We live in a time when we are communicating with so many people in so many ways. From our tweets and status updates, to our emails and meetings, it is becoming easier to take our words for granted.

It is easy, especially with our written words, to get into situations where we disagree, and where tensions can begin to run high.

Tim Muehlhoff is a communications expert whose new book “I Beg to Differ” takes a look at ways we can be better about connecting with those we disagree with in a respectful way.

Tim has 4 questions that he uses when having those difficult conversations:

1 – What does the other person believe?

This question simply gets to the root of the discussion. What does the other person believe, and how is that different from your belief. Unfortunately, we often stop at this question. It identifies our differences, and that is where we focus the most of our attention.

2 – Why does this person believe that?

Muehlhoff suggests:

The biggest mistake we make is that we only trade conclusions, not how we arrived at those conclusions.

Trying to get to the root of the belief, getting the “back story” begins to make the conversation personal. You are now no longer combatting the belief, you are interacting with a person and their unique experience that led to that belief.

3 – Where do we agree?

“It is very rare that you would listen to someone and not find any points of agreement”, says Muehlhoff. Look for those areas. They can often point out the best places to speak into a disagreement.

4 – With this person… at this time… under these circumstances.. what is one thing I should say right now?

Perhaps the Facebook status update isn’t the right place to publicly express your disagreement. Perhaps the way you interact over dinner is different than the way you respond over email. Every surrounding, every situation, and every communications method needs to be assessed differently. What is the most appropriate thing for me to say right now, given these circumstances.

Muehlhoff reminds us that communications has 2 parts:

Our content (arguments, facts, etc) and our relationships (The amount of love and respect we have for each other).

We have become truth seekers and have begun to completely forget the love and respect part.

You can listen to an interview with Tim Muehlhoff here:

Tim Muehloff


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