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

I Beg to Differ

Navigating Difficult Conversations with Truth and Love

by Tim Muehlhoff
Foreword by Gregg Ten Elshof

I Beg to Differ
  • Length: 224 pages
  • Published: February 28, 2014
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: 8404
  • ISBN: 9780830884049

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How do we communicate with people who disagree with us?

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

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

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

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

Dennis Rainey, host, FamilyLife Today, founder and president, FamilyLife Ministries

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

Craig J. Hazen, founder and director of the Christian Apologetics Program at Biola University and author of Five Sacred Crossings

"Muehlhoff has given us an informed and accessible introduction to the art and science of communication in difficult situations. This book distills the theory of successful communication and offers the reader practical guidance for its application."

From the foreword by Gregg Ten Elshof, director, Center for Christian Thought

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

Chris Willard, director of generosity initiatives and premium service, Leadership Network, and coauthor of Contagious Generosity

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

J. P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Biola University, and coauthor of The God Conversation

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

Bob Lepine, cohost, FamilyLife Today

"Having worked in college ministry for over twenty years, we are always looking for resources to help people engage those with differing views on campus. With Tim Muehlhoff's help, even difficult conversations can foster understanding instead of driving a wedge."

Bob and Jill Fuhs, Cru staff, Los Angeles and Orange County

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

Julia T. Wood, Lineberger Distinguished Professor of Humanities, Emerita, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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

Chris Zaugg, executive director, Keynote (a ministry of Cru)

"In I Beg to Differ Tim Muehlhoff provides winsome strategies for moving positively through difficult relational scenarios by the power of dialogue. His holistic approach weds insightful communication principles with the foundational issues of credibility, confidence and spiritual enablement, offering informed wisdom to readers dealing with a broad swath of communication impasses. The payoff is genuine hope that peaceful resolutions are possible, even in our most troublesome and painful conversations, as we walk on a path of truth and love."

Dr. Jon and Pam Lunde

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

Jon Basalone, executive vice president, marketing and merchandising, Trader Joe's Company

"Whatever venture or calling you live, relationships are the lifeblood. If you have ever desired to engage others in an exciting endeavor or longed to experience rich, meaningful community, Tim Muehlhoff's insights are worth your time. If you have any desire to make a difference in this world, you must understand how to steward the power of words. There are insights here worth your time!"

Greg Lillestrand, US director, Cru

"Tim has the gift of taking profound insights based on solid scholarship and Scripture and making them easily understandable and practical. He exudes integrity in his own life and communication. I plan to study and apply the principles in this book!"

Roger Hershey, national speaker, Cru, and author of The Finishers

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

Bryan Loritts, lead pastor, Fellowship Memphis

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

Carol Taylor, president, Evangel University

"If we do nothing beyond listening with a sincere desire to understand our opponents and ask ourselves this question, it's possible we'll get farther than by pushing our own position too hard. In our rush to convince others that we're right and they're wrong about issues, we often run roughshod over relationships that could be vital to creating lasting change on issues about which we are passionate. I Beg to Differ is an excellent resource with helpful chapter summaries for easily bookmarking the many communication strategies it presents."

Christine A. Scheller, Sojourners, December 2014

"In his book, I Beg to Differ, Tim Muehlhoff provides an edifying foundation for navigating life's difficult conversations. Balanced with a healthy dosage of theoretical and practical insight into speech, communication and word choice, Muehlhoff peppers his book with solid scriptural support, realistic life examples and illustrations and insight from some of the leading scholars in the field of communication."

Kevin Carrigan, Mennonite Brethren Herald, December 27, 2014

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

Light Magazine, April 2014

"I Beg to Differ charts the course we are looking for. Considering the causes of conflict, the power of words, our emotions and the role of spiritual disciplines, Muehlhoff offers a four-question strategy that helps us engage any disagreement with gentle conversation. The book closes with three case studies, applying the strategy to real-life, potentially volatile situations. So insightful! Fans of Ken Sande's Peacemaker will love this. Recommend this book to everyone."

David Mundt, CBA Retailers + Resources, April 2014

"This book prepares all Christians to face many of the blunt questions that unbelievers pose to them. It's a good handbook for survival methods during evangelistic outreach work."

Church Libraries, Summer 2014


Table of Contents
Foreword by Gregg Ten Elshof

Part I: Understanding Communication
1. Reclaiming the Power of Words
2. What Causes Verbal Dams to Rupture?
3. Managing and Expressing Emotions in the Midst of Disagreement
4. Spiritual Disciplines: Power to Resolve Conflict

Part II: Organizing a Conversation
5. Question One: What Does this Person Believe?
6. Question Two: Why Does This Person Hold This Belief?
7. Question Three: Where do We Agree?
8. The Rule of Reciprocation: Why Steps One Through Three Work
9. Question Four: Based on All I?ve Learned, How Should I Proceed?

Part III: Putting it into Practice
10. Case Study One: Disagreeing about Finances
11. Case Study Two: Disagreeing over Religion in the Workplace
12. Case Study Three: Teens and Excessive use of Video Games

Name and Subject Index
Scripture Index


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Tim Muehlhoff

Tim Muehlhoff (PhD, University of North Carolina) is a professor of communication at Biola University in La Mirada, California; codirector of The Winsome Conviction Project; and a speaker and research consultant for the Center for Marriage and Relationships. His books include The God Conversation, I Beg to Differ,Winsome Conviction, and Winsome Persuasion, which received a 2018 Christianity Today book award in apologetics/evangelism.