Tim and Rick resume the conversation with Quentin Schultze (PhD) on listening. Manner matters in communication, and they discuss how the habit of giving thanks affects how we communicate with others. They also discuss “spirit preceding technique” and Quentin’s “Ouch Principle” to help de-escalate conversations that get hot. This is Part 2 of a 2-part conversation on grace-filled communication with Dr. Quentin Schultze.
Quentin Schultze: What we're seeing today with communication is a lot of criticism, a lot of cynical attitude behind it, and that's coming from people's hearts and unless we reverse course and fill our hearts with more gratitude, it's going to be hard to battle it.
Rick Langer: Hello everybody, thanks for joining us for the Winsome Conviction Podcast. My name is Rick Langer and I'm a professor at Biola University, I teach in the Biblical Studies and Theology department, I'm also the director of the Office of Faith and Learning, but most famously I am the co-director of the Winsome Conviction project with my friend Tim.
Tim Muehlhoff: And my name is Tim Muehlhoff, I'm a communication professor here at Biola University in La Mirada, California. And Rick and I not only are co-directors, we're co-podcast hosts and we're co-authors, we've written a book, Winsome Persuasion: Christian Influence in a Post-Christian World, as well as our newest book, Winsome Conviction: Disagreeing Without Dividing the Church. And one of the fun things about being part of a university and podcast is we get to invite people on. So if you didn't get a chance to listen to part one of our conversation with Quentin Schultze let me just bring you up to speed very quickly.
He has written or edited over a dozen books, two of my all time favorites are Communicating With Grace and Virtue, which we're going to talk a little bit about today, but also An Essential Guide to Public Speaking, let me just talk about this book real quick. Some people would rather die than do public speaking but this book is so much more about what it takes to have the credibility to make your thoughts known, be that public speaking or communicating via social media. He's been interviewed by virtually everyone, CNN, CBS, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, New York Times, he's well sought after so we counted a great privilege to have him not just on one podcast but to continue our conversation on a second podcast. So Quentin welcome back and thank you.
Quentin Schultze: Hey, thanks guys, it's really an honor. You saying all these kind things about me reminds me of a friend of mine, passed away recently, who was a fantastic preacher and really a gifted communicator. And whenever anybody would say kind things about how well he communicated his standard response was, "Well, if God can speak through a donkey, he can speak through me," but he didn't quite use the word donkey, he used another one.
Tim Muehlhoff: That's great.
Rick Langer: Well, we picked up on talking a lot about listening and love in our previous podcast and one of the other things that I'd really like to address is the issue of grace and I feel like in our public discourse it's almost vanished completely. On the right we have people who vilify their liberal opponents often even including claims of them being demonic or whatever other extreme statements you might make and grace seems to be viewed as being soft in that world. On the flip side on the left, we have people who see perhaps grace as the sign of the luxury of living in privilege, a sign that you're really in denial because a truly woke person would be advocating with outrage. And grace, well, grace is the thing for the time that's passed, we've waited long enough, it's time now for action. So it seems to me like it isn't just that people are failing to practice a virtue like grace but they're actually questioning whether or not it is a virtue. Am I just paranoid or is that really beginning to happen in our culture?
Quentin Schultze: Yeah, I think that's true Rick. I think it is happening and I would like to address that from what I think you'll find an engaging perspective and that is that there's something that begins before we communicate, there's something going on, there's something out there. And part of what's out there is God, part of what's out there is the creation, part of what's out there is friends, part of what's out there is any good thing that happened before yesterday, the day before that. One of the good things is just anything good, anything beautiful, anything worthwhile at all before we even open our mouths, before we text, there's all this goodness around us. And I think the beginning point really and the missing chapter in books on communication, the first chapter should be about grace but it should be framed this way, we begin with gratitude for all good things. What happens when we bathe ourselves in gratitude is that a lot of our inherent tendency to want to be critical and cynical in our communication, that a lot of that drops aside, it falls off of us.
And scripture says that our words flow from our hearts, so the conditions of our hearts, condition is very, very important and I think gratitude is the key. And all grace is something good somewhere that's happened and some of it we can see directly as a result of God, others we have to kind of work back from that and say, for example, oh gee, my wife was a gift from God. I didn't realize how much at the time but more and more in my life as I appreciate her more and more I'm filled with more and more gratitude and I want to give her more and more grace as well in my communication with her. So I think what we're seeing today with communication is a lot of criticism, a lot of cynical attitude behind it, and that's coming from people's hearts and unless we reverse course and fill our hearts with more gratitude, it's going to be hard to battle it.
Rick Langer: I think that's a great insight because it's easy to say, well, be more gracious, but there's a part that like, if I don't feel gracious I probably won't communicate it. And I think you've given us a great insight there to say, part of the way you work your way towards grace is by bathing yourself in gratitude and actually opening up your eyes to see and appreciate and praise. The wonderful things are going on around you every single day, the sunrise, my wife and I will often eat breakfast out on our kind of back patio and as we pray before we eat I often just stop and look and thank God for whatever it may be, be it birds, sunrises, fog, whatever may be going on and I've realized I often don't even see those things unless I press myself to kind of take the time to notice.
Quentin Schultze: Yeah. As I say in Communicating with Grace and Virtue, and by the way, thanks Tim for mentioning that book, it's one where I've opened up the most about my difficult past. Even doing that, being open about my difficult past, has been difficult over my life, a lot of things that I didn't want to let people know about or talk about, but I give examples and illustrations of this. In fact right next to me here at home in my home office I put a board up, one of these cork boards that you tack things on, and I call it my gratitude board and it's right next to the door that leads me in and out of my office so I see it coming in and going out.
And I put photos up there, special photos, I put the receipts of tickets of events I've gone out to with people, in fact, I'm looking up here now there's a photo of my son-in-law who's from Korea and myself standing in front of Wrigley Field in Chicago, him going to his first game. I grew up very religiously North Sider as a Cub fan and there we are down there. I've got a photo of being baptized, of me being baptized, they're grace, all these things that are grace. And then if I take a nap here, as I often do in the middle of the day on my sofa in my office, my head is right under my gratitude board and so I think about those things that I have most recently put on the gratitude board.
I want to tell both of you guys and all of your listeners that when we give more and more thanks to God for all good things and in turn give thanks to people around us for any good thing, it begins to transform our heart and change our communication, we're not so quick to be critical and we're less cynical people. And this is partly why worship is so important because we don't go to worship just to learn, we go to worship to a large extent to open our hearts up to the very one who makes all good things happen and to help remind ourselves that it's not just a matter of what we do but it's a matter of what we do in response to what God has done first, and that attitude makes a huge difference in terms of how we communicate with others.
Tim Muehlhoff: Quentin, you just reminded me of a quote from the founder of modern karate, I've been doing martial arts for the past seven years, and his quote was, "Spirit precedes technique," in other words he would say, "I can teach you how to kick, punch, all that kind of stuff, but if you don't have the warrior spirit the technique won't work." To convert that to Christianity, if you don't have the holy spirit or grace then who cares about conflict resolution techniques, the spirit won't be there and the technique will just fall flat on its face. So I love that you're saying this has to start with us, this has to be a heart transformation before we're really going to be grace-filled communicators who are civil and kind and compassionate. But I'm sure there's a lot of listeners who are not pleased with that, it's like, can you please give me five techniques of how to be more civil? And we're saying, we got to back that train up because we have to start with ourselves, right?
Quentin Schultze: That's exactly right. This book I wrote on public speaking from a perspective really of St. Augustine around the year 400 and Augustine was trained as a rhetorician, a public persuader, and he was really good at it. And he says in his confessions, The Confessions of St. Augustine, the first autobiography in the Western world, in some respect, the first kiss and tell autobiography, he says that he was venerated, looked up to by other rhetoricians according to how well he could lie, how well he could put one over on others, that's how cynical they were. And then he became a Christian and he thought to himself, I can't be a public persuader and a Christian if that's what rhetoric is all about. So he went out in the country for months with his son and others and they studied scripture and they worshiped together and they discussed what would it mean to be a Christian rhetorician and all, he came to conclusion it's all how you do it but it's got to begin from the heart with a love test, we can call it the love test.
Your communication will be judged by how well it reflects, first of all, your understanding of God's love for you and then your love of your neighbor. And if your communication comes out of God's love for you and your love for your neighbor, it's going to be good communication. And so I think of public speaking as a way to love our audience as our neighbor, basically I stole that from Augustine but put it in new terms. And I think about that with all of my communication, if I'm going to be online and I'm going to be on Facebook or I'm going to be on Twitter, or I'm going to do my blog or my website, or make videos for YouTube, which I do, all of that's got to be governed for a deep love for God and a love for my neighbor as myself.
Rick Langer: Let me just ask one other question on this issue of grace, it seems to me that we have a pretty keen nose for hearsay, for false belief and things like that. I'm thinking of people denying the Deity of Christ, the resurrection, things like that, that have been traditional doctrines that kind of define the Christian church and to deny them seems to clearly strike us as problematic. Similarly relative to behavior issues, if the Bible says, "Thou shall not commit adultery," if you commit adultery it clearly seems to be problematic. It seems almost like it's different when it comes to commands about being grace filled in our conversations, being gentle, being respectful, being loving.
It seems like those issues we somehow don't actually view as a command or that they're optional in a way that our beliefs or our conduct isn't, that maybe it doesn't count as conduct. I don't know what it is but it seems puzzling to me that people would clearly wonder if a person is really a devout Christian based on a belief or a conduct issue but they could be speaking in ways that are clearly contrary to scripture. And in fact, the kind of things that Paul says are divisive in such a way that you should have nothing more to do with this person after you brief them once or twice. Maybe I've gotten this wrong, I don't know, but why do you think we view it so differently?
Quentin Schultze: It's a good question. It's interesting. We will be known as Christians by our love, that's interesting, isn't it? It seems to me that we can start a kind of a second level of getting everything proportionally true without starting at the first level of getting everything from the perspective of God's love for us and our love for others. When you begin with love then I think to express propositional truth in a way that people might accept it becomes more natural and respectful, when there is not the underlying love then our tendency is to want to force propositions on people, believe this or don't believe it. I tell a story in the book of a friend of mine, a non-Christian who went to a wedding and at the wedding the minister at the time for the homily or the short sermon said to everybody there, "Now, if you're here and you are not a follower of Jesus or a believer in Christ then you're going to hell," and said a few things about that, and then went on and gave a homily about the marriage.
And I thought to myself, wow, what a missed opportunity. And this person was complaining to me as a Christian saying, "Why do you Christians do things like that?" And I thought about it, well, what would I have done if I were the minister there? I probably would've thought given my sense of you start first with love is to say, you all are gathered here and some of you maybe are not Christians. We're going to witness a marriage here that's going to take place the rest of their lives under God's grace, they were created by God as good creatures, amazing, created to love each other, to give to each other and if you're interested in that kind of love, that's the kind of love that Jesus has for us too. If you've experienced that in your marriage a little bit, a little bit of forgiveness, a little bit of love beyond expectation and dedication over the years, that's what God is all about and Christ. So listen up, I think I would've approached it that way to kind of put it in the context of love.
Tim Muehlhoff: What you're describing is what communication theorist call meta communication, which is basically saying, it's communication about your communication. And I love what you're saying Quentin, maybe we need to as Christian communicators, maybe the first step is like what happens when you go to a doctor, a doctor says, okay, let's run some tests, let's have some diagnostic tests to see how you're doing. And I think as Christian communicators it would be really good to use the fruit of the Spirit, when Paul says at the church at Ephesus that we need to put off these things like bitterness, clamor, anger, and put on compassion, kindness. So maybe the first step is, Quentin, we just need to all step back and say, how am I doing when it comes to talking about really important issues with a spouse, child, neighbor, coworker, and maybe we need to do some self evaluation before we speak.
Quentin Schultze: What a gift this is that God created us in such a way that we can communicate about our communication. We're not doomed, we're not destined to be complete follow-ups in our communication. And it's remarkable, we can learn from it, no other creatures can do this, consider and say, you know what? That was really a dumb thing I said, or that was a great thing, or they can't encourage one another like we can. So meta communication where we assess ourselves as we talk about our communication is so important. So to go out with a loved one, let's say a spouse or a child, once a week or every two weeks for a cup of coffee or whatever is appropriate and just to sit down together and say, hey, how am I doing? Can you give me any tips on how I can communicate better? Is such a marvelous thing.
Or to do it in a church as part of worship, let's say, before celebrating the Lord's Supper together and to think through in our own ways, I'll put it this way, how we have violated the holy spirit by not living communication in tune with the holy spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and so forth, are we communicating that way or in some other way? Every day before I get out of bed, when I first wake up, I thank God for another day and then I say to myself, God, on this day get your spirit into my heart and help me communicate in tune with the spirit. And then at the end of the day I think to myself, how well have I done today? And generally I can think about ways that I have, for instance, not been patient, that is a big one to be an impatient communicator, and try to do better, so it is a wonderful thing.
In the book Communicating with Grace and Virtue I use this example of ouch which my wife and I learned, I don't think I read it anywhere, but it's one little way that we can help keep each other on track to be graceful or grace-filled communicators. So my wife and I will get into a disagreement about something so often it's very minor and then after a while it begins to escalate because we make it personal. We begin in that great way with Adam and Eve, that fallen away of making it personal so you did this, or you said this, or you made me feel this way, and then we get more defensive and it starts to escalate. And so we have an agreement that if either of us starts to feel hurt, H-U-R-T hurt, by the other person, by the words that are being said or the nonverbal stuff that we're doing, then the person should say ouch. And as soon as ouch is said we stop everything because we have agreed in advance that neither of us wants to allow for one or the other of us to be hurt.
So that stops it, no more talk on that, and we let it cool off a little bit, and then the person who was hurt says, this is what hurt me. And there's no argument about that, you don't argue about being hurt, when you're hurt you're hurt, and neither of us wants that. So then we can kind of back it off and backtrack and invariably this leads to laughter because you realize that along the way you started with something stupid and silly that became more and more difficult to talk about so we dug in deeper and we became nastier and then it led to hurt. And we just shake our heads and we can laugh also, a kind of holy laughter, because there's grace in being able to back up from that. So that one word ouch, but it doesn't work guys unless you agree in advance that when that word is uttered it stops and there's no longer any someone is right, someone is wrong, it's hurt, hurt itself is wrong, and you back it up.
Tim Muehlhoff: Yeah. But to me this is spirit precedes technique, right? Because I could see married couples, right? Evoking what you just said, I'm going to do the ouch, we're going to use that, and a person starts to talk about finances or something about how you're approaching your finances and the person goes, ouch, and you're like, you say ouch all the time, you are the most thin skinned person I can think of, you can't just use ouch as a get out of jail. So that is all spirit, right? Any technique like that. If my heart is not in the right place I'm going to look at your ouch as a defensive mechanism and you just don't want to have to talk about this or you can't handle the truth. So I love the ouch thing Quentin, I think Rick should adopt this as a co-host, I think it's brilliant, but you can see how if my heart is not in the right place anything you try to do to soften communication won't work because I'm in attack mode.
Quentin Schultze: Ouch.
Tim Muehlhoff: Ouch. Oh, Quentin, this is probably a good place to end it. This is such good stuff.
Rick Langer: Let me ask one question. You mentioned, Quentin, when you began talking about the ouch principle that oftentimes this is kind of a way to deescalate something that has escalated that often began as being a relatively small issue. Does it work equally well for things that are obviously big issues? People who are having a disagreement about race and they say, hey, you don't care about what has happened to Black people through the course of history or my own pain, whatever it might be. These issues that I think they start, if you were to think about this as the dial on your stereo that turns the volume up and down, you and I and Tim are all old enough to remember when there were dials and things like this, but everything starts at 100, when you talk about race, when you talk about homosexuality, gay marriage, transgender issues. Does ouch work with two people who are polarized on some of those super contentious issues?
Quentin Schultze: I don't know. Why don't you guys try it out and let me know.
Rick Langer: No. We'd like you to try it out and report back just in case.
Quentin Schultze: Yeah. Well, it works with my wife and I, I think because we are so close and we know how to use it, we know what it means. So I think whether it's the word ouch or something else, there would have to be a similar expression of some kind built into the discourse from the very beginning for it to work but it's a great question.
Rick Langer: There's part why I ask is as I thought about it mentally, I thought, actually the nice thing about ouch is it kind of is built into all human discourse. If you're walking along beside someone having a conversation and they suddenly go, ouch, you just stop, it just is kind of normal. And I'm just wondering if this might not be a good tool for these moments when people get, and you can often feel the momentum building up, that ouch might be a good pause word for that. I haven't tried, I mean, I'm intrigued now, so yeah.
Tim Muehlhoff: Well Quentin, thank you so much. To change things truly in today's argument culture I think what we've landed on in this second episode is, we're going to have to start with ourselves and it's a heart condition. And to be quite honest, a lot of Christians tolerate their neighbors, they don't love their neighbors, and I'm speaking to myself when I say that. So what a good word that we need heart transformation if we're going to do what Paul says, "Speak truth in love." We're going to have to make sure we have the love part, it's not just a rhetorical trick but actually a heart condition. So thank you so much for joining us.
Quentin Schultze: Thank you. My pleasure. Jesus says, "Our words flow from our hearts."
Tim Muehlhoff: That's good. So please check out quentinschultze.com, you'll be introduced not only to his books but regular blogs, some awesome videos and ways that you can contact Quentin if you want him to come speak at church organizations, companies, things like that. So thank you. And Rick, great being with you again on another episode of the Winsome Conviction Podcast.
Rick Langer: Yeah. We'd love to have you be a regular listener, join us at Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and join with us in this ongoing conversation.