A great activity for everyone

Agree to Disagree

Challenge Your Team's Opinions with Agree to Disagree: The Ultimate Icebreaker!

Agree to Disagree
By Jon Zajac

What is Agree to Disagree?

The “Agree to Disagree” icebreaker activity is a powerful communication tool designed to foster understanding and respect among participants with different viewpoints. As a facilitator, my role is crucial in introducing the exercise, setting ground rules, managing time effectively, and ensuring a safe environment for expression. This icebreaker takes place in a conducive setting, where participants are encouraged to share their perspectives on engaging and relevant topics.

The activity begins with an introduction highlighting the objective of cultivating mutual respect and accepting diverse opinions. Next, we establish ground rules emphasizing active listening, no interruptions, and confidentiality. The interaction protocols may involve direct or prompted engagement, depending on the group dynamic.

In the engagement process, participants express their perspectives, followed by responses from those with opposing views under strict time control. Building understanding then follows through open-ended reflections on the discourse. Lastly, everyone reflects on their insights before I consolidate these reflections and reinforce the objective achieved.

The ideal outcomes of this icebreaker include enhanced active listening skills, constructive disagreement, increased empathy, fostered group cohesion, and a comprehensive understanding of differing viewpoints. By carefully planning and executing the “Agree to Disagree” icebreaker activity, I can transform a gathering of individuals with varied viewpoints into a collaborative team, better prepared for open dialogue and cooperative endeavors moving forward.

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Rules for Agree to Disagree

  1. Respect all viewpoints: Recognize and honor the diversity of opinions, beliefs, and experiences within the group.
  2. No interruptions: Allow each person to complete their thoughts without interruption.
  3. Active listening: Fully engage with and listen to what others are saying, even if you disagree.
  4. Confidentiality: Keep personal stories and information shared during the activity confidential.
  5. Maintain neutrality: The facilitator should remain impartial and not take sides in the discussion.
  6. Balanced participation: Ensure that everyone has an opportunity to speak and be heard, while also managing time effectively.
  7. Constructive disagreement: Focus on understanding different perspectives and engaging in respectful dialogue rather than winning arguments or convincing others to change their minds.
  8. Open-mindedness: Be willing to consider new ideas and viewpoints, even if they challenge your own beliefs.
  9. Safe environment: Create a space where participants feel comfortable expressing themselves without fear of judgment or ridicule.

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Materials needed for Agree to Disagree

  • Notecards: These can be used for participants to jot down their thoughts or for the moderator to note down important points.
  • Voting tools (electronic or physical): These are helpful when conducting polls or surveys to gather anonymous opinions on contentious topics.
  • Topic prompts: Prepared questions or statements that evoke diverse reactions from participants, fostering constructive dialogue and understanding of differing viewpoints.
  • A timer: A crucial tool for the moderator to ensure balanced participation and adherence to time limits during discussions.
  • Ample seating: Comfortable seating arrangements, such as a circle or U-shaped layout, encourage open views and foster an environment that supports respectful discourse.

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Setting up for Agree to Disagree

To set up for the Agree to Disagree icebreaker activity, follow these steps:

  1. Select a suitable space: Choose a room that can be arranged in a circle or U-shape to facilitate eye contact and open communication among participants. Ensure the room is large enough to accommodate the group comfortably.

  2. Prepare the seating arrangement: Set up chairs in a circular or U-shaped format, ensuring there’s ample space for participants to face each other and maintain eye contact during discussions.

  3. Create an engaging atmosphere: If possible, add abstract visuals or intriguing prompts around the room to create curiosity and encourage engagement. These elements can serve as conversation starters and help break down social barriers.

  4. Plan the structure of the activity: Based on the number of participants, sensitivity of topics, and time limitations, design a structured plan for introducing the activity, establishing ground rules, facilitating discussions, building understanding, and concluding the session.

  5. Select engaging and relevant topics: Choose topics that are interesting, pertinent to the participants’ context, and diverse enough to prompt differing opinions. Prepare a list of potential prompts or questions for Method B (Prompted Engagement).

  6. Establish ground rules and interaction protocols: Draft clear guidelines for respectful discourse, including no interruptions, confidentiality regarding shared personal experiences, and neutrality. Decide whether to use Direct Engagement (Method A) or Prompted Engagement (Method B) for the interaction portion of the activity.

  7. Prepare open-ended questions: Develop thoughtful questions that encourage deeper reflection on the discourse, such as “What understanding did you gain about the opposite stance?” and “How can we apply this understanding in our context/workplace?”

  8. Allow time for reflection and conclusion: Plan for a brief period of individual reflection at the end of the activity, during which participants can jot down their insights or changed perceptions.

By carefully setting up the space, selecting topics, and planning the structure of the Agree to Disagree icebreaker activity, you create an environment that fosters respectful dialogue, active listening, empathy, and group cohesion.

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How to play Agree to Disagree

  1. Select Suitable Topics and Prepare Materials: - Choose engaging and relevant topics that will prompt diverse opinions among the participants. - Prepare materials such as notecards, voting tools (electronic or physical), topic prompts, and a timer for controlled participation. - Arrange seating in a circle or U-shape to encourage open views and non-hierarchical communication.

  2. Introduce the Activity:
    • Explain the purpose of the “Agree to Disagree” icebreaker, which is to cultivate mutual respect and acceptance of varied opinions.
    • Highlight that the goal is not to change personal stances but to understand and appreciate different perspectives.
  3. Establish Ground Rules:
    • Outline guidelines for respectful discourse, emphasizing no interruptions when someone is speaking and maintaining confidentiality regarding shared personal experiences.
    • Encourage neutrality and active listening throughout the activity.
  4. Implement Interaction Protocols:
    • Choose between Method A (Direct Engagement) or Method B (Prompted Engagement):
      • Method A: Directly ask participants to expound on their passionate perspectives. Identify opposite or differing viewpoints and facilitate a controlled dialogue.
      • Method B: Use pre-determined prompts or questions to evoke diverse reactions. Encourage volunteers or use random selection to share opinions.
  5. Engage in the Discourse:
    • Allow respective groups or individuals to delineate their perspectives, followed by the opponent’s comments, under strict time control to ensure balanced participation.
  6. Build Understanding:
    • Encourage deeper reflection on the discourse with open-ended questions such as “What understanding did you gain about the opposite stance?” or “How can we apply this understanding in our context/workplace?”
  7. Reflect and Conclude:
    • Have every individual reflect on their insights or changed perceptions.
    • Consolidate these reflections, reinforce the objective achieved, and delineate steps for sustained respect and dialogue post-activity.

By following these instructions, a facilitator can successfully implement the “Agree to Disagree” icebreaker activity, fostering constructive interaction, cooperative endeavors, and improved team dynamics among participants with varied viewpoints.

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Benefits of Agree to Disagree

  • Fosters mutual respect: By encouraging active listening and understanding of different perspectives, the activity helps create an environment where everyone’s opinion is valued and respected.
  • Enhances communication skills: Participants learn to express their thoughts clearly and constructively while remaining open to other viewpoints, which can greatly improve overall team communication.
  • Builds empathy and emotional intelligence: Through acknowledging and appreciating diverse perspectives, individuals develop greater empathy towards others, leading to stronger interpersonal relationships and a more harmonious working environment.
  • Promotes critical thinking: The need to analyze and articulate one’s stance on various topics stimulates cognitive abilities, helping participants become more thoughtful and discerning in their decision-making processes.
  • Encourages constructive conflict resolution: By practicing respectful disagreement, teams can better handle conflicts when they arise, turning potential disputes into opportunities for growth and learning.
  • Boosts group cohesion and morale: The “Agree to Disagree” icebreaker helps break down barriers between team members, fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie that can lead to increased job satisfaction and productivity.
  • Fuels creativity and innovation: Exposing team members to different ways of thinking can inspire new ideas and approaches, driving creativity and fostering an environment conducive to innovation.
  • Lays the groundwork for effective collaboration: By establishing a foundation of respect and understanding, this icebreaker lays the essential groundwork for successful collaboration, ensuring that diverse viewpoints are harnessed effectively towards achieving common goals.

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Skills built with Agree to Disagree

  • Active Listening: I learn to fully focus on the speaker, understand their perspective, and respond thoughtfully instead of just waiting for my turn to speak. This helps build trust and respect among team members.
  • Empathy: I practice putting myself in others’ shoes, understanding their emotions and viewpoints, even if I don’t agree with them. This fosters a more inclusive and supportive environment.
  • Constructive Feedback: I learn to provide feedback that is specific, actionable, and respectful, which encourages growth and continuous improvement within the team.
  • Respectful Communication: I understand the importance of maintaining a polite and open-minded tone during discussions, promoting a safe space for sharing ideas and concerns.
  • Conflict Resolution: I develop skills to address disagreements calmly and professionally, transforming potential conflicts into opportunities for growth and learning.
  • Critical Thinking: I enhance my ability to analyze different viewpoints, identify biases, and make informed decisions based on facts and logical reasoning.
  • Collaboration: I recognize the value of diverse perspectives in achieving common goals and work towards building a cohesive team that values collaboration over competition.
  • Self-awareness: I become more conscious of my own biases and assumptions, enabling me to engage in conversations with greater humility and willingness to learn.
  • Inclusive Leadership: I develop the ability to facilitate respectful dialogue among team members, ensuring everyone’s voice is heard and valued, which strengthens overall team performance.

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Why I like Agree to Disagree

I appreciate the Agree to Disagree icebreaker because it promotes open-mindedness and respect for diverse perspectives in a group setting. As a proponent of constructive communication, I value its potential to enhance active listening skills and foster empathy among participants. By encouraging thoughtful dialogue around contentious topics, this icebreaker cultivates an environment where individuals can express their opinions while also gaining a comprehensive understanding of opposing viewpoints.

One aspect that draws me to the Agree to Disagree icebreaker is its ability to stimulate constructive disagreement. In today’s increasingly polarized world, it is essential for people from different backgrounds and belief systems to engage in respectful discourse. This activity provides a structured framework for managing such conversations, ensuring that all voices are heard, and paving the way for group cohesion and synthesis post-discourse.

The versatility of the Agree to Disagree icebreaker also appeals to me. With various methods for engaging participants, such as direct or prompted interaction protocols, facilitators can tailor the experience based on the number of attendees, sensitivity of topics, and time constraints. Additionally, incorporating tools like polls, surveys, or progressive revelation of context adds depth and interactivity to the activity, making it more engaging and effective for participants.

Overall, I believe that the Agree to Disagree icebreaker is a powerful tool in fostering understanding and collaboration among diverse groups. By carefully planning and executing this exercise, facilitators can create a strong foundation for team dynamics, communication improvement, and dispute resolution themes central to both organizational success and communal harmony.

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Tips for making Agree to Disagree more inclusive

  • Tip: Consider using gender-neutral language and avoiding colloquialisms or idioms that may not be universally understood. This can help ensure all participants feel included and able to participate fully.
  • Tip: When selecting topics, aim for inclusivity by choosing issues that are relevant and interesting to people from diverse backgrounds and experiences.
  • Tip: Make sure the activity space is physically accessible to people with different abilities. This might include providing wheelchair ramps, accessible seating, or clear signage.
  • Tip: Encourage everyone to speak at a pace that is comfortable for them, and provide additional time for those who may need it to express their thoughts.
  • Tip: Be mindful of cultural differences in communication styles and nonverbal cues. For example, some cultures place a greater emphasis on indirect communication or saving face.
  • Tip: Create a safe space by explicitly stating that all opinions are welcome and that discrimination or harassment will not be tolerated. Consider including a code of conduct or ground rules that reflect this commitment.
  • Tip: Use inclusive language when describing the activity and its goals. For example, instead of saying “both sides,” you could say “all perspectives” to acknowledge that there may be more than two viewpoints on an issue.
  • Tip: Consider providing materials in multiple languages or using visual aids to help non-native speakers participate more fully.
  • Tip: Be open to feedback and make adjustments as needed throughout the activity to ensure that everyone feels included and valued.

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Reflection questions for Agree to Disagree

  1. What did you learn about your own perspective during this activity? This question encourages participants to reflect on their own views and how they presented them. It can help individuals understand their own biases and assumptions.

  2. How do you feel about the opposing viewpoints that were shared? This question promotes empathy and acknowledges the validity of different perspectives. It also helps participants recognize the value in understanding others’ opinions.

  3. What strategies did you use to listen actively and understand the opposing side? By focusing on active listening skills, participants can better appreciate differing viewpoints and foster respectful dialogue. This question encourages self-reflection on communication techniques used during the activity.

  4. In what ways has this activity changed or challenged your perception of the topic? This question invites participants to think critically about how their understanding has evolved throughout the exercise, highlighting its impact on personal growth and development.

  5. How can you apply the lessons learned from this activity in your daily life or at work? This question prompts participants to consider practical applications for the skills they’ve developed during the icebreaker, reinforcing its relevance beyond the immediate context.

  6. What steps will you take to continue promoting respectful dialogue and understanding of diverse viewpoints? This final question encourages participants to think about long-term commitments to fostering positive communication and embracing differing perspectives in their interactions moving forward.

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About the author

Jon Zajac

Jon Zajac

Founder & Chief Icebreaker

I started Icebreaker Spot because I truly believe that strong connections are the foundation of successful teams. I wanted to create a platform that would make it easy for people to find and share icebreakers and team building activities, empowering them to build trust, foster collaboration, and ultimately, achieve greatness together.

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