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If my manager says something that I know to be factually incorrect, how can I point that out without sounding disrespectful? (Is ~違います appropriate in this context or is that too strong?)

Is this a situation where I would use speech that is more formal than usual? For example, would I switch to a form of keigo for this even if I normally have a more informal relationship?

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「それが間違っていると思いますけれど。実は <insert facts here>... 」 Maybe? –  istrasci Jun 14 '11 at 20:45
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A classic response to an error is "そうですね。でもね、。。。", which softens the impact of saying something that's quite opposite of agreement. –  JasonTrue Jun 14 '11 at 22:54
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Definitely more @JasonTrue than @istrasci! Short answer is: You don't. Realistic answer is: you agree, then state the exact opposite of what your boss just said, "as a precision"... I would definitely avoid the word "間違う" anywhere in my correction. "Absolutely [...] But how about...", is the standard way to disagree your way to a consensus in practically any situation in Japan. –  Dave Jun 15 '11 at 0:35
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4 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Not a bona fide answer, in that I am not confident enough to provide you with a reliable example of what you should be saying, but I can definitely tell you how you should not be saying it (despite some suggestions in the comments to your question):

  • Any sentence that starts by a word expressing disagreement.
  • Anything that hints at an actual error made by your boss: "間違っている", "間違い" or, Amaterasu forbid: "違う!" etc.

In fact, the two points above are probably good guidelines for any argumentative discussion with a Japanese person. I know the whole resolution by consensus thing is a bit of a tired cliché about Japanese society, but there is a reason it became one: you can safely expect Japanese in general, your business associates in particular, and your boss most definitely, to dislike direct confrontation even (particularly) when they are factually wrong.

The standard recommended way to handle both a personal or a business disagreement (there is no such thing as a factual error in Japanese, only differing viewpoints ;-) is:

  • Start by agreeing wholeheartedly (そうですね etc).
  • Introduce your correction/viewpoint, as if it was some last minute detail you just thought of, that was of no importance whatsoever, or as an improvement, rather than a correction.

Of course, I am drawing very broad strokes here and standard use-your-better-judgement disclaimer applies, but I think you can't really go wrong with this approach.

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Dave hit it right on the spot. You don't disagree. You have to agree and then offer up your own idea as addendum while stating that you are unsure. one way to disagree is "その考え方もあるけど..."

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I use something like

それもそうですけど、。。。。

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does それもそう means "I also think that way?" –  Pacerier Jun 16 '11 at 15:47
    
I think this is one of the better ways. You're approving the speaker's stance before stating your own (which will probably disagree). My Japanese staff used to use "それもそうかもしれませんけれど" on me all the time :P, usually when they wanted to point out more information that I didn't have in making a decision they disagreed with. –  makdad Aug 5 '11 at 2:45
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You could say something like "難しい…" and let time pass by a bit. It expresses your difficulty with accepting what has been said, letting everyone enough time to reconsider what has been said.

You could ask for confirmation: "そうですか". It will ask for more informations, possibly allowing the fact to be shown wrong.

P!

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