avoid it – politely. This means to say to the person with a smile and a nice approach, something like:

  • “Joe, I like you so let’s not go down this slippery slope again. Hey, tell me, do you know who won the game last night?”
  • “I respect your opinion on this topic, but I have a different viewpoint, so let’s just agree to disagree and move on.”
  • “My mama told me never to discuss politics or religion with people, so I am going to have to follow her advice.”


Politely Listen. If you choose to enter into the discussion that you know is “controversial’ between you and the other person, you owe it to them (and yourself) to fully listen to their point of view. One, because it shows them respect and maybe you will even learn something, and two, because then you hope the other person will listen to you. Maybe if you both really listen to each other, you might be able to find some common ground.

Stay Calm. When people are talking about something they really believe strongly in, they don’t typically want others to tell them they are wrong and to challenge their beliefs. Remember this. Unless someone is open to the ideas you want to share with them, it won’t matter how loudly you talk, they still won’t listen. Shouting won’t make the situation better, and in fact, if it escalates, it could just get much worse. If you find yourself getting really angry, you can just say something like, “Wow, this is really getting me upset and I don’t think either of us will benefit from this discussion right now. ”

Don’t Use Social Media as a Weapon.  Like I said, I don’t like it when people make a scene in person, but what is just as bad, if not worse, is when people hide behind their electronic devices and hurl insults at others whom they can’t see. It’s shocking that it’s not just kids who are at fault for writing and posting mean, angry, and derogatory remarks. Many adults find it okay to use social media and email to send hateful things to others using bad language and threats to get their message across. We have to remind ourselves that what you write does have an effect on others including the message that we are sending to our children. Just try to refrain from posting anything negative online, and use electronics as tools, not weapons.


For more etiquette infromation and videos go to Aimee’s website Aimee conducts business, dining, social, international and children’s etiquette training.


Aimee Symington
Aimee is the CEO of Finesse Worldwide, and an etiquette expert with almost 20 year's experience teaching etiquette to adults and children throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Aimee has appeared on NBC’s The Today Show, and she regularly shares her etiquette advice on Charlotte Today, Fox News, and WBTV, on radio programs such as NPR, and in newspapers and national magazines such as Good Housekeeping and Woman's Health. Ms. Symington is also the creator of the award-winning, nationally acclaimed products on manners for children called “Blunders®” and “Manner Mats®” For more etiquette tips for adults and children, please visit her website at Connect on Facebook.