The irony about language is that it can be a unifying force as well as a divisive one. How can leaders ensure that the way their teams communicate promotes understanding and unity towards a common goal? The idea of resilient communication may sound like a pipe dream when you look at how things are going on in the world right now communication-wise, but brilliant people like Bill Stierle are putting their minds at work to devise strategies to turn it into a reality. As a communication specialist and high conflict mediator, it is Bill’s job to transform interactions between people through nonviolent communication. Joining Rodney Flowers in this conversation, Bill explains the foundational role of empathy in effective communication. The principles that are discussed in this episode apply to all areas of life, so whether you’re a business leader who’s trying to build a cohesive leadership team or a parent who’s building a resilient family, you’re going to find value in Bill’s insights.
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Empathy – The Foundation Of Resilient Communication With Bill Stierle
As always, I’m excited about our show because I have a friend of mine who’s with me, Mr. Bill Stierle. This guy goes back a few years. He’s a CEO Space member. He’s a great guy and super-duper smart. He’s going to share some things with you that are going to change your world and change the game for you. I’ve had the opportunity to participate in one of his classes. He talked about insight and deep knowledge, but if you’re looking for a secret or that edge, Bill is going to bring it. I know this because I know Bill, I trust this guy, and I trust the information that he’s going to bring to you.
Just a little bit about him. He’s a communication specialist and high conflict mediator. He provides support to individuals and businesses with insightful and practical tools to transform interactions between people. He has mastery in nonviolent communication that allows his clients to de-escalate confrontations and become better leaders. He also has a killer podcast, Purchasing Truth. That’s what it is. You’re going to want to check that out. It addresses the social unrest issues that we all are facing.
We’re going to talk about that and maybe how we can communicate that in order to alleviate that issue. Also, you can go check that out on his podcast. Get involved in some of those conversations. He’s going to show us the best ways to communicate with each other in order to increase connection, peace, and progress in the world. In where we are with the pandemic, we all need that. Without further ado, please welcome Bill Stierle to the show.
Rodney, thank you for having me on. I feel so energized by being here, the introduction, and the ability to offer your readers some game-changing language and communication to create better connections in a safer way as well as deal with these high conflict or high tension issues that we’re facing. We’ve got a lot of work to do because if we’re going to change the game, we need to change our language and the way we’re talking about things. The way we’re talking is escalating the conflict instead of de-escalating the conflict and addressing the specific issue about what’s going on.
The nice part about this and I get to share with your readers, is that there are certain elements of communication, the things I’ve studied over the last 35 years or so, that make communication a little bit easier once you learn the tools and techniques that I’ve learned. I put them in some nice little bundles and this is going to be a high-value exchange, so feel free to ask me any question of something someone said or did that was difficult. A challenge that either you or one of your readers is facing, whether it’s an entrepreneur, a relationship issue, or a societal issue. We can take some things out for a spin.
I will come back anytime you want me to because what enriching a dialogue is for two guys to be able to hit the tennis ball back and forth in a healthy conversation, even if it’s difficult things and situations to work through. The simple question is, what would make your life wonderful if your readers could get something that was a game-changing piece for them? What do you think might be a big thing that some of them might be facing?
Here’s the thing. I want to tee this up. I’m glad you asked that question because I want to create a context around this conversation. That context is all human beings are on the playing field of adversity. If you are born and you’re in this thing called life, you’re on that field of adversity and there’s no way around it. You can try to sit on the sidelines but you’re still going to get hit. It’s just how it works. Because we’re all on that field, we’re all on the same team or at least we need to play like we’re on the same team. You’ve seen it before when the team is having a breakdown. The players and the coaches are inside the team, in the locker room, or in the toilet. They show up unprepared, they can’t perform on the field, and it’s showing in their play.
Bill, this is where we are as a human race. We have been exposed. My question is, how can we get the locker room back in order? How can we get people to see that whether you’re black, white, Indian, Chinese, or Korean that we are connected and we need each other? There’s no time more than now for us to come together because we need each other to march down the field, score, and definitely win. That’s the only way we’re going to win. How do we begin to facilitate conversations around that level of connection?
The how question is an important question because it’s asking for a set of steps that we can get there from here. The first step that I have people go through is a step called appreciate a person’s differences, strengths, and weaknesses. For example, if I have an engineer-type thinker who thinks logically, and then I have a social worker person and put them in the same room together, they’re talking from a different vocabulary. The engineer is doing this logical-analytical thing and the social worker is going, “How can we connect with people and provide people support?” It’s a different conversation.
The other two narratives about appreciation are the difference between an entrepreneur or an artist mindset versus an administrator’s mindset that does things in a set of steps. The entrepreneur mindset needs to take a risk and needs to use creativity in order to generate a new business but when it comes down to getting support, they need the administrator to get things done. Both of us have assistants that can help us with things to get the administrative stuff done because we’re trying to press the energy on innovation or creativity and entrepreneurship.
Just a small snapshot of that is exactly what you’re talking about, Rodney. If I’m an entrepreneur or I’m a business owner, I better have a mastery of six things and then the seventh position in order to coordinate the other six. I’ve got to watch my finances, and I need to deal with my staff and my customers. That’s called human resources or sales. I’ve got this financial piece I got to do. I’ve got to do this sales piece, which is an interpersonal piece as well as human resources. I’ve got a market. That’s the fourth one, and then the fifth one is I’ve got to implement. I’ve got to deliver my products out to the outside environment. I’ve got to do something about technology. Those are called the six key positions.
If you’re a business owner out there reading this and you’re going, “Communication,” that’s already a healthy piece of information to get people to play their roles. It’s like, “The offensive tackle can’t do so good if they’re playing quarterback because they can’t get the ball down the field to the receiver.” All of a sudden, you’re thinking about building your team as who’s your best marketer? Who’s a person that can sell and talk with people? Who’s the person that can find talent? Who’s a person who can organize anything and make it run efficiently? Who is a person that can watch numbers?
The owner or CEO needs to coordinate those other positions. The CEO is more like a communication coach that leads different narratives to those six other positions. I’ve got to go, “Should I talk to the finance person? Should I talk to human resources? Should I talk to marketing? Should I talk to operations? What person do I need to hand this task off to? What is their role? How do they play it on the team?” This is called the first step of creating healthy communication. I want to recognize I cannot be good at all of those positions. I’ve got to let go of the belief to do it all my own.
That’s a tough because as soon as I say, “I need to let somebody else do it,” there’s a button inside my heart that’s going to get pushed called the button of trust. “Can I trust someone else to do that thing as I hand it to them?” I need to practice that. You don’t get it once. You got to live trust. You got to keep sliding it out there. I’m trusting. If there’s a mistake, that’s okay. A mistake is a mistake. A mistake doesn’t mean there’s a trust piece at stake. It means there might be a skill piece. It might be a support piece. It’s not a trust piece. “The person needs some skill.” “The person needs some support.”
It’s not, “I’m not going to trust them because they’ve made a mistake.” It’s, “I’m going to work on their skill.” You and I both spent time on the football field together so we know what position play looks like. You got to be like, “Do your thing.” I had my skills as a wide receiver to go out there and catch the ball. You knew what it took to play your position and bring it forward to the full extent that you did. All of those different things are like, “How do I develop trust in myself? How do I develop a skill inside myself? How do I pull it inside myself?” I can work with this other team and all these other players.
If you’re playing defensive back and I’m doing a square in on you, you got to know the other guy is in the middle. That’s there at the right depth. That cuts off my ability to catch the ball as I’m going from window-to-window across the field. The first one is appreciation of the differences. I’ve got to appreciate that this person has strengths that I don’t and I got to trust that they’re going to bring their strengths. When I notice that they’re missing something, I need to not make it global but I need to make it coachable. I’ve got to say, “Do you see that number over there? CFO or accountant? I’m not sure if that’s the right number there.” “You’re right. It isn’t. I forgot to put this other thing in there.” My judgmental mind, Rodney, might say, “That would have cost me $10,000 in taxes,” but I got to back that off. “We caught it.” It doesn’t mean I can’t trust them. I’ve got to watch my own reactivity, too. That’s step number one.The first step of creating healthy communication is to recognize you can’t be good at all things. Click To Tweet
Let’s park right here because that requires a certain level of maturity on the person that’s making that decision that’s in that role. If it’s going to cost me $10,000 then my approach may be aggressive or it may be intolerable. It may be like, “I can’t afford that.” Therefore, I’m cutting that person from the team. They got to go. We’re not going to take a chance to experience that type of mistake, but for the sake of the team, and then long-term because I’m thinking about a team. Championship teams aren’t made overnight. They’re developed. You see things progress over the years for different seasons. You see their struggles and all of a sudden, they start clicking because they’ve had those growing pains. What type of person do we need to be in order to make those high-level decisions? Walk us through that personality.
I appreciate that because there is a personality that each person steps into their own identity and they’ve got to have a sense and experience of both self-trust and self-acceptance like, “I’m accepting where my skill set is and I’m coachable.” “I am accepting there’s something better that this coach can bring out or there’s something better that I can bring out inside myself.” Some of the premier athletes, you’ll hear him say sentences like, “I’m there at 5:30 in the morning when the gym guys open up the gym.”
There are several different players, whether it’s Jerry Rice or just make a list that they’re going, “How do they do that level of drive?” The answer is simply as they choose to. They choose to say, “This part of it’s on me.” Each individual has some casualties there, but in all of us, human beings could do a better job of creating some balance around ourselves. When you’re talking about performance, I’ve got to show up in a way that’s both taking accountability for my skillset. Also, with the other person who’s next to me, if I’m depending upon them, providing leadership and encouragement for them to step up to those levels.
There were people that ran Jerry Rice’s hill with him in San Francisco and they said, “This guy’s crazy. I’ll never run that hill again.” He stayed in that place of high performance but it doesn’t mean that we need to also be hard on ourselves if we’re not doing it at that level. This is important in leadership. We have to bring a place of introspection and/or empathy for ourselves to not be too hard on ourselves because that also disrupts our focus. If we’re hard on ourselves too much, then as soon as we make a mistake, all of a sudden, we got that voice in our ears judging and criticizing ourselves instead of saying, “Interesting mistake. What drill do I need to do to pick that one up?”
One of my favorite stories about this is the CEO of IBM delegated this big project to this marketing guy. He went out, spent this money, did this stuff, all of a sudden, they spent about $5 million on it, and the thing failed. The marketing guy goes, “I’m getting fired over this man.” He walked into the CEO and said, “I’m here to tender my resignation. I’m guessing that you want to fire me.” The CEO looks at him and he goes, “I just spent $5 million for the mistake that you made. You better pick it back up because you cost me a bunch of money.”
He was shocked. He was thinking, “This was it.” His head was on the things but the CEO knew better. He saw the skill and ability inside this person going, “No. You made some choices. You made a right turn and left turn. The market did this to you.” The CEO saw the whole thing. He’s going like, “You are not fired. You just cost me a lot of money.” A lot of times, we are hard on ourselves. As leaders, we need to also be compassionate to ourselves and also compassionate and empathetic to others. Part number one is to identify strengths and live into your strengths. Part number two is to build a vocabulary of empathy and compassion no matter what anybody says to you. That’s the resilience part that you mentioned.
Somebody can say something crappy to you and you’ve got to be ready to bring your A-game on empathy and compassion to the crappy thing that the person has said to you. You got to be ready and that takes a little bit of skill to do and a little awareness because everybody says, “I’m a nice person. I’m compassionate. I’m empathetic.” I usually say, “Really? How about if somebody says this sentence to you?” The story that would be helpful for your readers is that during the Flint water crisis, I did training in communication during the water crisis for government officials.
I was training 75 people a day, “What do you say to angry people?” That was my job. One day of training. Here’s how to talk to somebody who is angry and screaming at you. This is what I did as I had everybody in the room of the 75 people. There are five at a table and I had them write down, “What was the worst thing that anybody has ever said to you?” They wrote them down on sheets of paper and stuck them around the wall. As they stuck these things around the wall, I then asked them the question, “If you are looking at these sentences, how do you have a compassionate sentence to somebody that’s saying something difficult to you? How do you say that?”
Here’s what one of the sentences was. It was the worst sentence that I looked at in the beginning. The sentence is, “You are a racist.” You and I both know the level of sensitivity that particular sentence has. What I did then is I started to teach them how to build a compassionate and empathetic sentence to the you are a racist sentence. I’m sure that your curiosity is coming up in your nogging. Do I have that right?
Yes, you do.
There is a sensitivity to it. It’s like, “How do you stare that sentence down?” I asked the 75 people, “What do you say back to a person that says that?” This one guy raises his hand and goes, “I know this isn’t right but, ‘No, I’m not.’” Immediately, about 1/3 or 1/4 of the audience had a little chuckle because they could see that that wasn’t good but the other 2/3 were nervous and anxious because they’re thinking, “That was the only sentence that I had.” Point number two here is building empathy has a formula to it. For all of you that are reading, this is a time that you bring out your pencil and write the formula down.
The sentence is asked from the place of curiosity is the tone and here’s the first set of words. Could you be feeling, and then there’s a word. You don’t have to be right on the word but you got to fill in the blank. “Could you be feeling blank because you are needing blank, is that correct?” That’s the formula for empathy. In fact, if you’re not asking it, you’re probably in the space of either sympathy, a space of understanding, or trying to get information. All of those things are nice things, but they’re not helpful.
What the audience came up with? I asked them for some feeling words and they came up with four of them, which are aggravated, angry, helpless, and furious. When a person is saying the sentence, “You are a racist,” those would be just a few feeling words that the person can speak the sentence from. The second part of the equation is the one that usually drops everybody’s brain into a bucket and it melts their brain. It sounds like this. What’s the good reason why that person called you a racist? What was their need? What was their motive for doing it?
Here are the four words they came up with. Support, respect, fairness, and justice. “Could you be feeling aggravated because your need for support wasn’t met?” It’s an empathetic response to, “You are a racist.” “I’m not supporting you and you have the thought that race has something to do with it.” I’m not here to prove whether or not I’m not. I got to find out, “Is it support or not?” The person will give you feedback, then the next sentence is, “Could you be feeling angry because your need for respect wasn’t met and I wasn’t respecting you the way you would like, is that correct?” I’m trying to find out what of these two energies are matching.
In high conflict mediation, Rodney, I’m doing this all the time, find the words, match them up, test, be curious, and be compassionate. The person is suffering over there. Don’t get in the suffering pool with them but be ready to stay to your heart, be compassionate and empathetic, and make a guess. “Could you be angry and your need for respect wasn’t met by something I said or did?” There’s going to be another complaint after that. This guy is in pain so he’s got to be saying something.
The third sentence then is, “Could you be feeling helpless because your need for fairness is not met?” Think about those two. How many times, Rodney, has the need for fairness has not been met and that’s why the person’s using race in reference to fairness? You and I both have looked at this and went, “Can we get some fairness and equanimity being spoken about these two people not being treated equally?” That’s problematic because the person is going to feel helpless. They aren’t going to feel angry and aggravated.
These are response questions, but as I evaluate them, these could be used to initiate the communication. We don’t have to wait for the combat to start and hit. We can go in and try to defuse any anger and all of those things by asking these types of going-in questions.
There are also good going-in questions many times, Rodney, when I’m going into a divorce mediation or a business mediation where there are millions of dollars online and I’m going like, “It’s going to be a mess.” I’m going to see needs coming from different directions. I got to find out what the top needs are inside both parties and be ready for the worst things that people could say. I usually go in and write down, “Here’s my next meeting. What’s the worst thing that the person could say inside this meeting?” I write down the worst things and write it empathetic sentence underneath it because when they say it, I might as well be ready, and then I’m not going to be surprised even if they say something worse.Empathy is the best shield that you can give yourself. Click To Tweet
This is putting on the armor. This is practice because the reasons why we don’t have the conversations that is obvious that we need to have is because number one, we don’t feel that we have the armor to go in, hear, and stand in the face of the things that could come out of the mouth of some people. There is ego because you’ve got to utilize step 2 and step 3 because you got to be in a certain state of mind and then maintain that level. You can’t allow your emotions to get out of a box. You put yourself in this mediator type of problem solver capacity and stay there because outside of that, everything breaks down and then there’s no progress. Would you agree with that?
You’re in the ballpark on this one. It’s a weird thing to say but empathy is the best shield or protector that you can put and give yourself. If you’re empathetic to yourself or empathetic to the other person and you build up that literal vocabulary, you can protect yourself from the worst things people can say or do. As one of my sons said at a restaurant when we still could go to restaurants, “Dad, there’s a lot of pain going on at that table.” As this 2-year-old or 4-year-old was making a mess of a dinner time with the mother and father and they didn’t know what to do.
There’s a lot of pain over there but he’s not affected and I’m not affected, and then the two of us can say, “I don’t know. Do you want to go over fix it or you want me to go fix it?” We could walk up to the table and say, “I’m noticing that your four-year-old is feeling sad and upset and they’re probably not getting the choices he wants.” Of course, the parents are in their crap of, “This adult is coming over here to judge us.” I’m going, “I’m not judging you. I’m going to provide my skills so that I can have peace on three tables down. I’m here to provide support because clearly, the two of you don’t have any skills.”
It’s a way to be proactive and use empathy as a proactive tool to de-escalate the emotion inside the person’s body because if somebody, let’s say, is marching in a protest, they’re feeling furious because their need for justice has not been met. If I’m a city official, I need to address, “The need for justice needs to be met in this.” You see all the language that they use is so watered down and safe instead of going, “No. There are certain people that would like justice to go like this and the rule of law looks like this. The rule of law is not written in alignment with justice.”
Can you imagine a police officer or city person saying that? I would look at that and go, “At least somebody is telling the truth.” At least somebody is being honest with, “This rule that we have that the police officers followed is not a good rule. Therefore, the need for justice cannot be met because they were following a rule that was approved, even though it was completely short-sighted.” Even though it had all that stuff in there, the situation doesn’t have to escalate to where it needs to be. At least we’re going like, “Reforms are needed. This is important that we come around on the other side of this because the loss of life is not acceptable for us as human beings.”
Is the effectivity of this technique highly-based on the follow-up activity that comes out of the conversation because if you’re not doing that then you’re back in the same place or you’re just stuck here? That has an expiration date, unfortunately, where we keep having the same empathetic conversation. We have to move beyond that. This is great and I don’t know if that shows up in the next step. My takeaway from this is highly-effective and as the leader, you recognize some level of the call-to-action out of these conversations, then we have to take the steps forward, too.
You set it right on point, Rodney. The request has got to be in alignment with the need. Justice looks like this rule-changing. Fairness looks like this opportunity is showing up here. Respect looks like communication between human beings is not being skewed from the beginning. Support looks like two human beings talking to each other in a supportive, mutually respective fairway instead of power over dynamics because all we’re doing is doing power over, power under. I’m watching it, it drives me a little batty.
It’s like, “Everybody, there’s a better way than this.” Meanwhile, they’re stuck in their own dynamic, which then leads us to number three, which has to do with beliefs. You brought up at the beginning everything from religions, races, ethnic groups, and the whole thing. These coded thoughts and beliefs keep getting reinforced instead of reimagining and re-questioning those beliefs on whether this belief is solid. Making sure that we have a clear perception adjusting to these things. A perception adjusting is, can we rate this on a scale of 1 to 10? Saying, “This belief is only 50% true.”
Do you see what people do with the truth, Rodney? They push it all the way to 10 or 1. They’ll do all kinds of belief biases and fallacies to pull it. Watch the truth one way or another and you’re going, “That’s not looking at the target. That’s looking at a way to get around talking about something difficult.” They’re not looking and staring at it in the eye and going, “What does my heart say or do in regards to justice?” We need to be mindful of the tension of the opposites so that we’re honest about it.
Let’s talk about re-questioning and reimagining before we go into those conversations because that requires a certain level of authenticity. What I mean by that is I’ve been talking about authenticity a lot here because it’s been coming up for me in different ways than it has been explained. We talk about authenticity as being true to ourselves or being our real selves. For me, it’s been coming up as being real with yourself. Realizing some of the belief patterns that you may have, suppressing, and ignoring, but they’re still showing up in your behavior, personality, and how you relate to other people.
Recognizing, being authentic with yourself, and saying, “Possibly I need to challenge that belief or upbringing or idea or concept that I have of how things should be.” That concept is created based on background and an experience that did not include certain things that could have opened up my mind to, “This is why this decision needs to be made. This is why we need to widen the spectrum on this decision, whether it be more inclusive or whatever it is.” If you don’t have that level of experience, it’s best to influence the decision-making period.
I appreciate that awareness, consciousness, and the way you’re focusing on perception and perspective. Even in your own story, people told you their beliefs about you and what was possible for you. You did something significant called, “I don’t believe that that’s where I’m going to be. I believe I’m going to be over here. Thank you for sharing and I can appreciate your expertise but it’s not my belief and you don’t know me fully. That particular belief, I am not the statistic. I’m this other guy over here and I’m going to take this other guy over here and see what he can do with the circumstances he’s been handed.”
That is restoring and reaffirming a belief that worked and carried you forward as your experience and that’s what I’m celebrating. That is exactly what the third step is. The first step is acknowledging your strengths. The second step is knowing what your needs are and the feelings that go with it, and then the third one is to keep checking in on your beliefs and making sure that you are not getting in your own way or somebody else’s message is not getting in your way. We’re able to communicate in a more congruent, authentic, and vulnerable way. All of a sudden, we’re going, “I used to be able to run 4 or 5, but I’m not running 4 or 5 right now. I was great when I was 22, but I’m not there now.”
It can still be effective without running the 4 or 5. That’s a great takeaway. Recognizing, “It won’t be a 4 or 5,” but, “Here’s how I’m going to get a level of impact and effectiveness.”
Those different moments of awareness and acceptance, especially from the observable place rather than the judgmental place. It’s I’m observing where my skills are and what my talents are, and be ready to delegate and build my team, build my tribe, and get people around me to support me in what I’m up to. There’s a lot of folks whose vision and purpose is to support others. They are not interested in being the top person, leading the company, or being the CEO. They don’t want to do that. There’s plenty of people like that.
Their fulfillment in the world is to be inspired and energized by you, the reader, as a leader. They’re interested in following your wisdom, knowledge, and experience or the product or service that you’re offering to others. That’s when it gets good because then you go, “There’s my tribe. There are my folks. We got there from here. How do we do that together? The seven of us pulled this thing off. Look what happened to this. We were purchased. We got a paycheck.” It becomes the natural evolution of things that can make a big difference once we start authentically trusting others, coaching, adjusting for mistakes safely, making sure the mistake is not a monstrous mistake, and not letting it grow in our heads.
Just go, “You left the ice cream outside. It melted.” How about that? What is it? You can make it a level eight if you’d like, but it’s only maybe a two because there’s more ice cream where that came from. You don’t have to let your emotions escalate in that spot. It’s an interesting way to view communication from these three positions. From all the things that I’ve studied, these are the foundations of the different ways communication gets impacted and you can imagine what it’d be like to have these things secondhand. If somebody says something crappy to you, “I’m ready to respond to that right now. I can be empathetic and compassionate to that.”
For all you parents out there that are reading, your six-year-old kid says, “Mom, give me the ice cream now.” The first thing my judgemental mind wants to say is, “You don’t talk to your parents that way.” That’s the first thing I want to go for, but watch what happens when I use empathy. “You feel frustrated and you need support to get ice cream? Is that what you’re requesting? You’re requesting support from me?” “Yes.” “Support for ice cream?” “Yes.” This is a true story, which is funny. I’m looking at my six-year-old at that time and he was not tall enough to get into the ice cream thing up above. His language was crappy. That’s an opportunity to coach and not an opportunity to cut his head off because he’s six. He didn’t have any languaging skills other than SpongeBob SquarePants or wherever the hell he learned that language from.
We’re going to take a look at where he’s picking that up from.
I’m like, “Where did you get that from? What kind of high school are you in?” You never know if they formulated themselves or somebody gave it to them. They hand it off to you, you cut their head off, and then they don’t come back to you. You’ve lost trust and connection. Being compassionate and empathetic when someone is upset can make a big difference.
What’s coming up for me is understanding the importance and the expense of not being able to have that level of communication over the long-term. We’re talking championship status right here. you may have thought, “Why have I never reached this certain level?” “Why I never get to this level of performance?” “Why can’t my team experience X, Y, and Z?” This could be the thing that’s costing us because we can’t get this part and we don’t realize it because we’re reactionary human beings. “What did you expect? I’m a human. This is a normal way of reacting.” This cost because, for example, with your kid, this is a real thing. The kid has done something because the kid was a kid. I got it. It wasn’t right, but the response wasn’t right either. Therefore, the relationship is compromised over the long term.
Your mom and dad during the adolescent age was so critical because that didn’t happen properly, the relationship as an adult is compromised. You don’t see the person. You can’t be friends with the parent. You don’t spend the time with the parent. You don’t have that level of intimacy and ability to talk about real-life situations because of the fear that happened in the past. It made them feel the same level of response is going to happen again or you haven’t been able to cultivate the relationship to the point of trusting.Mind reading is overrated. Ask. Click To Tweet
This whole narrative that you started is huge. Certain disciplinary fads sometimes take hold. The fad called timeouts. You sit the kid in the corner of timeouts. This particular fad or strategy looks like that it’s effective, and it is effective temporarily. You put a kid in the corner and they can’t move. All it teaches the kid is that they are in jail and they’re mad about it. Once they get out, they’re going to act out again later. It’s what it teaches them. Here’s the casualty. Connection, truth, trust, and acceptance. You lose those four things as a parent if you put your kid in a corner. You’d lose connection and truth. Why? They couldn’t tell you a mistake they make. They’re going to hide it.
Trust. They’ll walk on eggshells around you because they never know if what they’re doing is wrong or right. What happens there? Their self-worth gets dinged. That’s exactly what parents want, the kids’ self-worth to get dinged. Acceptance. “I made a mistake and therefore, my parents don’t fully either accept me and/or if it gets worse, love me.” That sets up the most rebellious 13, 14, 15, and 16-year-old. Why would I want to use that strategy to get a kid to behave instead of being compassionate temporarily? The kid is playing, they’re exploring something, or they lit a match where they shouldn’t have lit a match and they need some coaching on the danger and safety of matches.
Bill has the answer to that because it’s easy and we don’t have the skillset to do otherwise. That’s what we need to spend the time on. Myself and yourself, we’re all included in this. We don’t have the skillset to handle complex, sophisticated, and emotional relationship breakdowns. We’re going to revert to the easiest and quickest way to cause some type of correction or disciplinary action to prevent that from happening again. Until we develop that skill set to do that, to have those communications, to build those relationships, those are all opportunities for deeper engagement and connection. We don’t know how to harvest it. It’s right there but we don’t have the tools to pull it out from the ground. That’s what’s missing.
You and I both know that one of the fundamental tenets of learning is you make a mistake, and you learn from the mistake. If you make a mistake, you go, “That’s not so good. Let me go over here.” If we make making the mistake emotionally unsafe to do, that affects and ripples through economics, family life, and Thanksgiving dinner. You can’t say what you need to say without going like, “I’m going to lose my family, community, church, and city over this.”
We can’t speak up because we can’t sit toe-to-toe and deal with somebody that might be in so much pain about racism that if they called me a racist, I can’t bring compassion for that. The answer is,
“I can bring compassion for that or any other problem or any other trauma.” As if the trauma is not at the root of most of these problems to say whether it’s drug addiction or crime. There is trauma that’s real that we as a society have got to start facing because ignoring it, thinking that we need to jail trauma, or medicate trauma, we’ve got some problems.
There’s more so what can we learn from the trauma. What can we harvest from the trauma? It’s flipping the coin over because we’re only looking at one side of it now and having the ability to harvest up. We give trauma the power to rule if we don’t know how to manage it. It festers and it becomes cancerous in everything that we do if we don’t manage it.
Manage it through empathy, observation, and compassion. Emotional management is, I will bring my best empathetic self to somebody who’s screaming on a plane. I’ll come up, walk down the aisle and say, “It sounds like your six-year-old is struggling and needs some connection or support and they’re not being heard the way they would like.” The kid was shocked that I’m talking to him. The parents are embarrassed because their need for respect is not met. As if I give a crap about that. It’s going to be like, “You want your kid to be functional. He’s upset which is telling you that his needs are not being met and you’re not even talking about it. Are you going to let him and say, ‘No. Be quiet,’ as if that’s going to work?”
I love that because I believe that when you’re in a relationship, whether it’s an intimate relationship, business, whatever, and however you relate to people, that relationship is an agreement. You didn’t sign a contract maybe you did if you got married or you got this business license but any relationship that you are in is an agreement. That agreement is the Ts and Cs are expectations and sometimes those expectations are not implied where they are implicit and not expressed. You’re walking and this person has these unexpressed, implicit expectations of you, and when you don’t live up to that expectation, there’s the breakdown. There’s a disruption in the relationship. The ability to communicate your expectations, preferably upfront or if we missed the mark, how can we communicate what the expectations are?
That’s adding even more context to what we’ve already talked about. It’s the understanding that the relationships we are in are based on expectations. You have them. You have expectations of being on this show as you relate to me for the last hour. Your expectations are what they are in order for this to be a successful show and if I live up to that will be successful. If there’s a breakdown, it’s like, “Rodney, why did you say that? What was that all about?” If we can’t get to that level of communication, I would never know. You may never come on my show again. There’s no opportunity for collaboration or anything. The relationship is over and done.
It’s got to have the level of safety for either of us to make mistakes, laugh at the wrong time, say the wrong sentence, slip out a sentence that is not quite politically correct, and bounce back to go like, “Both of us are working on contribution, integrity, and mutual respect. Let’s hit that ball.” You can have these little side shots that you miss a little bit on but people get scared and nervous when I tell the racism story or if I’m sitting with a person of color and talking about the racism score, they get nervous. There are words and there’s heart to the word. Even though they’re painful to hear, we don’t have to take it that way.
We take it as an opportunity to find out, is this a moment where support, respect, and fairness were not met? Is this a moment of this person expressing justice in the city of Flint? Here’s another unjust thing that has happened in Flint, Michigan by the powers that be to save a couple of bucks. They put the wrong water in the pipes and not asking for any expertise. What will this do if we do this? It’s like, “It’s disheartening because the level of compassion and empathy is not there.” The impact and the ability to bounce back are not there because it’s not emotionally safe to speak up and bounce back.
We’ve got to do a better job as communicators and as people working in society to build our relationships, so it is safe to make mistakes. It is something to say, “I’m working on this thing, and it’s bugging me. Meanwhile, I’ve got some judgments about this thing that I’m working on that I should be further than this. I have to do this. I could have done this.” It’s like, “How about this moment?” What are you doing this moment? How can you bounce back and go like, “I feel disheartened about the thing I said. I felt nervous about the thing I said. I don’t want to bring this up. Is there any way you and I can make it safe to bring up this difficult conversation?”
It’s okay with being wrong. It’s being okay with not getting it right. That goes back to what we talked about earlier. This is internal. There’s no coming in, no ego, empathy, and compassion for yourself. That’s what this is about because you’re talking about healing. We’re getting deep into this thing. We’re talking about healing at an emotional level, personally for the sake of the collective.
We got to run this ship because we’ve got people trying to drag the steering wheel and thinking like, “No. You’ve got to run over here. It’s more efficient to run it into the rocks.” No, it’s not. It’s a little short-sighted and we’re stuck on an island somewhere that we don’t want to be. Regrettably, that’s a little bit about what’s happening. We’ve got to do a better job of not one person can be the captain for a time and there’s a personal responsibility of that captain. They’re responsible for every life on that ship. They can’t say, “I’m sorry, you people on the left side of the ship, you’re not as valuable as the people on the right side of the ship because what they do on the left side of the ship is not quite right.” It’s like, “You’re the captain. Be a leader.”
When you make a choice to be a leader by definition, you can’t say, “I’m only going to lead this person.” On the field, as the quarterback, as the leader, you can’t lead the running backs, the wide receivers, and the offensive line. You have to lead the entire team to include all the skillsets, background, diversity, strengths, and weaknesses. You are responsible for forging down to field with the team collectively.
You’ve got to go in there and be like, “This is the play we’re running. This is who you’re facing across the line. This is the technique that you did. Let’s see how you do this play. If you do it, we’ll make some positive yardage on this.” On the defensive side of the fence, “If we do it well, we cause some negative yardage or zero yardage to take place.” That style of competition is great because it’s based around skill and the rules of the game to the best of the players and the referees’ ability to execute those.
In leadership and business, you’ve got to watch things ethics, integrity, customer loyalty, staff, and support. If a company becomes too competitive and too big, what happens is even two different parts of the same company can fight against each other for the same client. That’s one of the things that happened at Microsoft before the new person took over. He goes, “We need to change the way we work as a company culture.” They use the same tools that I teach to cause organizational change. Within three years, they were set on the right course. Within five years, the entire competitive company changed. They changed into a collaborative company.
Back on the front with innovation, because since you get competition, innovation tanks. Why? Because you’re fighting over an idea instead of going like, “Which one works to get us there?” It’s important, especially with Microsoft number two. What needs are we working for? The new CEO specifically said, “Here’s the book to use,” and that’s the book of one of my mentors, “Here’s the book to use that we’re going to do our leadership from.” He turned it around and it works. As you mentioned before, skill and awareness. Getting a sense for empathy to be second nature can make a big difference.Empathy before problem solving. Click To Tweet
I want to talk about empathy. I have a couple more questions for empathy to drive this home but before we get into that, how can people connect with you, Bill? If they want to learn more about your system, gain more insight about how to be more empathetic, have more open, and full effective communication, how can they connect with you?
I have some nice resources on my website. It’s BillStierle.com and my assistant’s phone number is (310) 433-8380. She takes my calls and schedules stuff. She’s the person I trust to support and to get us to talk with each other. I’d be happy for any of you readers to offer 30 minutes of support if they want to call. That’s the offer. They need 30 minutes of support to get a snapshot and it might be working with me, but I might be able to send him a direction that you’re going to like, “No, you can work with this person. Here’s another way to do it. Try this book. Try these flyers. Here are some other ways to get there from here.” I usually recommend to call me or text me and let’s see if we can get the resources in front of you. For people that want to engage in difficult conversations about truth, my podcast is called PurchasingTruth.com. On there, there are some specific topics. Some of them are business and some of them are political. The reason why I am in the political space is because we need a healthier dialogue.
It’ll sound a little biased but it’s not. It’s about the communication that’s being made and how communication is being used to purchase truth from both parties. Here’s how it’s working. Anybody that’s a good seller or marketer needs to be on there because I talked about how dopamine responses with certain messages cause a loyal person to show up. Even if they’re voting not to meet their own needs, they’re still loyal and they’re able to stay the moment of engagement. They’re able to stay engaged. It’s about communication and communicating with difficult issues.
I want to offer one more thing, too, because we only got through 3 of the 6. If someone called and he wanted to learn more about the remaining three steps because we didn’t get through all of them. Is that a possibility?
They can call and see these different positions and steps. I’ll be happy to go into this.
What I wanted to ask you is based on what we’ve talked about, what sums it all up for me is three things. It’s seeing not with our eyes but with our hearts. It’s hearing not with our ears but with our hearts. The question is to you because there’s a scripture that’s in the Bible that talks about walking in love. What you’re describing and what is charged to leaders is to walk in love. Does that resonate with you? Based on your teaching, am I on to something there?
Yes, you are. When you’re walking in love like the way you’re describing it, you’re walking space of balancing the needs of your heart with the needs at the heart of another person. Both of us know that the need for respect can look different to two different people. If you’re walking with love and looking for the need for respect to be met, the first step is not to judge the other person based on your definition of respect. The first thing to do in walking in love is to find out their definition of what respect looks like and most of the time, it’s like, “You have respect look like this,” and the person thinks, “I can do that.”
You’re walking in love, so it’s not comparing your definition of a need to another person’s definition of need. Every person has a different way that they’re looking to get their needs met but if we’re in an honest, loving dialogue with them and you’re walking in love, you’re congruent inside your body. You know what your feelings are, “I feel tired, I have a need for rest.” Rest is causing tired. I go to sleep and I feel refreshed because my need for rest has been met. Notice that the feeling indicator changes once the need is met. Walking with love is the congruency piece inside our body. Our language matches our biochemistry. Our molecules of emotion are matching our words.
As you were saying, “Walking with love,” a second ago, I immediately had a flashback because I trained 35 Buddhist monks walking around their courtyard tapping their belly and their chest going, “I feel because I need.” I was training a present moment meditation to get language congruency to take place inside their bodies. It was a wonderful opportunity to take these high-performance meditators and say, “You want to take language out for a spin? Here’s how you do it in real-time. When a feeling comes up, you connect it to your need and you’re congruent with what showed up. You’re not trying to push it away. You’re not trying to ignore it.”
I would go with identify and be authentically congruent with it. Isn’t that the most loving thing that we could do to ourselves? It’s to say when we’re mad, we’re mad. When we’re sad, we’re sad. When we’re disheartened, we’re disheartened. When we’re aggravated, we’re aggravated because something didn’t go well for us. We’re delighted because our ability to contribute and connect to others made a difference. We feel delighted about that and that’s called being congruent too. You name both of them. When things aren’t going so well, you name that and when things aren’t going so well, you name that.
I feel like that right there alone is another show because there lies the issue and struggle for many people is to fully and truthfully express those in us.
Also, make it safe to do it because the person that’s reading might take it as blame or judgment on their side and we can be ready for that and pull it back and say, “He’s not interested in meeting the need for support, I’ll go ask somebody else. No problem because it’s too sensitive to this person or this person doesn’t have the bandwidth to be compassionate to me.” They don’t need it from them. Let’s call it 7 billion going on 8 billion people on the planet to go to for empathy. I don’t need it from that person. It’d be nice to get it from certain family members, but even my own family members, I know they have limited bandwidth. I could be compassionate to that. There’s a belief in the way here.
We started this conversation with the fact that all of those decisions are choices and you get to choose how we play that game.
Word choice is a big part of that. If you call somebody manipulating, you’ve got to change that to meeting their need for choice ahead of my need for being heard and consideration. The power of manipulation drips away and you look at them say, “I’m not sure if that’s a good fit for me. I’m going to choose to go a different way.” The person is going, “That used to work on everybody else I tried it on.” It’s like, “It’s not working on me.” That is another show, by the way. It’s how do we take things. That’s the resilience that you talked about at the top of the show. It’s getting a sense that you can have a high level of connection at the same time, have a high level of conflict. Conflict doesn’t mean that you’re going to lose connection. It means it’s an opportunity for breakthroughs, engagement, authenticity, and mutual respect.
Beautiful. We can keep going with this.
We sure can, can’t we?
It’s so good. Bill, thank you for coming to the show.
My joy. I’m so glad that we’re able to do this and I’m looking forward to the next time. I’m sure we’ll get ourselves into a new kind of trouble next time.
I’m looking forward to it. Before we end the show, we always ask our guests this one question. It’s the Game Changer Mentality Question. How can we consistently bounce back from adversity, dominate our challenges, and win at the game of life?
I’m going to leave the readers with two key sentences. Key sentence number one, “Mind reading is overrated.” That is a game-changer. Ask what are you needing and what are you requesting. Before you think about what they won’t do or what you’re afraid to ask them, ask them the simple question, what are you needing and what are you requesting from me? That cuts out mind reading. That will save 2 or 3 weeks of your life a year if you get that in the front of your consciousness.
The second sentence is, “Empathy before problem-solving.” Before I solve the problem, I need to empathize with it. I might ask the person, could you be feeling frustrated and you needed some support? They say yes. Support would look like bringing the groceries in. It would make a big difference for me. The answer is to help me bring the groceries in. A lot of times, we’re jumping to the answer but if we empathize with it, the person will feel relieved and you’re becoming an ally with them.
If you don’t, you’re solving their problem and they’re still irritated. Miles would get rid of the irritation to get the heck out of the way and you’re joyously putting groceries away because you’re using empathy before problem-solving. Empathy only occurs when you get that feeling word and that need word. You hook it together, you check-in, and once they say, “Yes,” you have a moment of empathy. That’s when you figure out how to get what you need to do next.
Thanks. That’s a great question to ask.
It’s a great answer. It’s practical and useful. It takes a little effort to put this in front of the conscious. This is a useful tool to handle difficult conversations or difficult situations. This is all about communication. In every difficult situation, if you try to get to its source, communication breakdown is probably somewhere in the mix.
It’s a misunderstanding. There are lots of come.
Thank you for coming to the show.
This has been great. Thank you so much for inviting me. Anytime, the door is open. You make the call and we’ll make it happen.
I appreciate it.
Thanks, everybody. Bye.
- Bill Stierle
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About William Stierle
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