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#MTtalk Disagreeing With Powerful People

Disagreeing With Powerful People

March 14, 2017

Please join us!

What: #MTtalk

Where: Twitter

When: Friday, Mar 17 @ 1pm EST (5pm GMT/10:30pm IST)

Topic: Disagreeing With Powerful People

Host: @Mind_Tools

About This Week’s Chat

From a young age, I was quite comfortable speaking my mind. Even as a small child, I read a lot, which meant that I got information from many sources. I liked questioning traditions, debating rules, and disagreeing with commonly held beliefs. Some family members encouraged me to speak my mind, while others cautioned me to be careful and not to stir things up.

I should explain that I grew up in a culture where children were not encouraged to have an opinion – especially girls. Society expected us to be “seen and not heard,” and to fit in with whatever we were told to do. If you dared to disagree with someone older or more powerful than you, you were quickly labeled as a troublemaker, a rebel or disobedient. This practice frustrated me endlessly.

There was also a religious dimension to deal with. My parents belonged to a church with strict rules and rigid leaders. As I grew older I questioned many of their rules and traditions, because I disagreed with how they treated people. My big “sin” was to voice my disagreement and I was labeled as unruly and a bad influence.

Later in life, I came to understand that it’s easier for some leaders to label and vilify someone who disagrees with them, rather than to think differently or question their own beliefs. This is especially true if the person who disagrees with them is in a less powerful position.

Disagreeing With Powerful People

So, why do people often opt to keep quiet rather than disagree with powerful people or institutions?

In our last Twitter poll we asked people why they thought people would rather keep quiet than disagree with a powerful person in the workplace. Fear of retribution seems to be the biggest reason, with 57 percent of the votes. A further 23 percent said it was because people lacked confidence.

Maybe it’s because of what history tells us about people who voiced disagreement. Martin Luther was excommunicated from the Catholic church for disagreeing with certain practices. In the days of Galileo Galilei, it was commonly believed that the sun revolved around the earth. Galilei was under house arrest from 1615 until his death in 1642, for promoting the theory that the earth revolves around the sun. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison for going against the apartheid government in South Africa.

In this week’s #MTtalk Twitter chat we’re discussing, “Disagreeing With Powerful People” in the context of the workplace, and we’d like to hear your ideas and opinions too. The following questions may spark some thoughts in preparation for the chat:

  • How would you define a “powerful person?”
  • Why are people afraid to disagree with a powerful person?
  • Is it always necessary to voice your disagreement?
  • What’s the best way to approach a powerful person that you disagree with?
  • How have you experienced disagreeing with a powerful person? Was it worth it?
  • How can you benefit by disagreeing with a powerful person?
  • When won’t you disagree with a powerful person?
  • How do you ensure that you keep your emotions under control when disagreeing with a powerful person?


To help you prepare for the chat, we’ve compiled a list of resources for you to browse.

Taking Initiative

How to Get Your Voice Heard in Meetings

How to Be Tactful

Managing “Rebels”

Working With Powerful People

Dealing With Office Politics


How to Tell Your Bosses They’re Wrong

When to Speak Up

At Mind Tools, we like hearing from people all over the globe. We’d like to learn from you, too, so we invite you to participate in the #MTtalk chat this Friday at 1pm EST (5pm GMT/10:30pm IST). Remember, we feature great participant responses right here on our blog every week!

How to join

Follow us on Twitter to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the action this Friday! We’ll be tweeting out 10 questions during our hour-long chat. To participate in the chat, type #MTtalk in the Twitter search function. Then, click on “All Tweets” and you’ll be able to follow the live chat feed. You can join the chat by using the hash tag #MTtalk in your responses.

3 thoughts on “Disagreeing With Powerful People

  1. Rebel wrote:

    I also disagree with powerful people if my view has merit. I won’t do it simply for the sake of disagreeing – there’s no point in it. If I feel that I can move a cause or situation forward, I won’t keep quiet!

    1. Midgie Thompson wrote:

      You have a good point there Rebel about only disagreeing with someone if you believe your view has merit and can help move things forward or be of some good. Why cause any trouble for the same of it?!?

  2. Michele wrote:

    Sounds like the two of us have a lot in common. I “rebelled” at any early age when I noticed that women and men were treated differently by the church I attended. When I questioned the differences, I was silenced. I am looking forward to participating in the chat. I’m always looking for ways to respectfully disagree with people.

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