In an ideal world we would all live in harmony, and disagreement would be just a word in a dictionary. But we do not live in a paradise on Earth, and we likely never will. People disagree with each other, fight, have conflicts, suffer. 90% of us never really experience the sensation of “inner peace”, and perhaps consider it just an illusion. We cannot blame them though. Life isn’t easy nowadays. Everything is getting more expensive, and some people need two or three jobs just to pay their bills. Pressure and anxiety we feel often makes us do or say things we regret later. But it isn’t the end of the world. Disagreement simply belongs to life, and your interviewers wonder how you approach it, how you deal with it. What do they want to hear from you?
In a great answer they hope to hear a few things. First of all, that in your disagreement you focused on facts and core of the problem, instead of turning it into something personal, emotional, hurting the other person. Secondly, that you are able to acknowledge the perspective of other conflict party, and do not see your viewpoint as the only unshakable truth. And last but not least, that you can get over the disagreement. Be it with your classmate, colleague, or partner, the conflict of opinions won’t burn the bridges. Because you understand that we are people and we have conflicts, but we can still remain friends and cooperate together.
Now that you understand the message you should try to convey in your answer, let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to the question. I tried to include on my list answers for a variety of situations–disagreement with a friend, colleague, boss, conflict at work, at home, in the classroom. You will also read a couple of philosophical answers–about an internal disagreement, when you sort of disagree with yourself, and one other answer that will make your interviewers think. I hope you you will enjoy the list and once you are done with it, you will know how to deal with this questions on the big day. Enjoy!
7 sample answers to “Describe a time you had a disagreement with someone” interview question
- I had a disagreement with a friend just yesterday. We were talking about the climate crisis, and he saw the situation as hopeless, and dismissed any idea of action. Of course I did disagree, because I believe situation is never hopeless, and even if we cannot stop the global warming, we can at least slow it down. He was laughing at me but I did not get angry, or emotional. I just tired to convince him with facts, based on books I read and documentaries I watched. And while he dismissed everything I said, and we disagreed a lot, I still saw something positive on the situation. At least we were talking about the problem. And talking about something means that we aren’t indifferent to it, aren’t blind to the problem. So all good on my end, and I am looking forward to see my friend again, and perhaps discuss the issue one more time.
- About a week ago I had a bad disagreement with my mother. She said to me that I should study and focus on getting to college, to not end up like her–“slaving” long hours and making a meager pay. However, I disagreed, from practical reasons. At the moment I do not have resources to study. And with no money and bills to pay you cannot really always make the best choices. I tried to explain her my arguments, but she had her own truth. And I understand her perspective, because I know she suffered a lot in life. At the same time, however, one has to be realistic. Of course I hope to study one day, just now the time isn’t right for it. I still love my mother and any disagreement won’t change it. At the end of the day, we are people and it is completely normal that we won’t agree on everything.
- I recall a bad disagreement with my boss in my previous job. They wanted us to take care of such an amount of labor in the kitchen that it wasn’t realistically possible, unless we compromised the quality of our work, meaning that people would eat their food from dirty plates or drink their beverages from glasses with stains. And that was something that I could not accept, due to my principles. We had a harsh disagreement, they shouted on me, and while I tried my best to keep my emotions in check, in one moment I could not hold it anymore and let my anger out. It wasn’t nice, and I immediately apologized to them. But I didn’t change my opinion. Eventually things did not work out, and I had to leave the job. No hard feelings though. It simply happened, we had a conflict, and terminated the cooperation. I do not dwell on the situation or dream about it at night. It is in the past, and I prefer to focus on what’s ahead, on my future.
- I disagreed a lot with one of my colleagues in my last corporate job. She was very stubborn about the way the work should be done–simply because they’ve done it that way for ages. But I, with my computer skills and experience, quickly understood that changing a few processes each day can save us 30 minutes of work daily, which means 10 hours monthly, and 120 hours each year. In my opinion, implementing those changes was the best thing for the company. But my colleague disagreed. Perhaps their ego was hurt–that they didn’t realize the same thing, having worked in the company for three years already. Or they simply hated any changes, just like many people do. What I try to say here is that I sort of understood their reaction, even though I did not like it. But I didn’t let go easily, since I knew the change would be good for everyone. So we went back and forth, including talks with the manager, and eventually the managers decided to approve the changes. My colleague had a hard time swallowing their decision. She tried to avoid contact with me. But it was impossible in the office. So I tried to talk to her and improve our relationship again. It didn’t work well, and maybe it is one of the reasons why I do not work there anymore. Anyway, I believe I did the right thing for the company. I do not have any regrets.
- The biggest disagreement I have is actually an internal one. I cannot decide what to do next with my life. You see, someone like me has so many options–and I am very grateful for it. But sometimes when you have many options in life, and strength to pursue any of them, it is hard picking one only. I still experience this fight within. Should I pursue a career in medicine? Or would be it better to volunteer in various places and take year off? And what about maternity and starting a family? I almost feel like there are more people within me. One of them pushes me to pursue my studies and professional career. Another one dreams of becoming a mother soon. And the last one disagrees with both, and urges me to travel and experience life, and to try to get closer to the truth. Which one should I listen to? Which one is the true me? These aren’t easy questions to answer, and at the moment I am not sure how I will deal with this disagreement within…
- Generally I do not have many conflicts with people around me, but one recent disagreement I remember quite well. It was a disagreement with my wife about whether or not we should allow our 7 years old child have their first smartphone. I was against it, since I try to make sure he spends as little time in front of a screen as possible. But my wife opposed. She said that technology is pivotal in life nowadays. If we do not buy it to him, he’ll be left behind, and also will have a disadvantage later on, when compared to his peers who have had phones from early age. We disagreed for quite a bit, and until now haven’t decided what exactly to do. At the end of the day, we both had to acknowledge that it wasn’t a “black or white” situation. Buying a smartphone to a child no doubt has both pros and cons, and perhaps that’s why it is so hard making the final decision… In my view, the most important thing is that we talk together, that we communicate in the family, and aren’t afraid of disagreements. At the end of the day they belong to life, and we still love each other.
- I principally do not disagree with people. Because I do not try to change the world. And I understand that each one has their own family, role models, life story. At the end of the day, their opinion and views have been shaped for a long time, and it would not be easy to change them anyway. Since I am a lonely wolf, without family and spending most of my time on my own, the fact that I do not disagree with this or that person does not affect my life in any important way. I have my opinions and values and live according to them. And I let the others do the same thing. In my opinion it isn’t a bad way to live your life, though I also know you may disagree with me. And that’s also all right!
Ready to answer this one? I hope so! Do not forget to check also 7 sample answers to other tricky interview questions:
- What makes you different from other candidates?
- Describe your friends and why you like them.
- What does quality mean to you?