By Allen Haynes May 6, 2024

Listen to the episode.

Andy Stanley (00:05):
Hey everybody. Welcome to the Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast. A podcast designed to help leaders go further faster. I’m Andy Stanley, and joining us today is my friend and someone who’s about to become your friend, Charles Duhigg, author Charles Duhigg. Charles is a Pulitzer prize winning reporter and the author of The Power of Habit, which many of you have read, I’m sure it actually spent three years on the New York Times bestsellers list. His second book, smarter, faster, better, was also a New York Times bestseller. Currently, he works for the New Yorker magazine and our organization has had the privilege of hosting him twice for events, and he’s an incredible person. He’s the real deal, and so I’m thrilled to have him back on the podcast today. So Charles, welcome back.

Charles Duhigg (00:46):
Thank you for having me back, Andy.

Andy Stanley (00:48):
So Charles, today we’re talking about your latest book, super Communicator, subtitled, how to Unlock the Secret Language of Connection. And this book is so important. It’s important for a couple of reasons. As leaders, we’re constantly trying to communicate. We talk a lot, whether we communicate or not is the subject of the book, and we’ll talk about that in just a minute. But the other reason this is so important is because of what’s going on in our nation right now. And I don’t know if you’re going to want to talk about that or not, but it appears that there’s way more accusing than listening, more attempts to convince than to converse. So anyway, this is going to be a fascinating conversation. So again, we’re so glad that you’re here.

Charles Duhigg (01:27):
It’s always such a treat to get a chance to talk with you. So thank you

Andy Stanley (01:29):
For Well, it’s been too long. It’s true. So what’s obvious to anyone who knows you is that you actually communicate for a living. And so nobody should be surprised that you actually wrote a book about communication. But this is not a book about talking or writing to people. This is different. In fact, this is better. This is about conversation, and I didn’t warn you about this ahead of time, but I was going to begin with the question that you probably always get at the beginning of an interview about one of your books. It’s like the lamest question, Charles, what led you to write this book? So we’re going to dispense with that. What I’d like to do is I would like to actually read a portion of your book to you where I think you explain in an extraordinary way why you wrote the book. And to some extent, I think what you wrote is an illustration of what this book is about. So if it’s okay with you, I would like to read a couple of paragraphs, really three paragraphs of your book to you. Oh,

Charles Duhigg (02:26):
Please do. I love that.

Andy Stanley (02:28):
Here we go. Here’s what you wrote at the end. And this is in the afterwards. So this is at the very end of the book, which honestly I almost skipped because I think most of us skipped the conclusions of this. But anyway, here’s what you wrote. You write, so one night, and I know this sounds strange, I sat down and scribbled out a list of all the times over the last year that I could remember screwing up a conversation. Charles, who does that? Right? Then you said, I wrote down the times when I had only half listened to my wife when I had failed to empathize with coworkers as they told me something vulnerable when had ignored a good idea because I had already decided to follow my own notions. All those meals I had spent talking about myself instead of about others, the times.

And then you put in parentheses, it shames me to say the times when I told my kids to please stop asking me stuff so I could get some work done and then you write. But writing all of that out forced me to confront some hard questions. Why was it that at times I had so much trouble hearing what someone else was trying to tell me? Why was I so quick to get defensive or to glide past the emotions people were clearly trying to share? And then I skipped a couple of pages, and I’ll close with this. You write, how was it possible that someone who has been communicating my whole life could still get it so wrong? This book is the result of that journey that so humanized everything in this book, Charles, so could we begin by you just responding to that for a minute?

Charles Duhigg (03:59):
Yeah. And it’s really heartfelt and thank you for reading that. It sounds even better coming out of your mouth than it did out of my fingers. Yeah. I was working at the New York Times a couple of years ago before the pandemic, and they made me a manager and I thought I would be a great manager. I’ve had managers my whole life. I have a fancy MBA from a business school, and I was good at the logistics part and the strategy part, and I was terrible at the communication part and I couldn’t figure out why. I think a lot of us are asking why are we bad at communication? We thought we were good at this stuff. The moments we are proudest of in this country are moments like the constitutional convention when people came together who disagreed with each other, some of whom hated each other, and they had conversations and arguments for three and a half months, and then they wrote a constitution together. That’s when we’re at our best as a nation. That’s when we’re at our best as people. When I can sit down with neighbors and even if we have some disagreements, we can connect with each other or I can sit down with coworkers and I can really hear what they’re trying to tell me. And I wanted to understand why are we sometimes so good at this and at other times so bad at it?

Andy Stanley (05:11):
And to think about the fact that they stayed essentially in the same room for three months. Their lives are at risk and they just refuse to quit. They refuse to walk away, they refuse to capitulate, and they found compromises that created a nation. And I know this is so irrelevant in our discussion, but as someone who has started an organization that’s so hard, start hard to start an organization. Imagine starting a country. I mean, it’s just nobody. You don’t get to start a country. And again, there were so much disagreement. We see the pictures and think, oh, they were all on the same page, agreed about everything. Absolutely not. So we know there’s a way forward, and that’s what this book is about. So effective communication, again, we’re a leadership podcast. It’s so important for leaders, but it tends to be for leaders kind of top down.

When the boss, I mean, I know this for me, I have to be so careful when I start talking, everybody stops talking and they lean in and I know they’re all having imaginary conversations or conversations in their mind about what I’m saying. And now we’re negotiating because there’s not equity. I’m the boss. My words as my assistant, Diane Grant reminds me, Andy, your words weigh 500 pounds. Your words aren’t equal with everybody else’s, not because I’m great, I’m just the boss. So as leaders, whether you’re managing three people or 300 people, your words weigh so much. And again, there’s inequity because of the position. And so it’s even more difficult to actually communic. It’s easy to talk, but it’s more difficult to communicate. Have you seen that dynamic? I mean, apparently you did in your own situation. Talk a little bit about the whole leader

Charles Duhigg (06:51):
Thing, but also as a business reporter and as a business person. The thing that I find is that when I talk to the best CEOs like yourself, inevitably what they say is they say, my job is to be a communicator. I can’t make all the decisions myself. I can’t do all the work myself. My job is to elucidate our vision to bring people together. But that doesn’t mean that they’re a great lecturer. That doesn’t mean that they’re a great monologue. That means that they’re a great communicator. And communication is about back and forth. Communication is about listening. As much as we’re speaking, it’s about showing someone that we’re listening. It’s about asking the right kinds of questions. And you’re exactly right that when you’re the boss, there are so many things in place to nudge you to monologue. And there are so many things in place to stop people from challenging you and to make it hard to listen. But what we’ve learned from science is that there’s these skills that we can practice that are brains actually making habits very, very quickly, that make it more natural and more automatic to have a conversation instead of these dueling monologues.

Andy Stanley (07:55):
And your personal experience drove you to figure this out because you felt like you weren’t getting it right even at home.

Charles Duhigg (08:01):
That’s exactly right. So I got into this bad pattern with my wife, and we’ve been married for 20 years where I’d come home from work and I would start complaining about my day. And she would offer this really good advice, why don’t you take your boss out to lunch and get to know each other a little bit better? And instead of being able to hear her, I would get even more upset and I’d say, why aren’t you supporting me? You’re supposed to be outraged on my behalf. She would get upset that I was attacking her for giving me good advice. I think everyone listening has had this experience at home, right? Sometimes you’re on the other side of it both ways. Yes. And so I went to researchers and I asked them, what’s going on here? Why am I having trouble at work? Why am I having trouble at home?

And what they said is said, well, listen, we’re actually living through this golden age of understanding communication really for the first time because of advances in neural imaging and data collection. We can see what’s happening inside your brain when you talk to another person. And what we’ve learned is one big thing, which is we tend to think of a discussion as being about one thing, right? We’re talking about my day, the kids’ grades or a passage that we want to understand better. But actually every conversation is made up of multiple kinds of conversations. And in general, these kinds of conversations, they tend to fall into one of three buckets. There’s these practical conversations where we’re talking about plans or solving problems, but then there’s emotional conversations where I might tell you what I’m feeling and I don’t want you to solve my feelings. I want you to empathize.

And then there’s social conversations, which is about how we relate to each other in society and the identities that are important to us. And what they said is, what we’ve learned is all those conversations are legitimate, but if you’re not having the same kind of conversation at the same moment, what within psychology is known as the matching principle, you’re not going to be able to hear each other. You’re not going to be able to connect with each other. It’s going to feel like you’re two ships passing in the night. And for me, that’s been revelatory because it now introduces and invites me to pay attention to what kind of conversation is happening as much as I’m listening to the words coming out of someone’s mouth.

Andy Stanley (09:55):
One of the great things about your books, Charles, is you aren’t this topic or subject expert, but you have an uncanny ability to go out into the broad world and bring all that information that the rest of us don’t have time to go find and to boil it down to bite-sized chunks that are so applicable. And so in the book, you take everything you just said that most of us don’t understand, and perhaps you didn’t understand the first time it was explained to you either, but you boil it down to these four rules and you actually just touched on all four real quickly as it relates to the kinds of conversations that are going on. So can you list those and then maybe we can unpack those because absolutely. As I read this in the book, again, I did what you did. I’m rehearsing conversations that would’ve gone better if only, and especially around the whole idea of the identity thing, which is number four, that was so convicting to me. There are people I’ve worked with for years and years and years, and I just haven’t even been curious about that side of their life. And that’s, I’m a pastor, I’m supposed to just know how to do this right or do it intuitively. Anyway, so I’m getting ahead of myself. So those four rules real quick.

Charles Duhigg (11:05):
Yeah, let’s go through them one by one, and I’d love to hear your experiences. I think you’ve experimented with these in a lot of ways. Okay. So the first rule is to figure out what kind of conversation we’re having. Is this an emotional conversation, practical conversation, a social conversation? And one of the easiest ways to do that is to ask questions, particularly a certain kind of question. So when researchers have looked at super communicators, and we’re all super communicators at one time or another, but consistent super communicators, people can connect with anyone. What they found is that on average, they ask 10 to 20 times as many questions as the average person. And some of those questions are what are known as deep questions. And a deep question is something that invites us to talk about our values or beliefs or our experiences. And that can sound a little intimidating, but it’s actually as simple as if you bump into someone and they’re a doctor, you could ask them, where do you practice medicine?

Or you could ask them a deep question, what made you decide to go to medical school? Or what do you love about practicing medicine? Did you always want to be a doctor? And the reason why I question that is deep, and it’s easy to ask, right? That’s not probing or intrusive, but the reason why that question is deep is because it invites this other person to tell you something real about who they are. If I asked you what made you decide to become a pastor, you’d probably start talking about your dad and you’d start talking about the role of faith in your life. You would tell me so much about who you are. I’m just guessing you can tell me if I’m getting this wrong.

Andy Stanley (12:38):
No, well, that’s a better question than what do you like about being a pastor or those kind of general, let’s keep it up there. But that question takes you into the backstory of my life story. And most people like to talk about their story. And one of the things we have learned in what we do, Charles, is very few people ever have an opportunity to tell their story. And we have an environment called starting point for people who are starting a faith journey. And the first thing we do is we let people tell their story. And we’ve discovered no one’s ever asked them about that before. And in a matter of one meeting, 10 strangers bond within an hour and a half. It’s like, because to your point, there’s been a conversation that’s gone beyond just the facts. Keep going. I don’t want to

Charles Duhigg (13:27):
Interrupt. No, no. And it’s magical, isn’t it? It is. It’s that feeling you get from a great conversation. Our brains crave connection. They crave conversation. If you think about communication has been homo sapiens superpower. The reason why our species has done so well is because we can build families and communities and churches and towns. It’s because we can share knowledge with each other by not having to experience the learning, but just describing it. And so communication is our superpower, and our brains have become very finely tuned to be good at communication. We’re able to talk to most of the people we bump into sort of amazingly

Andy Stanley (14:07):
At some level. So the first rule is pay attention. And what I wrote down is pay attention to what kind of conversation is occurring, whether it’s practical, emotional, social. So identifying that. And in the book you tease out these categories. There’s so much there. The second rule was I pushed back on this, to be honest, this seemed a little intrusive. The whole idea of sharing, the way I wrote it down is share your goals about what the goals of the conversation are and ask what others are seeking. Talk a little bit about that.

Charles Duhigg (14:37):
So it can sound a little formulaic when we put it that way, right? It does. Yeah. It sounds like we’re sitting down for a business negotiation, but we actually do this all the time. Sometimes we see someone and we’re like, Hey man, I want to catch up with you. What’s been going on? So when we say that we’re announcing our goal, I don’t have an agenda, I just want to catch up with you.

Andy Stanley (14:56):
So the goal isn’t an agenda.

Charles Duhigg (14:58):
The goal is just to share. Here’s what this conversation means to me. And I want to know what would make this conversation a success for you. And what’s really interesting is there was an experiment that was done by some researchers at Harvard Business School where they told a bunch of students, okay, you’re going to go have a conversation with a stranger, which is one of the most anxiety producing things we can tell someone to do. And they said, before you do this, take seven seconds, just seven seconds and write down three topics you might want to talk about. Have you seen any good movies lately? Are you going to the game this weekend? And students did this, seven seconds, wrote these three things down. They sent them off to have the conversations, and then they asked ’em afterwards, how’d it go? And what the students said was those things I wrote down, they almost never came up.

But the conversation, I felt so much more comfortable and relaxed in the conversation. It went so much better than I was worried it was going to go. And it’s because I knew that I didn’t have to feel anxious because I had this stuff in my pocket. If there was an awkward science, there was something to fall back on. But it’s also, they had tried to figure out, what do I want from this conversation? If I’m talking to a stranger, what’s going to make that feel like a success for me? And we can all do that before we come home and we have a discussion with our wife or our kids at work. When we’re walking into the meeting, we can take seven seconds and say, what do I hope to learn in this meeting? And what do I hope to share with others?

Andy Stanley (16:20):
So this isn’t necessarily something you tell the other person. Is this just something you get clear in your head or,

Charles Duhigg (16:25):
I mean, sometimes you walk into that meeting and you say like, look, the point of this meeting is for us to discuss next year’s budget. I know what you want and does that work for you? Sure. But sometimes that’s a little awkward. Sometimes we don’t need to announce it. Simply knowing it in our own head, knowing I’m going into this meeting and my goal is I want to convince Jim to stay in this job, but I don’t want him to feel pressured. If I have elucidated that to myself, and then I walk in and I say, Jim, tell me what’s going on with you. We have 30 minutes together. Where are you hoping we get in this discussion?

Andy Stanley (16:59):
If it’s clear here, then I’m going to stay on that track. And so lemme tell you what comes to mind, and I dunno if you can relate to this, and I’m sure I did this to my kids. I would try not to because it was so paralyzing. When my dad would do it, he’d say, Andy, I need to talk to you about something. Well, he needed to tell me the topic, announce the he needed to do. Number two, share your goals for this conversation because what does every kid think when their dad says that I’m in trouble, I’m in trouble. I’m thinking back of what did he find out? How long has he known? So again, that’s kind of an exaggeration of this dynamic, but for so many people, just being upfront about that, just the temperature comes down. So that’s number two. Then number three, this is something I learned about years ago and I feel so fortunate, and it was in a seminar actually. So this was a developed skill, the whole idea, ask about others’ feelings and then share your own. So this is the emotional rule. Talk a little bit about

Charles Duhigg (17:54):
That. And the thing is, emotions influence every one of our conversations, whether we acknowledge them or not, when we’re talking to each other, the fact that I like you so much and I want you to like me, and that it’s been a while since we’ve seen each other. There are these emotions that influence every conversation, particularly in a conflict conversation, particularly when we’re disagreeing with each other, particularly when there’s some tension. Not acknowledging those feelings does not make them mean that they go away. It just means that they show up in ways that you’re not planning on and that you’re not choosing. And so very often it’s important in a conversation to ask a question, how did that make you feel? When your dad would say that to you? How would that make you feel? Or we haven’t caught up for in a long time.

I’m just wondering. I miss you. It’s good to talk to you. When we introduce our own emotions and we invite others to talk about theirs, one of two things happens. Either those emotions are really positive and it gives us something to connect with each other on, or the emotions are negative, in which case voicing them helps us set them aside. If I’m angry at you, if I’m anxious, if I’m scared of what you’re going to say, if I get to say that to you, if I could say, dad, the way that you asked me to have this conversation made me really, really worried, now I can set that worry aside a little bit and we can really connect with each

Andy Stanley (19:17):
Other. Well, in his case, that case, I would always say the same thing. Am I in trouble? That’s the first thing I would say, am I in trouble? And then he would look at me. What kind of dad am I? I just want to talk to you and you think you’re in trouble. But again, well, because there’s not, and this goes back to the leadership thing, there’s not equity. We’re not peers. We’re not friends. You’re holding all the cards. I’m 14. So I think for leaders listening, because the pushback on this one, and again, we’re skipping along the surface, there’s so much in the book about all of these is, okay, in the marketplace, we don’t really talk about emotions. We deal with facts and numbers and progress and goals, and did you or didn’t you? But if you’re going to have a long-term, even business relationship with somebody or corporate relationship with somebody, if you don’t engage in this at some level, well first you’re not going to get out of people. You’re going to get their hands, never their heart to just use them old language. And it’s not a matter of being manipulative. What it says is, I genuinely care. I care past the numbers. I care past the performance. I care past all that.

Charles Duhigg (20:20):
I want to know who you are.

Andy Stanley (20:22):
Exactly. Yes. And that’s more comfortable for some people than others. But one of the things you talk about in the book, and you implied it here, is oftentimes it needs to start with, it’s weird to say, tell me how you’re feeling about, that’s not a good intro. I’ve got to be vulnerable before I ask you to be vulnerable. Otherwise, it’s just a little bit awkward. And that’s a learned skill, empathetically,

Charles Duhigg (20:48):
It’s a totally learned skill. And again, our brain is very good at making these into habits. Once we know the skill exists and we practice it just a little bit. One of my favorite examples, I was in a meeting a couple months ago, and you know how before a meeting starts, you’re just kind of chewing the fat with a guy next to you? And I asked him, oh, how was your weekend? And he said, oh, it was great. I went to my kid’s graduation. It was really fantastic. And the most natural thing to do would’ve been to say, oh, congratulations. And now let’s get down to business. Here’s the agenda. But instead, what I did is I tried to match and I said, oh, man, I actually, I think about my kid’s graduation and it makes me really excited, but it’s also a little sad they’re going to leave home. I’m just wondering, what did it feel like to you watching your kid walk across

Andy Stanley (21:30):
That stage? See, that’s a great example. Yes.

Charles Duhigg (21:33):
And that’s not probing, that’s not too intrusive. That feels very natural. But what I’m saying is I’m saying, I recognize that you have an emotional life and I want to know about it because I want to know who you are. It’s where that comes from that really makes us understand each other.

Andy Stanley (21:49):
And some people are so good at this, the rest of us, it’s a learned skill.

Charles Duhigg (21:54):
I think for those people who aren’t good at it, it’s also learned for them. One of the interesting things is when I started writing this book, I assumed that super communicators are going to be people who are really charismatic, people who are extroverts. And it turns out that’s not right at all. It’s basically anyone can become a super communicator. It’s just a set of skills that we learn. And when you talk to those people who are consistent super communicators who can do it with almost anyone, and you ask them, have you always been good at this? What they often say is, no. In high school, I had real trouble making friends. I had to study how kids talk to each other, or my parents got divorced and I had to be the peacemaker between them. In other words, what they’re saying is there was a time in my life I had to think about communication just a little bit more. And it’s that thinking about communication that makes us good at it.

Andy Stanley (22:36):
Wow. Alright. Number four. The way I wrote it is explore if identities are important to the discussion, and they’re always important to the discussion. I think this is complicated. I think it’s so rich. Talk a little bit about this whole issue of identities, because this could have been a whole book. I think

Charles Duhigg (22:54):
I totally agree, and you’re right. It is complicated, particularly now, it almost feels like talking about identities is like kryptonite. And yet we know that it’s not only our similarities that bring us together, it’s also our differences. The reason I enjoy talking to you is that you do see things a little bit differently than me, and that’s interesting to me. And if I came into this conversation and I didn’t say, Andy, I know that you’re a man of faith and I have less of a faith practice or someone you’re talking to, you’re black and I’m white, and you probably see some things in our city differently, and I’m kind of curious about that. I want to learn about that. When we acknowledge our differences, as much as we acknowledge our similarities, what we’re doing is we’re setting ourselves up to have more robust conversations to really learn who the other person is.

Now, there’s some pitholes here, right? You got to be careful about this stuff. For one thing, you don’t want to talk about just one identity. If I say to someone, oh, you’re the black guy, or you’re the woman, or you’re the pastor. So what I’m doing is I’m pushing you into a stereotype, and it’s probably a stereotype that doesn’t feel good to you. You are so much more than a pastor. You’re a pastor, you’re a father, you’re a son, you’re a business leader. You are someone who invests in the community. If I say, Andy, I’m wondering, let’s take policing. You probably have some thoughts on policing in Atlanta as a pastor, but as a business leader, you probably see it from a slightly different perspective. And as a father, you probably think about this a little bit different. I’m wondering, when we invite all those identities to the table, how do you think about this? Now, what I’m doing is I’m saying, show me the multitudes you contain, and we all contain those multitudes.

Andy Stanley (24:41):
Reading this section was so convicting because when you meet people in a corporate environment, they’ve done an interview, so they’ve presented one facet of themselves to some extent. Then they come to work for you, and they have a job description, and then there’s performance reports. If I’m not careful, if we’re not careful, it just stays and they’re just in that box. And then one day you walk out of the parking lot and you see what they’re driving and suddenly even, oh, they have a car. They’re real. They’re going home. Or they mentioned something about their children. It’s like, oh, yeah, she’s a mom. It sounds so trite, but learning or disciplining ourselves or creating the habit of moving the conversations past the why we’re here initially to those multitude of identities. Because the other thing too, in Christian world, we get caught up in, we talk about an identity, and that’s incorrect.

We all have multiple identities. And to bring that into the context of conversation, just quick little anecdote, and I think I’ve shared this before on our podcast, I don’t even know what the context was, but Sandra’s my wife for me, she’s wife and was girlfriend and wife and best friend. The most emotional moment almost of her life was when her dad walked down. We just had her first child, and she’s holding Andrew, she’s feeding him. Her dad comes downstairs and watches her feeding Andrew. And he says to her, and she still gets emotional. Her dad says to her, you’re a great mom.

Well, what he did in that moment, she is primarily his daughter. He recognized one of her identities and hearing her father recognized that, again, we’re multiple identities. That story has reminded me, and I just try to keep it front and center, that everybody I’m coming into contact with, there are layers of identities. And if I truly love them and care them and want the best for them, I can’t do that. Well, if I’m not at least curious and acknowledge what’s obvious in terms of multiple identities, and at the same time explore and get enough information to where I can appreciate those things anyway. And

Charles Duhigg (26:57):
I’m sure Sandra felt so seen by her dad such a deep and meaningful to

Andy Stanley (27:02):
This day, and that was 30 years ago. It’s still an emotional, yeah, yeah. Well,

Charles Duhigg (27:08):
And it’s interesting because when we think about business, and I think every leader listening probably feels this in one way or another, that our goal as a leader is not only to be a communicator, our goal is to make our exchanges with folks not transactional. It’s so easy. It’s so easy to fall into that you’re an employee. I’m paying you X number of dollars per hour. I want eight hours a day out of you. We all know that we don’t do our best work or give our best work when it feels like a transaction. And so how do we get beyond that transaction? The way we do is by saying to the other person, I see you as more than just my employee. I want to understand who you are. Because the truth of the matter is that the value you bring to this company is not just your labor. The value you bring is your experiences and perspectives. And if I don’t invite that and unlock that, I’m robbing myself

Andy Stanley (28:00):
Right now, all of this, okay, if I can just play devil’s advocate for a minute, which is a pastor, I’m never supposed to play that role, but I will for just a minute. So I don’t think anybody listening to this would argue like, oh, that’s ridiculous. The pushback is Wait, wait, wait. How in the world do I keep all of this? Wait, do I need to walk around with the list? So now that you’ve kind of teased those four out, how does this actually work? Or how do you catalog this? Or as you approach a situation, do you have some tips for keeping these four things front and center? That would be so helpful.

Charles Duhigg (28:34):
And I think the key is because you’re exactly right, it can feel like a lot, right? And you don’t have to do all of this at once. You don’t have to do it in every conversation. That’s why I think it’s making it into skills is so important. And I think there’s just three basic skills that if somebody learns them, it’s going to set off a chain reaction that lets them do all of this. Oh, good. The first one is just listen a little bit more for when people tell you what kind of conversation they want. If I say this something emotional, if I say, I saw my kid graduate this weekend asking that emotional question, what did that feel like? That’s going to let us have an emotional conversation. So you’re not going to get it right every time. And that’s okay. And you don’t have to remember every time, but just whenever you’re listening, just say like, is this person in a practical state of mind or a social state of mind or an emotional state of mind?

That’s first skill, second skill. Those deep questions, if you ask deep questions, you’re 90% of the way there because you are asking questions of people that allows them, invites them to tell you who they really are, and your instincts are going to take over. You’re going to ask a follow-up question. You’re going to share something about yourself. We all know how to have real conversations. It’s hardwired into our, and we often trigger it with a deep question. And then the third skill is sometimes we need to prove that we’re listening, particularly in a tense conversation. Particularly in a conflict conversation. There is a suspicion in the back of my head as I’m arguing with you, you’re not actually listening to me. You’re waiting for your turn to stop. I’m

Andy Stanley (30:02):
Waiting. Yeah, exactly. Exactly,

Charles Duhigg (30:04):
Exactly. And you think the same thing about me, right?

Andy Stanley (30:06):
Well, we’ve all done it, right? We’ve all done it. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever my turn. Yeah.

Charles Duhigg (30:11):
And so what we have to do is we have to prove that we’re listening. And that’s not in our behavior while someone is speaking, that’s in our behavior after they finish speaking. And there’s this technique that I love, particularly for conflict conversations that’s known as looping for understanding. And it has these three steps. Step one is you ask a question, preferably a deep question. Step two is, once they answer the question, repeat back in your own words what you heard them say, but in your own words, don’t just mimic them, match them. Show them you’re processing this. And then step number three is ask if you got it right. And we often forget that third step, but it’s the most important one because what I’m doing when I ask you if I got it right, is I’m asking you, you might say, no, no, no, you actually missed the point I’m trying to make. Or you might say, what I’m really doing is I’m asking you permission to acknowledge that I’ve listened to you, and that’s going to make you so much more likely to listen to me in return. And if you just practice those three skills, again, you don’t have to do it every conversation. You don’t have to do it every day. But if you just practice them whenever occurs to you, your brain will make them into habits and you will find yourself almost automatically doing it without even thinking about it.

Andy Stanley (31:20):
Well, as we wrap up, I want to go back to the first one of those because I think if we get the first one right, the other two, I think they flow naturally from it. Those deep questions give us some more examples. And you can pick a relationship or a non-relationship because it’s how are you doing? Where are you from? Where’d you go to school? Yeah, me too. Wasn’t the game good? Surface, surface, surface, surface. Help us with that a little bit.

Charles Duhigg (31:43):
So here’s the rule to kind of remember. Don’t ask about the facts of someone’s life. Ask how they feel about their life. So there’s a guy named Nicholas Epley who’s a professor at the University of Chicago, and he studied this a lot. And he does this thing where he’ll get on a bus and he’ll sit next to a stranger, and his goal is to get to someone’s hopes and dreams within three questions. And so we’ll ask them like, what do you do for a living? Oh, I’m an accountant. Oh, did you always want to be an accountant? Is that what you dreamed of as a kid? Or where do you live? Oh, I live in the heights. Oh, I was just wondering, what do you love about living in the heights? What’s the thing that keeps you there? These are easy things to ask. They don’t seem awkward. They seem like a curious question. And yet, because I’m not asking you about the facts of your life, I’m asking how you feel about your life. I am inviting you to share. I’m not mandating that you share. It’s not an interrogation, but I’m inviting you to share something with me.

Andy Stanley (32:40):
And again, in organizational life, this is easy to do if we’ll just remember to do it and again, and then flowing from there and keeping the identity thing in mind. Anyway, there’s so much in this book, and I can understand why you sort of put your personal journey at the end of the book because the way the book is structured. But when I read that, I kind of thought, this makes you so human and as opposed to being an author, and there’s personal anecdotes and business and all this stuff, but when I read that, I thought, okay, you know what it did, it did for me what you’re teaching me to do. Suddenly you weren’t just an author, you weren’t just a great presenter. You weren’t just a business person who’s successful and written a lot of books. You’re somebody who struggled with communication with your wife, your children, friends. And I’m like, me too.

Charles Duhigg (33:31):

Andy Stanley (33:32):
There’s so many things we don’t know about each other, but it didn’t matter. Suddenly, there was so much common ground in that transparency I’m in. And we can all do that if we just stop to think about it.

Charles Duhigg (33:45):
Absolutely. Great. And to your point, and what you opened with about where the world is right now, the truth of the matter is, if I have a neighbor who puts a sign on his lawn for some candidate I don’t like, and I’ve got a different sign on my lawn, I don’t want to be an enemy of this guy. This is my neighbor, right? I want to be friends with this guy. And by the way, who we’re going to vote for is like half of 1% of what we spend our time thinking about. We have so much more in common. We both care about the sinkhole on the street. We both send our kids to the same school. When we learn to converse with people and we learn to connect with them, we all have differences, but we get beyond those differences.

Andy Stanley (34:25):
And there is common ground with everyone somewhere. Absolutely. If we’ll start looking for it, and once you know about somebody’s story, if I can kind of put on my pastor hat for a minute, I say to our folks all the time, the reason your heavenly father can forgive you regardless of what you’ve done, is because he knows your entire story.

And when you know someone’s entire story, you can find grace If all you know is what they’ve done, and you stop there, well, yeah, it’s easy not to like people, but when you hear a story, everybody has the same response. You go, oh, and now our humanity is on the front burner and we can make progress anyway. Well, Charles, unfortunately, that is all the time we have today. Thank you so much for being here. And to all of our listeners, we want to thank you for joining us and invite you to check out Charles brand new book, super Communicators, how to Unlock the Secret Language of Connection wherever Books are Sold. Also, be sure to visit andy, andy, where you can download the leadership podcast application guide that includes a summary of this discussion, plus questions for reflection or group discussion. And join us next week for our reverb episode where we will dig deeper on the topic of becoming a super communicator right here on the Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast.

Comments are closed.