ABCs for Communication (Agree, Build, and Compare)



"I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it." — Voltaire

What do you do when you disagree with another person’s stories or facts?

Use your ABCs.

You can communicate more effectively and reduce conflict if you agree, build, and compare.

If you start off with what you disagree with, you’ll immediately create conflict.

Instead, you can stay connected and build rapport while you explore disagreement using the ABC communication technique.

In Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High, Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler show how to use your ABCs to communicate more effectively.

Remember Your ABCs 

Remember your ABCs:

  • Agree – agree when you agree.
  • Build – build when others leave out key pieces.
  • Compare – compare when you differ.

If you want a fight, or to quickly lock horns, then start with disagreement.

If, instead, you want to build your influence and impact, then start with what you agree on.  Acknowledging here you agree, helps build rapport and helps the other person feel heard.  After all, if you won’t hear them, why should they hear you.


While you need to work through disagreements, start with an area of agreement. 

Via Crucial Conversations:

“So here’s the take-away.  If you completely agree with the other person’s path, say so and move on.  Agree when you agree.  Don’t turn an agreement into an argument.”


If you agree with what’s been said but the information is incomplete.

Via Crucial Conversations:

“On the other hand, when you watch people who are skilled in dialogue, it becomes clear that they’re not playing this everyday game of Trivial Pursuit – looking for trivial differences and then proclaiming them aloud.  In fact, they’re looking for points of agreement.  As a result, they’ll often start with the words “I agree.”  Then they talk about the part they agree with.  At least, that’s where they start.”


When you differ significantly, don’t suggest others are wrong. 

Via Crucial Conversations:

“Finally, if you do disagree, compare your path with the other person’s.  That is, rather than suggesting that he or she is wrong, suggest that you differ.  He or she may, in fact, be wrong, but you don’t know for sure until you hear both sides of the story.  For now, you just know that the two of you differ.  So instead of pronouncing ‘Wrong!’ start with a tentative but candid opening such as ‘I think I see things differently.  Let me describe how.’”

Key Take Aways

Here are my key take aways:

  • Agree when you agree.  State what you agree with.  This helps build rapport.
  • Build on what you agree with.   Start with what you agree with to build momentum.  Don’t focus on trivial flaws and blow them out of proportion.
  • Compare your views rather than state others are wrong.  To stay connected, get curious on how you see things differently.

Use the ABC communication technique to agree, build and compare your views when you disagree with the other persons’ facts or stories.

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