I Beg to Differ: Navigating Difficult Conversations with Truth and Love  -     By: Tim Muehlhoff
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I Beg to Differ: Navigating Difficult Conversations with Truth and Love

Inter-Varsity Press / 2014 / Paperback

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Product Description

How do we communicate with people who disagree with us?

In today's polarized world, friends and strangers clash with each other over issues large and small. Coworkers have conflicts in the office. Married couples fight over finances. And online commenters demonize one another's political and religious perspectives. Is there any hope for restoring civil discourse?

Communications expert Tim Muehlhoff provides a strategy for having difficult conversations, helping us move from contentious debate to constructive dialogue. By acknowledging and entering into the other person's story, we are more likely to understand where they're coming from and to cultivate common ground. Insights from Scripture and communication theory provide practical ways to manage disagreements and resolve conflicts.

We can disagree without being disagreeable. And we can even help another see different points of view and learn from one another. Find out how in I Beg to Differ.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 192
Vendor: Inter-Varsity Press
Publication Date: 2014
Dimensions: 8.25 X 5.50 (inches)
ISBN: 0830844163
ISBN-13: 9780830844166
Availability: In Stock

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Author Bio

Tim Muehlhoff (PD., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) is a professor of communication at Biola University in La Mirada, California where he teaches classes in family communication, interpersonal communication and gender. Tim is the coauthor of and . He and his wife, Noreen, are frequent speakers at FamilyLife Marriage Conferences, and Tim has served with Campus Crusade since 1986. They live in Brea, California, with their three boys. Tim has written about God, communication and faith in diverse publications such as the and . You can visit Tim's website at www.timmuehlhoff.com.


I head up a graduate program in Christian apologetics and I can't think of a better book to read if you want to engage others with the 'humility and respect' that the apostle writes about in 1 Peter 3:15. But understand, this book is for everybody: evangelists, pastors, spouses, friends, bosses, employees--anyone who needs to communicate with charity, confidence and clarity. Tim Muehlhoff has written yet another incredibly helpful book that really needs to be read far and wide.
-Craig J. Hazen,
founder and director of the Christian Apologetics Program at Biola University

For more than twenty years, I have benefited both personally and professionally from Tim's wisdom and coaching. He is a masterful communicator, and the principals contained in his most recent book are stunning. I can't say that I am looking forward to the next difficult conversation that I will have to have with a family member or friend, but I am confident that the timeless and proven principles contained in I Beg to Differ will help me communicate with integrity and clarity.
-Chris Willard,
director of generosity initiatives and premium service, Leadership Network

A number of years ago I determined two very important things about marriage: we are naturally very good at initiating conflict, and we are naturally very bad at resolving conflict. How you resolve conflict in your marriage, family and relationships will determine the depth of intimacy you experience in these relationships. I Beg to Differ is '911 to the rescue' for relationships. This may be the most important book you read this year.
-Dennis Rainey,
host, FamilyLife Today, founder and president, FamilyLife Ministries

Over the last twenty years or so, we have witnessed an explosion of important works in Christian apologetics. But what have been missing are books teaching us how to communicate our ideas in effective ways with those who have a different viewpoint. I Beg to Differ meets this need in a wonderful way. Muehlhoff brings together an expertise in communication, a deep integration of biblical teaching and decades of ministry experience to produce a book that is highly practical and theoretically solid. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to learn how to interact with people of different perspectives.
-J. P. Moreland,
Biola University

One doesn't have to look far to find myriad examples of incivility--from political commentators who cut off and ridicule their guests to boardrooms to church and faculty meetings to the dinner table. I can think of no one better than Tim Muehlhoff to provide insight and practical wisdom on how to navigate difficult conversations with grace and truth. Tim doesn't just apply his considerable scholarly expertise and biblical knowledge to the subject; he lives what he writes.
-Carol Taylor,
president, Evangel University

Having worked in college ministry for over twenty years, we are always looking for resources to help people engage those with differing views on campus. With Tim Muehlhoff's help, even difficult conversations can foster understanding instead of driving a wedge.
-Bob and Jill Fuhs,
Cru staff, Los Angeles and Orange County

This book can pull your marriage out of the communication ditch. It's practical, authentic and full of helpful insight. It can help you move your marriage to a whole new level.
-Bob Lepine,
cohost, FamilyLife Today

Over the years, Tim Muehlhoff's thoughts and guidance on personal communication have helped me grow as a person and as a leader. In I Beg to Differ, he once again provides me with strategies I can immediately apply to what I do every day, in business and in my personal life.
-Jon Basalone,
executive vice president, Trader Joe's Company

This is a deeply wise book. In it, Tim Muehlhoff offers hope, but not just hope; he also provides practical tools to help us communicate about differences in ways that foster growth more than division. Illustrating the book are powerful examples that are illuminated by Muehlhoff's seamless blending of insights from communication research and lessons from the Scriptures. The result is a book that resonates powerfully with our lives and invites us to become better versions of ourselves.
-Julia T. Wood,
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Conflict can be an indicator light of a relationship trending toward intimacy. Because of this, if we want to experience the joys of long-term, authentic relationships, we have to learn how to navigate conflict well. My friend Tim Muehlhoff gives us a strategy and practical tools to help guide us in having those sometimes unpleasant but necessary encounters.
-Bryan Loritts,
lead pastor, Fellowship Memphis

I love this book! My life can sometimes feel like a cauldron of conflict--from negotiating a price on a Craigslist purchase to serious disagreements with my neighbors, colleagues and family members. In I Beg to Differ author Tim Muehlhoff clearly articulates both the theory of conflict resolution and the practical methods of dealing with real people! This book has already challenged me to be a more intentional steward of my relationships. Read it, then reread it--the people around you will thank you!
-Chris Zaugg,
executive director, Keynote (a ministry of Cru)

Product Reviews

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  1. David
    Becancour, QC
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    4 Stars Out Of 5
    June 12, 2014
    Becancour, QC
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    I Beg to Differ: Navigating Difficult Conversations with Truth and Love. By Tim Muehlhoff. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014. 222 pp. $15.00. ISBN 978-0-8308-4416-6.

    Everybody, or almost everybody, engages in conversations with other people. Everybody, or almost everybody, can think of at least one conversation that they have had in their lives that could have gone better. That is why a book like this can be helpful to everybody, or almost everybody. In I Beg to Differ Tim Muehlhoff offers a theory of conversation that is grounded in biblical wisdom, contemporary social studies and psychology, and informed by philosophy. In this book review we will first consider the purpose of the book. We will then consider how the author attains his purpose, concluding with some thoughts on the relative importance and utility of this book.

    The purpose of this book, as the cover states, is to help the reader navigate "difficult conversations with truth and love." This book, as the author states in the introduction, "is more than a book about conflict; it is a book about communication between those who differ on significant points (p. 14)." This book is written for two types of people: (1) those who have already attempted to have discussions, on important subjects, but failed to finish well, (2) those who foresee a discussion, on an important subject, with someone, and think that the discussion will turn sour (p. 14). The subject of the discussion is unimportant, Muehlhoff seeks to give the reader the necessary tools for navigating the dangerous waters of any discussion that is important for the people engaged in discussion.

    The author goes about accomplishing his goals in three stages, each stage divided into different sections. The first stage (composed of the first 4 chapter) prepares the reader for discussions by introducing the reader to some important, and frequently non-verbal, elements of discussion, and helps them to understand the necessity of being prepared in these areas. The second stage (composed of chapters 5-9) introduces the authors "four-part communication strategy for the most difficult of conversations (p. 15)". The third stage (composed of the last three chapters) is a practical application of the four-part strategy, in which the author explores how one might approach 3 different types of conversations through his four-part strategy.

    In chapter 1 Muehlhoff seeks to help the reader to understand the power of words to either existentially build up a person, or existentially destroy a person; to impart life or to impart death. He introduces the reader to the notion that one's view of themselves will affect the conversation. He also introduces the communication tool called "feedforward" (p. 31). In chapter 2 Muehlhoff considers the most prominent causes of disagreement and conflict, and notes how our actions can either help minimize the effect of conflict, or augment it. In chapter 3 Muehlhoff considers the question of emotions and conflict. He begins by removing some misconceptions about the role of emotions in conversations, including that one can have a non-emotional conversation. He continues with a section on God and emotions, which is followed by an important section on the relation between perceptions and emotions. Finally Muehlhoff gives the reader the tools that will help them prepare emotionally for a discussion, and be properly emotionally engaged in conversations. Finally, in chapter 4, Muehlhoff explains how Christians can, and should, cultivate and use self-control in their conversations. In this chapter Muehlhoff explains the importance of cultivating spiritual disciplines in order to prepare for discussions that we may have.

    In the second section Muehlhoff begins to introduce his four-step strategy to having good, God-honouring discussions. His four-step strategy can be broken down into two main steps: listen and respond appropriately to the person in the situation, and in light of your history with the person. The first main step is divided into three steps. In chapter 5 Muehlhoff explains that the first step is to find out, without attempting to respond, what the person believes. In this chapter Muehlhoff explains the importance of listening, and introduces the reader to important elements of listening. He notes a number of obstacles to good listening, as well as the two main reasons why we need to listen first. Muehlhoff, in chapter 6, explains that the next step in a good conversation is not to respond to the beliefs of the interlocutor, but to find out why they believe what they believe. In this chapter we are introduced to some of the main sources that influence our beliefs, and we are then introduced to the importance of developing a cognitively complex understanding of the person we are talking to. In chapter 7 Muehlhoff explains that the third step in any good conversation is noting the areas of agreement between the parties involved in the discussion. That is, prior to noting our differences we should first note what we agree on. There may not be much more than the fact that we both think that the subject is important, but, even this is a good place to start. Muehlhoff provides the reader with a number of tips on how to cultivate common ground. Prior to introducing the fourth-step the author notes that the first three steps are, essentially, an expression of the rule of reciprocation. In chapter 8 Muehlhoff explains this ule, and explains that it is not only necessary for society, but is also a biblical principle. In chapter 9 Muehlhoff explains that the fourth step is a response of some sort, but not necessarily a response to what the interlocutor believes. The fourth step is to ask, "With this person, at this time, under these circumstances, what is the next thing I should say? (p. 151)" Muehlhoff argues that we should be person-centered in our conversations, rather than position-centered. He claims that being person-centered will determine our response. After noting some common mistakes in responding to the person Muehlhoff explains what the fourth step means in a conversation. This chapter finishes with an explanation of the different goals that our response might have.

    In the final section the author seeks to illustrate what it might look like in three different situations to put his four-part strategy into action. In chapter 10 Muehlhoff applies his strategy to a conversation about finances and generosity between husband and wife. In chapter 11 the author applies his strategy to a discussion between two co-workers on the question of religion. In chapter 12 he applies his strategy to a discussion between a parent and child on the influence of videogames in the child's life.

    There are two minor difficulties that this particular reader noted in this book. First of all, though he doesn't contradict himself, the author criticizes the Aristotelian claim that to become good we need to develop good habits by disciplining ourselves to do what is good. The author then goes on to assert the necessity of developing good habits by disciplining ourselves to do what is good. It is unclear what exactly the author is criticizing in Aristotle's view, although I assume that it is the fact that Aristotle doesn't mention the work of the Holy Spirit in helping the Christian to develop the good habits. The second difficulty is that the author introduces, unnecessarily, a theological claim about the nature of God that is neither necessary for his book, nor is sufficiently defended. Muehlhoff claims that God is emotionally affected by the way that we interact with each other. This is a highly debatable claim that is not sufficiently defended by Muehlhoff in his book, and adds nothing to the overall purpose and utility of this book.

    In this book, Muehlhoff takes ancient wisdom and shows us how to apply in our conversations. This book will be extremely helpful for everybody who ever enters into any type of discussion with anybody. It would be pointless to give a list of who would find this book useful as it would be helpful for everybody, as anybody who ever interacts with another human being should seek to interact well. The only person who might not be helped by this book is a true hermit, who wouldn't read this book review anyways. The principles that are presented in this book are broad enough to be useful in all cultures, and in intercultural relationships. As such, I highly recommend this book to everybody and anybody. (I should note that I gave it 4 stars because, though it is an excellent book, I'm not sure that it is better than other books that approach the same subject.)
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