Modern conceptualisations of flood risk management (FRM) embody the active engagement of citizens in the appraisal of risk and the development of risk reducing options. But such engagement is known not to be easy. The relevant literature suggests that the potential barriers to stakeholder engagement in FRM are conventionally theorised in three categories: stakeholder-based barriers; time-related barriers; and barriers caused by power inequalities. This paper describes research exploring these issues, by critiquing existing ideas about the barriers to stakeholder engagement in FRM and elsewhere, and by using a case study from Taiwan. Using in-depth interviews of stakeholders we found that failure to acknowledge and take account of the micro-politics in the engagement process brought about new impediments to participation: power sharing unexpectedly created new barriers. We conclude that these results may have relevance elsewhere but that conflicts will remain as long as there are choices to be made. Stakeholder engagement is about resolving these conflicts, but the promoters of flood risk reducing interventions need to be much more analytical in their efforts to understand the ‘micro-political positions’ of all the stakeholders they encounter, rather than see such differences as themselves inherently problematic.