Find the source of dissent

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Find the source of dissent
Author: Stijn Dejongh
Published on: 2023-09-10 00:00:00 +0000 UTC
Ammerse Values :
A: Mi: M: E: R: S: Ex:


You are arguing a point with someone, and find yourselves disagreeing on what conclusion to draw or what action to take.

Problem statement

You want to understand the point of view of your partner, and have them understand yours.


  • Identify what you agree on, and what you disagree on.
  • Avoid damage to your relationship with your conversational partner.
  • Open up a stalled conversation, allowing both parties to alter their opinion.

Contextual forces

What is this? These describe factors at play that influence the outcome of the practice. They are not necessarily good or bad, but they are important to be aware of. Some contextual forces are enablers, giving the practice a higher chance of being useful. Others are deterrents, making the practice less useful in your given context.


  • You respect the person(s) you are speaking with.
  • You are able to stay calm in the heat of an argument.
  • You are willing to understand your partner(s) point of view.
  • Your conversational partner(s) are willing to understand your point of view.
  • Factual evidence is readily available and easy to consult.
  • You are willing to accept that you might be wrong.


  • Factual evidence is not available.
  • The argument has escalated to the point of communication breakdown.
  • Your partner(s) are not willing to understand your point of view.
  • You are not willing to understand the point of view of your partner(s).


Consider your conversation as a series of distinct steps, where each party chains together arguments to come to a conclusion. The hope is that by forming a sensible story, you can convince the other party.
To simplify our reasoning, we will group most of the arguments that people make while discussing as either being:

  • premises, submitting evidence: You refer to something you consider a fact. This can be an article, a scientific journal, a series of events that took place, a measurement, a statistic, or any other verifiable piece of information.
  • identifying consequences: Based on the facts, you state what is likely to happen. These can either be logical consequences, or intuitive ones.

When disagreeing with someone, retrace your conversation step by step. You and your partner(s) check whether you are on the same page. Make sure you understand each other’s meaning and intent fully, avoiding jargon if you can1. At some point, you will discover a factoid or consequence that you do not both consider factual or relevant to the discussion. You have now discovered the root of your dissent.

Rather than furthering your disagreement on your final conclusion, stick to discussing your opinions of the point where your reasoning diverges.
If you can not come to an agreement here, there is no sense in discussing things further down the conversational chain. You might still end up in disagreement, but at least you have an understanding of why you disagree. This proves to be invaluable in identifying alternatives or compromises.


  • When in a discussion, it is more constructive to leave tempers outside.
  • Calmly going through your arguments step-by-step helps avoid personal biases or egos come into play.


  • Squirrel, D. & Fredrick, J. (2022). Agile Conversations: Transform Your Conversations, Transform Your Culture. IT Revolution Press. isbn: 1942788975.

  1. In my experiences, a lot of disagreements are semantic in nature. This means that you are in agreement of what happened, and what is to be done, but you are fighting over the meaning of a word. ↩︎