How do you lead disagreeable people?

disagagree without being disagreeableThere is a difference between being disagreeable and just disagreeing.

Honestly disagreeing is healthy and adds to the growth of a team. Being disagreeable causes strife and turns the team’s attention away from the issues and opportunities that need to be tackled and instead focuses on the actions of the disagreeable person. A leader must resolve this division before it goes too far. As Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Being disagreeable can take many forms: A disagreeable person can be critical, negative, and even passive aggressive – undermining the success of the team with their actions or lack of action.

“The people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and …don’t let you know.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

This may seem a bit odd, but The key to leading a disagreeable person, is to help them turn into a disagreeing person.

A disagreeing person is one who openly and professionally shares their opinion. They offer a dissenting view, alternate ways of achieving the goals, or even different goals entirely. They thrive in the challenging atmosphere of brainstorming sessions, continuous improvement, and strategic planning. Not every view of a disagreeing person is adopted, but many are.

Everyone wants to feel that their views are heard and taken into consideration. Everyone wants to be valued. The difference between being disagreeable and disagreeing is open communication.

Leaders therefore, need to offer an environment where the opinions of the disagreeable person are heard and acted upon based on their merit. They are more used to not sharing their views publically and acting upon them privately. You will now have to draw out their ideas into the open during meetings and brainstorming sessions and make a point to give them credit for sharing their disagreement and when their ideas are acted upon.

You will show the disagreeable person what disagreeing people have learned, “You can disagree without being disagreeable.”

11 Responses to How do you lead disagreeable people?
  1. Zachary Slade


    This is too true and brings up many great points. Disagreement is healthy when viewed properly. It inspires individuals to come together and create new ideas. The part about open communication is very true. I feel that ineffective leaders most always lack that.


  2. Denis McLaughlin

    Zach you hit the nail on the head. Communication is the first and second and last thing to check if there are problems.

  3. Debra Goff-Liegghio

    Thank you for the wonderful article. Effectively communicating with a disagreeable person can lead one person, or a team of people, to a productive brainstorming session if we remember to provide a safe non-threatening environment for them to express themselves.

    • Denis G. McLaughlin

      Debra thank you for your comment. I agree communication is key.

  4. Annie STEFFEN

    So true. sometime people are getting disagreeable because they have not been heard. They have no space to express their feelings, their vision, their skills. They are treated like kids. Sit down, listen and go. The heart of man is like a mirror. When disagreeable people know deeply that they are loved because they see acceptance and love in our behavior then they start to open their mind and the walls they have built around their heart falling like IN JERICHO; It takes time. it doesn’t work sometime because we are human and free to reject love. But it’s worth having this vision of communication. Thank you Brother Denis for sharing this subject on linkeln. A amazing opportunity to share a bit of my experience (good or painful. God bless you Blessing from France.

  5. Paul Stewart

    Can you help me understand your definition of a disagreeable person? “A disagreeable person can be critical, negative, and even passive aggressive.” And you add, “The difference between being disagreeable and disagreeing is open communication.” Couldn’t a disagreeable person have open communication but still be critical and negative? How do you lead the person who is disagrees in a negative and vocal way?

    • Denis G. McLaughlin

      Paul thanks for your question. To me I define disagreeable as one who is opposed to all for the sake of opposition alone and is most often not sharing their feelings in the open. Where disagreeing is raising issues for open discussion that can then be resolved.

      I welcome open communication and encourage it, when the goal is resolution. For that to happen I have found that if the disagreeable person (my definition) can really be heard and have their issues discussed you can often find resolution.

      • Paul Stewart

        Thank you, that helps. So when a person is disagreeing but does not care about resolution (which would be rare), would you gently but firmly let them know their input is not helping?

  6. Denis G. McLaughlin

    Paul, you are right on. Communication works both ways and the leader has to take the lead in this case.

  7. Pr Clark Riggins

    I really like this, and I agree. It is one things to have a broad spectrum of ideas with open discussion, and there is another having disagreeable people who are not open to the ideas of others, this is divisive. When a leadership team meeting has open conversation, that is facilitated by a leadership of a strong chairperson, then people will feel safe enough to allow Holy Spirit inspired imagination. This in tern breads a united vision and sense of mission, and a united purpose comes into play.

    The trick is what to do with the persistently disagreeable person who seeks the impose their ideas upon the group. This becomes a power struggle, and can hijack the vision of the whole church community.

    I look forward to more discussion on this issue.

    For myself, having a united and praying leadership team is of foundational importance. Healthy and united leaders who have open communication in issue, allows for what I call a “wisdom bank.” This means that this issue is owned by the whole team not just the pastor. All have input into how to deal with these divisive issues and people. More prayer, more wisdom, more understanding in the group, more vision.

    Pr Clark Riggins

    • Denis G. McLaughlin

      Pr. Clark thank you for your comments.
      I like how you wrapped this up.
      It really is upon the entire Leadership Team to work with the disagreeable person because it impacts the entire team.