Posts Tagged ‘ vernacular ’

“I don’t disagree”

Hollywood has a vernacular all its own and it’s best to learn the lingo so that you can become an eloquent practitioner. It’s what identifies you as a native to the other members of the tribe. One of the Town’s most popular piece of parlance is “I don’t disagree.” Is it really an endorsement worth a damn, or is it just another equivocation on the road to development hell?

Rather than diminish the expression, know first that “I don’t disagree” is the epitome of endorsement, the height of harmony, the apex of agreement — in other words, it’s as good as it gets.

In other cultures, contexts and businesses when one has made an undeniably cogent point, another’s accord might be expressed with a head nod and the words “I agree with you,” or simply, “I agree.” But in Hollywood, where everyone is perennially looking for an “out” — a way to avoid commitment, a way not to be pinned down — “I don’t disagree” is music to the ears.

What’s really being conveyed by this double-negative euphemism?

Well, literally, you’re not conveying your agreement, you’re simply marking the present moment with your lack of disagreement. You’re occupying that narrow slice of sand that exists somewhere between agreeing and disagreeing with someone. It’s a half-endorsement. A non-contradictory stance. A no-quarrel policy. Like gender-neutrality, the blindfold of justice, or Switzerland.

It lets the person you’re saying it to think there is something to build on, like a tentative first step in a relationship. “I don’t disagree” is something that could one day evolve to actual agreement (usually after the fact, as in “Her strategy worked beautifully, which I why I totally agreed with it!”). For now, “I don’t completely reject what you’re saying” is validation enough.

A little inside joke I’ve got with an agent friend I’ve known for a decade is that when he tells me, “I don’t disagree” what he’s really saying is “F-ck you.” After ten years of collaboration, if that’s the best I can get from him, then when I hear him say “I don’t disagree,” I simply respond with “F-ck you, too,” and a laugh. He laughs because he knows exactly what I mean.

I hereby submit that Hollywood should accept “f-ck you” as the true meaning of the phrase. If everyone agreed (to not disagree) on the matter, we’d all be in on the joke while daring others to actually agree with us.

But Hollywood is not impolitic. Hollywood is not impolite. Hollywood is all about conflict avoidance.

“I don’t disagree” leaves the door open without creating conflict. It says: “I’m being agreeable by not disagreeing with you, but your opinion is not tantamount to my own. Not that I have an opinion, otherwise I’d express it so that you can tell me that you don’t disagree with it either. In other words, you could be right––but you might be wrong––so I’ll commit at a later point in time. Or not at all. For now, I’ll keep my options open. I’m sure you don’t disagree with this approach because if it works for me, it works for you, too.”

Reciprocity, you see, is part of the code.

If a simple little phrase covers all those bases, who wouldn’t use it as often as they could? “I don’t disagree” is a handy little ditty. Try it out once in a while and you’re sure to see a fellow native’s eyes light up at the utterance. It’s as cogent a concord as you’re ever going to get or you ever need to give. It keeps you and them off the hook (the reciprocal part).

And if you subscribe to the idea that “I don’t disagree” really means “f-ck you,” then you’re not only conversing in the dialect of the tribe, but taking your game to the next level.

And in Hollywood, that’s what it’s really all about.

I’ll bet you don’t disagree.

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