Communication is a key skill in difficult conversations, but what we say and how we say it matters.
We have all said the wrong thing in a difficult conversation, which ends up impacting the effectiveness of the already challenging moments. In this Resolute Podcast, Vince Miller is joined by Bill English from Platinum Group and expert in the fields of counseling, business, and leadership. Bill English is a prolific author and the founder of Bible and Business. Today they discuss how to communicate effectively and appropriately to avoid creating compounding issues. Find out more about Bill’s latest seminars here.
Vince: This is Resolute and the Resolute Leadership Podcast. I am Vince Miller, your founder and host. And today we’re in a series that we have entitled, “Managing difficult conversations.” Today we’re discussing the topic of how to communicate effectively in a difficult conversation.
Well welcome back to the program. If this is your first time tuning in, well thank you for joining us. Our mission at Resolute is to disciple and develop men to lead. So if you’re looking for great content for your men’s group or your men’s ministry, then you need to go to our website today at beresolute.org. There’s a number of great tools there for you.
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Well guys, I am excited to introduce to you today, Bill English. He’s a good friend and comes with tons of experience from all over the business world. Bill is the founder of Bible and Business. He’s also an associate at the Platinum group. A licensed psychologist. Holds double master’s degrees. And is a guest contributor on KTIS Radio. He’s authored 15 very technical books. And he draws on his experience in business ownership, pastoral experience, and psychological training – to help others in their efforts to be successful in business and life. This guys a rock star, and today we’re going to dive into a conversation with him over a few weeks, discussing the topic of managing difficult conversations. Bill, welcome to the show.
Bill: You bet.
Vince: So we are diving in today to some skills that evolve around the seminar that you’re holding, which I’m excited about. And we’ll tell our listeners more about that here toward the end. But we all need to lean into these difficult conversations. I think we set that up last time. Because there’s problems in our life that we need to push into. And number 1, it makes us better leaders. And number 2, it heals relationships. But for the people out there that need to be pushing into these relationships, they probably need some skills to be able to do it the right way. Because I’ve been on the receiving end of it done poorly.
Bill: I – well yeah, all of us have. And when it’s done poorly is when you walk away either mad or deeply hurt.
Bill: Rather than feeling like, “Okay, we got something resolved – and I’ve either reconciled with this person, or I’ve reconciled and I’ve been restored with this individual.” So look, some of the skills are really just straightforward basic skills. You need to – if you’re the person facing into it, and you’re the person bringing it up – which is usually the hardest place to be. You need to take a few moments and think through what you’re going to say, and how you’re going to say it. And I think you need to pray and ask God for the right attitude. And you need to ask the Lord to show you where you’ve been wrong. And don’t lead with where you’ve been wrong. Lead with, “This is what I experienced, this is what I observed, this is how I felt. This is what I want for you, and this is what I want for me. And I think we need to talk about this.”
Vince: Wow that’s – I feel like I just went to therapy right there. That’s good stuff. Because I think I need to develop all those things.
Bill: Well I do too. I mean, who doesn’t need to develop those? I do too. I’m no expert on this.
Vince: But that was magnanimous. I love that. So it sounds like, to me – that you’re – the first step you’re taking is really looking introspectively.
Vince: Right, it’s like, “Okay, log in my eye. How am I at fault here?” Or, “What are my issues,” right? And then I love that you said, “Begin with prayer.” We often just want to go straight to reconciliation or pointing our our point of view, right?
Bill: And one of the things you have to do is give up the right to be right. And you have to give up the right to be understood. Because some conflicts, the other person’s just not going to have the same view of the circumstances or the events. And you’re going to think that you’re right. And they’re going to think that they’re right. And you know what? That can be a huge clash point if both people are stubborn about who’s right. It’s really not about who’s right. It’s about – can we get this relationship – can we get it resolved?
Vince: Is it fair to say it’s about mutual understanding?
Bill: It is. But sometimes you deal with people who just are not into understanding. They’re just into being right.
Vince: I love that.
Bill: And those are the people that you tend to not want to have a deep relationship with anyway.
Bill: They’re just – you’re just not going to want to be around them.
Vince: I would assume those are the kinds of people that we don’t even want to really have difficult conversations with, to begin with, right?
Bill: You don’t. And you do have to make the assessment. And I’m not trying to be contradictory here. But you do have to make the assessment of – is this really worth it?
Bill: To have this conversation. Or should I just let it go, knowing that the relationship will be permanently damaged and I’m okay with that?
Vince: Yeah, ’cause sometimes they’re just – it’s impossible. Like–
Bill: It is.
Vince: There are people I’ve had conversations with before. Difficult conversations with. Where I know that – like you use the words “restoration,” and “reconciliation,” is impossible. Like you know you’re just – it’s not going to get anywhere. But you still have to lean in and try it, I would say, right?
Vince: And then after you’ve been burned – well, a few times – you kinda go, “Well I’m going to have to wrestle through if this guy’s going to be approachable enough.” And that has a lot to do with their EQ, it sounds like, or their awareness.
Bill: It does, it does. To be a little bit – maybe too personal. But yet, this is public information. If somebody wanted to look it up, they could. I was divorced – I don’t know, 26, 7 years ago. And I remember sitting down with my wife, while she was in the process of divorcing me and trying to reconcile this thing. And she just wouldn’t have anything to do with it. The one thing I got out of that was that I walked away knowing that I had done my best. And I walked away knowing that I wasn’t the one who lost the commitment to the relationship. And I knew that I could get into another one and commit.
Bill: And so there is some value like you’re saying. In, “giving it the good old college try,” they say.
Vince: Yeah, there you go.
Bill: And walking away knowing that you did what you reasonably could. And the other person just isn’t – didn’t respond. There’s value in that.
Vince: Okay, so I do meet with guys all the time that are going through situations like divorces. That feels very challenged by that moment. Lean into it. Stay with it. Try to figure out how to navigate it. And then have – bump into these issues. And of course, I also meet women on the other side of the coin too. Who also feel that way. Sometimes it’s like – you try, you try, you try. But it sounds like you’re talking the log out of your eye, you’re praying about the situation, you’re leaning into it. And you’re trying to maintain integrity, so that restoration or reconciliation can happen. And then you’re saying that sometimes maybe it’s not possible, right?
Vince: It’s not possible for those things to happen. But you’ve leaned into it. I have a friend who leaned into a difficult conversation with his wife for over a decade. I’ve watched people do it even longer than that, and just keep leaning into it. And that’s – to me, to be commended.
Bill: It is to be commended. It takes a tremendous amount of character, a lot of emotional cycles, and a lot of time – that you would rather spend–
Bill: Doing other things.
Bill: Playing golf, or building a boat or–
Bill: Something. But that’s what God has called us to as men, and as leaders.
Bill: He’s called us – not to be these wimps like Raymond, on the show, “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Which is a horrible caricature of what a man is.
Bill: But he has called us to be men of reconciliation and peace, but also to be men of strength. And it takes strength to lean into these difficult conversations. Especially if you have to have them on a repetitive basis.
Bill: The one thing I would say is that you do not continue to have those conversations if you start to negotiate away core parts of yourself. So if you’re negotiating away your values, or your beliefs – then you’ve gone too far.
Vince: Wow, that is great awareness.
Bill: You don’t want to negotiate away yourself. And that’s why going to the Lord in prayer, “Did I sin?” is the question, not, “What should I do to make them happy?”
Bill: That’s not the question. The question is, “Have I sinned, what do I need to confess? And God, how would you have me behave in this situation?”
Bill: Think about just – I’m sorry, I’m going on here.
Vince: No go for it, yeah.
Bill: But think about Christ before the Sanhedrin on the night he was betrayed. And he said, “You will see God coming from–” This is the Bill English paraphrase, ’cause I don’t have a Bible in front of me. “God coming from on high. And you’re going to be blown away by what you see.” That’s the Bill English paraphrase.
Vince: Right, right, right.
Bill: He knew he was going to get pummeled for that. He knew he was going to get beat up for saying that.
Bill: And yet, he knew that that was the right thing to say at that time. And he had the strength of character to say it.
Vince: Well that’s funny because I’ve read the gospels over and over and over again throughout my lifetime. And the one theme that I see in the New Testament, specifically in the gospels around Jesus’s life. Is that he conceals a lot of his identity in the early stages. But as he continues to make – and turn his face towards Jerusalem, right?
Bill: Toward his purpose.
Vince: Toward his purpose, his voice and his message got stronger and stronger and stronger.
Vince: And in those last – in that last week of his life, his message was incredibly strong. And he did not avoid the conflict anymore.
Vince: He knew that his time was present, his purpose was there. And so he leaned into it saying, “I am he,” right?
Vince: Right? And he let that be known, and he was persecuted for it. It takes strength and character and courage and fearlessness -and an identity-based in truth to be able to do that. And sometimes that’s exactly what we need as well. I mean, Jesus’ life is a model for us to lean into as well when it comes to these difficult conversations. So there’s something to be learned from this process.
Vince: That we can apply to our difficult conversations in life. Okay so, Bill – without giving too much of the seminar away. Because I think people really need to join you for this. Give us 1 or maybe 2 skills that the guys today listening can deploy immediately as they’re engaging in a difficult conversation.
Bill: I think – ’cause in this, it’s a 2-day seminar.
Bill: And we teach 6 speaking skills and 5 listening skills.
Vince: Mmm good.
Bill: So I’ll talk about 2 of the speaking skills.
Bill: ‘Cause guys like to talk.
Bill: We don’t like to listen, we like to talk. First of all, you can always say – here’s what you observed, and here’s how you felt about it. Now you have to be clear about what a feeling is. If I say to you, “I feel that you’re not really listening to me.” That’s not a feeling, that’s an observation.
Vince: Yeah, right.
Bill: But if I say, “I’m observing,” Or, “I observed that you really didn’t take the time to listen to me, and I felt diminished.” That’s a more powerful message. And it’s also more congruent and more honest. Second thing is to focus on – what do you want for them? And what do you want for yourself? “Here’s what I want for you out of this. I want you to be successful. I want you to have what you’re after. But I also want some of these things. And what I want to do is to work with you, to see how we can reach an agreement on how we help each other, or whatever the case is.”
Bill: But expressing what you want for them, is extremely powerful. Especially if they’ve already told you.
Bill: If your wife was looking at, “You don’t talk to me enough.”
Vince: Yeah, right.
Bill: And I’m not trying to do – that was – that’s actually my, the voice of– Who’s the girl across the street in Bewitched?
Vince: Oh, I don’t remember her name.
Bill: Abner’s wife. I can’t remember her name. Abner’s wife. “Abner.” Anyways, if she’s saying, “You don’t talk to me enough.”
Bill: “And I want to talk to you more.” You should be able to say to your wife, “I want you to be able to talk to me. I want to listen to you.”
Vince: That’s very disarming, isn’t it?
Bill: It is. But we have some things we need to work through here.
Bill: And maybe it’s time, maybe it’s attention, maybe it’s energy.
Bill: And so there are things that you can do right away, without attending the seminar. Now in the seminar, we’ll teach you these skills in spades.
Bill: And we’re going to teach you some other skills as well.
Vince: Yeah well, and we need to practice these things. ‘Cause I’ve got to tell you, I – I’m hearing what you’re saying right now. And I’m going, “Man, I need to practice those things.” Like, “I feel this way when you say this to me like that.” Or, “Here’s how I felt when you did this in this particular meeting.” And then also with that, like, “Look, here’s what I want for you. It sounds like you’re – you want this. I do want that for you, I don’t want to keep that from you. But how it happened was painful.”
Vince: Those are – what great little skills. And I’ve got to tell you, just skill development here as we begin to close off the time today, Bill. I would say that what I tend to do when I’m jumping into a difficult conversation. It’s one thing to lead the difficult conversation, it’s another thing to have it done to you, right?
Bill: It is.
Bill: It is.
Vince: And on both sides of the fence, I’ve got to like watch my emotion.
Vince: Because I become very guarded on both sides.
Vince: I kind of emotionally get worked up. And I almost have to self-talk myself down. I don’t know if that makes sense. I don’t know if I’m articulating it right. But the challenge for me is to subdue how I’m – my emotions and my need to self-preserve, and really let myself down. My wife actually complimented me on that yesterday. I was dealing with a difficult conversation with somebody, and my wife said, “My husband is an expert at dealing with conflict.”
Bill: Well you’d better take that to the bank.
Vince: I will. I’m telling everybody right now.
Bill: You’re an expert.
Vince: And she says – he is so good. In difficult moments, he remains calm. He listens well, and he says things well. And I – now we’ve been married – whatever, 21 years or whatnot. I guess I’ve learned a tactic or 2 maybe in our marriage, and she realizes it. But I was shocked by it. But I will tell you, still – even though she may think I’m an expert, inside of my heart – in those difficult conversations. When I’m having them, or they’re being had with me – I still get kind of emotionally worked up.
Bill: Yeah you do.
Vince: ‘Cause people don’t see it.
Bill: You do. One of the best things you can do is to go interview someone. Now you do this for a living, right?
Vince: Yeah, right, right.
Bill: But go – try to find somebody that you can spend some time with. Have a cup of coffee with at Starbucks or Caribou. Who you know you disagree with ardently on serious issues. And all you want to do is listen and understand.
Vince: I love that. See I’m interested–
Bill: If you can do that for 30 minutes, or 45 minutes and never rebut, never say, “Well this is what I think.” Just listen to them, and wait for them to say, “Well what do you think?” Then you will start to develop the skill on how to do what you’re very much talking about right now. It’s actually – I don’t know if you know this. But you can take some online courses through Ravi Zacharias ministries.
Vince: Oh really?
Bill: On apologetic’s and how to share your faith. That’s one of the first things they have you do.
Vince: Oh really?
Bill: You have to go spend time – at least 15 minutes with somebody else who you disagree with. And all you can do is listen and understand. You’re not allowed to say anything back.
Vince: Yeah. I do that a lot with my Muslim friends, by the way.
Bill: Yeah, yeah.
Vince: I just listen to them a lot. Because I know that I am building a relationship, credibility. I’m listening to them. And I’m not just listening for their – the weaknesses in their arguments.
Vince: I’m listening to the heart behind it.
Vince: I have Jewish friends as well, that I listen to like that. It’s intriguing to me.
Bill: It is.
Vince: And there is a little bit of this – like, just be intrigued by people, right? Be curious. Ask good questions. Really listen well. And then – there’ll probably be points that they’re going to ask you for your opinion. But that’s right, it’s a skill that we can deploy in all parts of life, not just in difficult conversation. Maybe in relationship, maybe in evangelism, maybe at home in relationship to our wife. If we’re wanting to improve there with our kids. I mean, we can do this anywhere. So Bill, thank you again so much for being with us. I’m excited about this seminar. We’re going to give the listeners a few more details on it right now.
Vince: Well guys, that’s the show. Thanks so much for listening. As we close, I want to remind you of 2 things. So first is this. My good friend here, Bill English hosts a number of seminars throughout the year, seasonally – that he invites business leaders and their people to come to. Where he coaches and teaches them how to handle and manage difficult business conversations. You’ve got to check this out. I’m going to give you a link right now, for you to consider to go to.
And I want you to write this down if you can. It’s beresolute.org/difficultconversations. Forward slash, difficult conversations. I’ll have a number of links there, that link directly to Bill’s website. Directly to some of his seminars, so you can check them out. He offers them quarterly. The next ones are coming up here in November. I believe again in January and March of next year. You’ve got to check these out. They’re awesome times for you to bring your employees, your friends, your business partners – in helping to coach them to understand how to manage these difficult conversations that we have to have in our life.
Secondly, as always – if you’re looking for men’s content, you know where to find it, right? Beresolute.org. I hope you stop by there today because there’s a number of great tools for men, and those that are leading in men’s ministry, or just leading a small group – with a group of men, maybe at your business or your home?
So guys, as always – I hope you enjoy this podcast. But please know, that the time that we spent together today is worthless unless you act on it. So do something today. Do something. By getting off the bench, and into the game. And I’ll see you right back here next time for another edition of the Resolute Podcast.