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SPI 695: The Secrets to Working with Anyone with Michael Bungay Stanier

You go through a honeymoon phase with every person in your life — business partners, co-workers, and clients are no exception. These connections are critical to your success as an entrepreneur!

So what can you do to keep the spark alive in the boardroom and maintain the best possible version of your working relationships?

I’m excited because joining me today is Michael Bungay Stanier, bestselling author of The Coaching Habit. Along with his other books, this favorite of mine has massively impacted how we do business at SPI. (Listen in on our conversations in episodes 325 and 527 to learn more!)

Michael is back for an equally important session. His new book, How to Work with (Almost) Anyone, uncovers the one essential conversation and five powerful questions to help you master relationship-building.

In this episode, Michael shares why your most successful connections should be safe, vital, and repairable. He and I explore the value of knowing yourself, signals you should break off unhealthy relationships, and, believe it or not, screwing up as a way to increase customer loyalty.

Tune in because Michael’s advice will supercharge your communication skills and change how you show up for the people you work with!

Today’s Guest

Michael Bungay Stanier

Michael Bungay Stanier helps people know they’re awesome and they’re doing great. He’s best known for The Coaching Habit, the best-selling coaching book of the century and already recognized as a classic. His new book, How to Work with (Almost) Anyone, does what it says on the label. Michael was a Rhodes Scholar and dabbles in the ukulele. He’s Australian and lives in Toronto, Canada.

You’ll Learn


SPI 695: The Secrets to Working with Anyone with Michael Bungay Stanier

Michael Bungay Stainer: What is most powerful about having this type of conversation, is not actually the answers you get in the moment, as helpful as those are, what’s most powerful is that it gives permission to have another conversation about how it’s going.

I’ve actually somehow got more permission to actually say that to you now rather than see than resentment because you’re actually saying, this is the start of us continuing to fine tune the way we work together. It’s not a one and done thing. It’s actually a checking in.

Pat Flynn: Today we’re chatting with one of my favorite people, somebody who’s been on the show before. Somebody whose book has been absolutely life changing for me as a person who coaches others and as a parent. That book is called The Coaching Habit. Shout out to Chris Ducker, who is the one who referenced and offered that book to me.

But Michael Bungay Stainer is the person who I’m talking about today, and he’s back on because he’s got a new book, which is definitely gonna be life changing for several people as well, myself included. And it’s this book that’s about relationships, not just about relationships with your spouse or loved ones, which is important.

And Michael tells a very heartfelt story about the origin of this book related to that in his family, but really about the relationships that we have with our team, with the people around us, our colleagues, and trying to create the best possible relationship in that particular party, right? So let’s just get right into it.

Here he is, Michael Bungay Stainer. This is session 695 of Smart Passive Income podcast, and he and I had recently had lunch together to talk about each other’s books. Mine coming up in the very soon future, but Michael’s right now. Check it out. He’ll tell you about it. Where to get it. All that good stuff.

Here we go.

Announcer: You’re listening to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, a proud member of the Entrepreneur Podcast Network, a show that’s all about working hard now, so you can sit back and reap the benefits later. And now your host, one of his favorite documentaries is the making of the Disney Wish Cruise Ship. Pat Flynn.

Pat Flynn: Michael, welcome back to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, my friend. Thanks for being here.

Michael Bungay Stainer: Oh, Pat, it’s always a pleasure to be in your company. Thank you.

Pat Flynn: You know, your work has had a profound effect on, on my life, specifically. One of the last times you were on the show, you talked about your book, The Coaching Habit, and it really helped me define how to be a better, not just coach to my students here at SPI, but also a better father, really. To help them unlock the power that they have inside of themselves versus just what is the name of your second book, which is The Advice Trap, which is kind of where I was. So just thank you so much for, for your work there. Thank you. I know it’s had a profound effect on a lot of my listeners as well, so thank you.

Michael Bungay Stainer: That’s such a nice acknowledgement. I really appreciate it.

Pat Flynn: So, I’m curious, because your books always come from personal experiences, I find, and your new book, How to Work with Almost Anyone, I’m curious about the personal experiences that led you to write this book. It’s always really interesting to hear, hear these stories from you.

Michael Bungay Stainer: Yeah, you know, I find my books come from two sources. One is me just in how I manage my life, which is I get to a certain point and I go, what’s the next best project that I could be working on now? And you know, I’ve got all sorts of ideas for books and other things I can do. I’ve got that shiny object syndrome.

So I’m like, okay, of all the things I could do, what would most fulfill me? What would most contribute and make the world a better place? And so in some ways it’s just that process, which is me choosing to write the book cuz this is the best thing I can think of to do with my time and my energy right now and my resources.

But you’re right, there’s a, there’s an origin for this story and it starts with being taught by a man called Peter Block, who’s one of the great thinkers in management and, and how we work in organizations and teaching me something called the social contract, which is like, let’s actually have a conversation about how we work together before we work together.

But it’s real origin, Pat, came a couple of years ago when my dad was dying. And I was back in Australia to be with my parents and dad had survived a scary moment in the hospital where we thought he was going to die and he got back to the house, which was a great victory, but he was mostly bedbound. And I was living in the house with mom and dad as my childhood house.

So there’s all sorts of stuff I probably need to see a therapist about as a 55 year old going back into my childhood bedroom. But I noticed mom and dad, we’re pretty snarky with each other. Just, you know, they have such a deep and really powerful 55 year old relationship, but they were sniping at each other and no wonder, right?

It was like the most stressful situation, plus the dynamic of how they had operated as this really successful couple for all those decades had shifted in a really profound way and sort of seized my courage. I went, can I see if we can have a conversation between the two of you around how you’d like to be together over these remaining weeks and maybe months of dad’s life?

Because I want it to be the best it can be for dad, and I want it to be the best it can be for mom, and the relationship is under stress. Let’s talk about how we wanna be with each other and how you two want to be with each other so that you have the best chance of rising to the challenge and doing as, as, as good a job as you can.

And Pat, they were so reluctant to have this conversation, almost as reluctant as I was to try and facilitate it. Cause I’m like, this sounds, this is like, ah, I’m, I’m in deep waters here. I don’t know what I’m doing really. But eventually dad kind of went, I think we should do it. And mom went, okay, I don’t, I really don’t wanna do it, but I’ll give it a shot.

And they did such a good job. And it was such a kind of connection around, let’s talk about this. Let’s not talk about what you want to eat or how we’re gonna manage your oxygen tanks, or whether the bed’s comfortable. Let’s talk about how you wanna be together. And in some ways, that became the engine for this next book, which is like, there’s something really powerful about a conversation about how to be together rather than what to do together. And that’s the, the engine in this new book.

Pat Flynn: Yeah. Wow. There’s a lot to unpack there. First of all, thank you for sharing that. Number one, when a couple gets together, business partners or life partners, right? They perhaps evolve and change and, and these conversations need to continue to happen.

I mean, perhaps there was an understanding in sort of stage one of the relationship, but then as it enters into these different stages, you know, thoughts, goals, dreams, wants problems, concerns change, and I think having a structure of how to have those conversations is important. Cuz I’ve, you know, seen it many times where people grow apart because they just don’t have a forum to, to discuss these things.

And you know, in business a lot of people get into business before even understanding what the other person wants.

Michael Bungay Stainer: And, and, or understanding anything. If they’re like me, I’m like, I don’t know anything about business or relationships, what am I doing?

Pat Flynn: Right? Right. Or the goal is the same, right? Like, let’s make a business that that rocks.

But then the two people have different approaches or have different goals and one wants to sell the other doesn’t, or, or, you know, there’s a lot to unpack here, so I appreciate that this stems from something personal, because it should always feel personal when it comes to who you talk to and, and how you relate to them.

But correct me if I’m wrong, that like step one is really like I, let’s both be open to having these conversations and, and, and how do you get a person over that reluctancy to have these conversations?

Michael Bungay Stainer: Well, in some ways it’s to say to the, the people listening who pick this up and think it might be a good idea, is to be the brave person who says, let’s have a conversation about how we’re gonna work together rather than what we should be working on.

Because it is a really safe bet that somewhere down the line, the working relationship’s gonna go off the rails. I talk about working relationships because that’s kind of the framework for the book. This stuff has deep roots in all relationships, so this is kind of a, a good human being skill, not just a work partner skill.

But you know, if you’re founding a company or working with somebody you’ll have a, a great honeymoon period where you’re like, this is so exciting. And then something will go wrong, something will go south. If you’ve got somebody on your team, you’re gonna, like, we love working with each other, or at least we, it’s good, it’s solid, and then something will go wrong if you have a great customer and you’re like, this is a great customer, and then something will go wrong.

So who’s gonna be brave enough to say I care enough about quality and the importance of this relationship to actively manage it rather than just cross my fingers and hope for the best. So the starting point, forget hoping the other person’s gonna be brave enough. It’s like, start with you and go, am I going to be brave enough to say the quality of the working relationship matters to me?

Cause I can, I can tell that when it’s good. I feel good. I feel successful and happy. And when it’s bad, it’s like, it, it is a diminishing experience. How will I take responsibility for that?

Pat Flynn: I, I, I feel that for sure. Why is it a brave thing to have a conversation? Why are we so scared of, of doing that? What are the, what are the stories we’re telling ourselves before we have that conversation that might stop us from doing so?

Michael Bungay Stainer: Well, I think two things, Pat, it’s such a good question as well. One is it’s just an unusual conversation. So part of the bravery that’s sometimes required is like, I don’t quite know how to do this. It’s not like this is something that I do regularly. You know, having been practicing it in some way or another for 30 years, it does get better and it does get easier.

It does get less kind of awkward, but certainly when you start off you’re like, I haven’t done this very often, but there’s also a double twist of vulnerability that’s involved care. The first is, first act of vulnerability is actually holding up a mirror and going, who am I? What do I care about? What is good for me?

What is bad for me? So it, it is, it asks if you a degree of self-knowledge and you know, and in the book there’s actually exercises to help you deepen and get more nuanced and more subtle about how you talk about, you know, what it looks like when things are going well for you and what it looks like when things are not going well for you.

But then there’s this bravery, vulnerability in saying some of that out loud and asking for what you want. Now, a deep part of the work I do, Pat, is about helping people build adult to adult relationships with the people with whom they work. You know, work has this force that often diminishes and sometimes infantilizes working relationships gets you kind of kicked into a dysfunctional relationship.

I want to try and balance that out, adult to adult relationships and the engine of an adult to adult relationship is asking for what you want. Knowing that the answer may be no. And so when you ask that there is this degree of vulnerability in there as well, I think.

Pat Flynn: How do you make it not feel like if, if, if you’re gonna step up and be the brave person because you really care about this and you, you want to fix it or, or, or work together to fix it, at least how do you make it not feel like an interrogation or like an intervention, if you will?

Michael Bungay Stainer: Yeah. Well, I think the, the essence. Is that you ask and you answer questions. It is an equal exchange of information. So, you know, Peter Block years ago called it a social contract. I didn’t love that language because it feels a bit cold and a bit abstract. I’m not sure what it means. And if I say, how do you build the best possible relationship, that feels a bit more tangible to me.

But the power of the, the word contract. Is that a contract in business is an exchange of value. If you’re gonna give me this, I’m gonna give you that. Whether that’s time or money, or a product or a service, whatever it might be. You agree that this is an equal exchange. This only works if there’s an equal exchange of information.

So when I ask you, Pat, for instance, like the good day question, which is, you know, what can we learn from successful past relationships? And you tell me like, you know, I had this great working relationship, great. Jay taught me this. Jay taught me that. It flourished because of whatever. If I don’t then give you, well, let me tell you what I learned from my past successful working relationships, it feels more like an interrogation. It needs to be a sense that we are co-creating our shared definition of what a best possible relationship could be.

Pat Flynn: That’s a beautiful answer. Now, what I love about your book is it’s. About these questions that are brought up and it’s very, The Coaching Habit, if you will, in its style of teaching, which is through asking questions to discover the answers for yourself.

So, can you guide us through these questions and, and help us understand why those questions work so well to help us have a better relationship?

Michael Bungay Stainer: Of course. Let me start, Pat, by framing what I mean by best possible relationship. So it’s like, let’s, let’s kind of define our terms. What are we even talking about?

I think a best possible relationship has three key attributes to it. It needs to be safe, it needs to be vital, and it needs to be repairable. So, safe, we probably heard a bit about, you know, Amy Edmondson is the, the OG of psychological safety and she’s all about, you know, it creates safety in your teams, in your organization.

People will be willing to say stuff that might feel a bit risky. People will be willing to show up in a way that is a more fulsome representation of who they are. And you know, when I’ve been talking to people about this, most people have hurt about psychological safety. Most people have some thoughts and kind of make some effort towards psychological safety.

So that’s great. That’s a great place to start. The second attribute is, is this vital? And part of what I like about the word vital is it has those two meanings. Vital meaning essential, but vital also meaning full of life, enliven, you know, full of adventure. You know, for me, a, a vital relationship is one that pushes me, challenges me, has a sense of fun and adventure to it, makes me step out to the edge of what I know and who I am and what I can do.

You know, that kind of like makes the heartbeat a little faster and safe and vital aren’t A plus B, they actually exist in tension with each other. You know, there’s a way that you can imagine a relationship that is very safe, but has lost the spark. And you can also imagine relationship that is, you know, full of danger and adventure.

But if it goes wrong at all, it breaks, it’s brittle because it doesn’t have that safety. So if you and I were working on the best possible relationship together, Pat, we’d be going, what’s the combination of safety and vitality that you and I wanna have? We might have similar or different needs and we need to figure that out together.

And then the third attribute of the three is repairability. This came from kinda reading some of the great writers about more general relationships, people like Esther Perel, people like Dan Siegel, people like Terry Real, people like John Gottman. And one of the things that became obvious in going through all of their work was, we’re not that good at repairing broken relationships. Often something gets dented or cracked or banged into torn, and we throw off our hands a little bit and go, ah, see, this just proves that. And you know, the good news is I think relationships have a degree of being self-healing over time. You know, a combination of time and bad memory and necessity, but they don’t always repair back.

They don’t knit back together completely. They, they, they still remain a little damaged. And this ability to say, what if we could more actively repair this just as in business, you know, that one of the paradoxes of businesses, if you screw up with a customer, but then you do a really good job at making it good with them, that customer becomes more loyal to you. Is one of the paradoxes. Yeah. Customers are more loyal if you’ve screwed it up and then you’ve gone over the top to fix that rather than you’ve just delivered consistently good, you know, customer service to them.

Pat Flynn: I remember reading studies like hotel feedback studies about that.

It is strange, but that makes sense.

Michael Bungay Stainer: It’s weird, but in like, you know, it’s one of those things where’s like, if you can figure out how to minor, do minor, deliberate screw ups with people and then amaze them with how you solve it for them, yeah, you’re gonna actually generate increased customer loyalty. So the third piece says like, how do you repair it?

Because if you don’t just hope that it self heals, but actively repair it. There’s a way that this relationship not only gets back to where it was, but actually goes further and becomes deeper and, and more and stronger.

Pat Flynn: It almost becomes a, a filter, if you will, to both get on the same page with, and, and to have an understanding like almost ground rules for, for, yeah, you know, the relationship before these questions are even or even answered. Are there, are there any signals or anything that we need to pay attention to when building a relationship that might offer that maybe this isn’t the best relationship. Are there signals, you know, you know what I mean? Like, oh, well, the, like, I don’t feel safe here, or, you know, I don’t feel that this is a person that I want to, you know, continue to repair relationships with and maybe it’s best to break it off.

Michael Bungay Stainer: Yeah. I think that is the case sometimes. Sometimes you’re like, you know what this, yeah. You know that Woody Allen quote, I’m not sure if Woody Allen’s still somebody you can quote. But he’s funny and he goes, “Look, relationships are like sharks. They need to keep moving. This is a dead shark.” You know, sometimes you’re like, what you have in your head is a, is a dead shark. The concept in the book is this idea of a best possible relationship. And it’s a deliberately chosen phrase. It’s not the best relationship, it’s the best possible relationship because if you look at your current and past relationships, there’ll be a bell curve.

You’ll have a few at one end where you’re like, man, this is fantastic. This person, somehow we clicked. Somehow we elevated each ourselves. We just kind of were a really good partnership. And at the other end of the bell curve, you’re like, you know, there was always sand in the gears. You know, it was always a struggle.

And it wasn’t even that they were a terrible person or that I was a terrible person. We just couldn’t somehow make it click. We couldn’t kind of find a way of working. And then of course, most people are somewhere in the middle, solid, pretty good most of the time. Occasionally not that good. But wherever your relationship is on the bell curve, I think you can ask yourself what’s the best possible version of this relationship?

Because sometimes the answer is to walk away and say, you know, this doesn’t work for me and for us, so I’m gonna end it. But sometimes you don’t have that choice and then you’ve gotta go look with you, not a good relationship. What can I do to make it as good as it can be? So it goes from being bad to being less bad.

If you right in the middle, which is like, you’re perfectly okay, but you know, it’s like we’re both in sort of six outta 10 cruising through it. How do we take it from that to something a little more enlivening, a bit more exciting for both of us and for the brilliant ones, you’re like, how do we keep this as good as it is?

Because we can just hope that it stays shiny and bright and powerful and energizing, but actually what if we actively made that happen rather than just hope that the gods were gonna be on our sides. Yeah, that’s good. By the way Pat, I’m just celebrating your t-shirt. I know some people won’t see that cuz they’re listening to it, but you’ve actually got, we is greater than me, on the t-shirt, which I’m like, that is a perfect t-shirt for this particular conversation. So thank you for that.

Pat Flynn: It is a shout out to Stu McLaren who printed this shirt for his mastermind. I wear it all the time because it, I, I agree. It’s just a wonderful message for everything from the community-centric business we now have, but also just even the one-on-one relationships they need to have in sort of, in a two-way street.

And it’s about the, the collective whole. So what I’m hearing is that maybe in some cases, Like when we’re thinking about the relationships we have, especially with our employees or our coworkers or or colleagues, it doesn’t necessarily mean that everybody you have in your life needs to be your best friend that you’re going to Impossible, e, e, exactly. Exactly. But every relationship has a, a best outcome in, in, in a sense. And that’s what we’re trying to work toward here.

Michael Bungay Stainer: That’s right. And not just for a, oh, that’s gonna make us all feel happy, clappy and kind of warm and fuzzy. Because if you think about the very best working relationships you’ve had and the impact it’s had on you, it’s helped you be braver, it’s helped you be more courageous.

It’s helped you go further. It’s helped you felt more alive at work. And if you think about the worst working relationships that you’ve had to endure, you know that it’s made you lose your confidence, your sense of confidence, your sense of risk. There’s been a, a diminishment in who you are. It’s not insignificant.

You know, a way of thinking about this is that conversation between strategy and culture. You know, that’s saying culture eat strategy for breakfast. Well, strategies to work culture of the people. And what we’re talking about here is like, how do you make the people around you amplify the best of the work?

Because if the people and the relationships aren’t working, doesn’t matter about the work, you’re still gonna have your soul sucked out of you if it’s surrounded by people where you don’t have the best possible relationship, right?

Pat Flynn: And this is very much about, you know, building the best culture that you can.

So if you are a business owner, perhaps, I would definitely recommend not only do you read Michael’s book again, it’s called How to Work With Almost Anyone Available on Amazon. And is there a website that you wanna point people to as well or?

Michael Bungay Stainer: Yeah, thanks,

Pat Flynn: I like that

This might be good reading for your own employees so that we can all understand how to better work with each other and have conversations and such. And, and what I love about this is it’s not, you know, there’s a lot of things out there that help companies have a better culture and many of those things are great.

Sometimes they’re, they’re tactile and they’re strength finders tests, and there’s all those kinds of, you know, categorizations of who works well with who. But this goes down to just the relationship itself and the conversations that are happening. So let’s get into maybe a few of these questions. We don’t have to go through all of them, but which one maybe comes to mind first that that is most important to, to uncover?

Michael Bungay Stainer: Let’s start with the very first one, which is the amplify question. And the question is, what’s your best? And you know, I, I think about that now. I’m like, I, that may still not be quite the very best expression of that question, but I, I got there because I didn’t wanna say, what are you good at? And I didn’t wanna say, what are your strengths?

I wanted to kind of have a, a more holistic question, which is like, tell me what you’re like when you’re at your best, when you shine and when you flow. Because shining and flowing are kind of the internal and the external states of this, you know, the, the flow state Macau sent me Hachi, the check.

Psychologist, which is like when time speeds up and slows down and you’re like, ah, this is it. I’ve found my zone and shining is when people look at you and you go, I don’t know what Pat’s doing over there, but he’s in his happy place. It’s like, maybe this is you on your Pokemon channel, and you’re like, let me tell you about Pokemon.

I’m like, definitely is. This is, this is, there we go. So if you haven’t watched Pat’s Pokemon channel, you should, because it’s A, it’s you taking all of this stuff from SPI and going, let me show you how to do this in a whole different way and role model my own teachings. But it’s also you going, look, this is Pat geeking out about something he totally loves and he’s in that place.

So that question, what’s your best speaks to more than just what your strengths are, but it’s more on the side of what lights you up, what gets you going, and you can kind of go. What are your technical things, like the stuff that you do that is you at your best? Yeah. What’s the relationship thing that you do when you’re at your best?

How do you contribute there? And then just at your core, what are your strengths? What are your values? What do you stand for? How do you show up when you’re in that shining and flowing state?

Pat Flynn: I like that question. You know, it reminds me of well, one of my most hated questions, which I hear a lot is, what do you wanna be when you grow up?

It’s very specific. It’s very like, how could a kid even know it’s ridiculous what is even available to them? Yeah. Like we’re, we’re all, we’re already asking them to put themselves in a category rather than, the question that I love to ask kids is, what lights you up? Right. I get to know a lot more about that person or or that child specifically when I ask them that.

And then from there you can of of course understand, oh, well here are the potential career options that may make sense for you. In that case, if you do want to know kind of what they’re into or what might make sense for them. But you know, to go back to, to the question that, that idea of flow and energy and you know, what makes you shine, what makes you glow?

I wanna challenge the, the audience right now to think about that for themselves. Cuz I think it’s a question we. I would guess that most people have never even considered. Right. You know, we could we consider like what makes us happy or, or like what would make us happier? What things might we acquire to help us feel good?

Yeah. But rather like what puts us in that state where time goes really quickly because we’re having just such a good time and, and, and how do we, you know, it feels very ethereal, very energy based.

Michael Bungay Stainer: Yeah. It is about kind of unlocking the best version of you and if you don’t know how to answer that for yourself, how on earth could you expect somebody you are working with to do their best, to provide the conditions and the way of working together that will bring that forth.

So part of this whole process is know yourself better so you can be clearer about actually what’s gonna bring out the very best in you. Right.

Pat Flynn: This is the mirror that you were talking about.

Michael Bungay Stainer: This is, this is the mirror. Exactly. And then you can dig a little deeper around this. So in the book, each of the five questions has three exercises that help deepen your own sense of self and and knowledge. And the exercise, one of the exercises for this question is knowing the difference between good at and fulfilled by, because one of the curses of making it into middle age, Is you get good at a whole bunch of stuff that no longer gets you excited, or you are good at a whole bunch of stuff that has never got you excited and you know what that is for you, but nobody else really does.

And when you look at other people, you assume that what they’re good at is what fulfills them. So you go, look, I know Pat’s excellent at at this stuff, so I’m just gonna give that to him to do because he rocks it, he’s really good at it. He’ll do a great job. And you know, and what I don’t know is that Pat’s heart is turning to ice and inside cuz he’s like, oh this is a, these are handcuffs. I did this thing. I got good at this 10 years ago, and I’m gonna be stuck doing it for the rest of my life. And what a powerful conversation to say to somebody, look, I’m actually pretty good at this, but honestly I’ll do anything to avoid it cuz it no longer brings me joy. It no longer fulfills me.

I mean, I can do it if if in an emergency, but if you cannot default to giving it to me, that’s gonna make my life better right away.

Pat Flynn: Yeah. Wow. That’s so powerful. And what’s also powerful is that, we’re already almost a half hour into this, and it felt like it’s only been five minutes, which means, you know, this is lighting me up.

And, and truly this, you know, having conversations like this and, and with people like you, Michael, is definitely something that puts me into that flow state and makes, you know, I feel a glow, if you will, with conversations like this. So I, you know, again, I appreciate you.

Michael Bungay Stainer: You also have a great skincare routine, so that’s helping.

Pat Flynn: I mean, I have a filter on right now, but, no, I’m just kidding. Okay, there we go. That, that’s wonderful. Okay. And. I mean, we could go so deep into this. I mean, I, I reremember, I just finished watching episode one of Ramit Sethi’s new Netflix show How to, How to Be Rich, which is that’s right. Amazing. And actually my kids got into it as well, which has been an amazing conversation piece for us to start teaching them the ins and outs of money and, and managing it and, and what happens if you don’t?

And there’s a particular couple that was in the first episode that they just don’t know how to talk to each other. It’s very clear that when one person is trying to be brave, the other person is just not having it. And, and I think a lot of it is because they haven’t had these types of conversations yet about, yeah, like before we even getting into the finances, like what is your ideal state and, and how do you win wanna be spoken to?

One thing I talk about in business, and specifically in my mastermind groups, which is a little bit like this, is we do a little exercise whenever new members of a mastermind group come in where we talk about how we want to be spoken to. And I’m very much a person who, if you were to come at me and say, like, become like a, like a bootcamp drill sergeant kind of teacher, which is one way to, you know, get people to do things, I don’t react well to that.

I will put up a shell and I will, I will escape. Versus encouragement or helping me realize what the rewards are on the other end of this. Right? And despite perhaps not doing things correctly, still highlighting the small things that I do right, so that I can, you know, get encouraged to do those other things right?

And right. This way, these members of my group are now able to better communicate with me moving forward. Are, do, do you talk any bit about communication styles inside of the book, because what I found is different people react different ways to the way things are said.

Michael Bungay Stainer: Yeah. That’s so, so interesting. I don’t dig into that in the book and I’m now like, oh, maybe I, maybe I can squeeze in another chapter in there because it’s a really useful insight.

But I, I will say, this is where your, your reflection’s taking me, Pat. What is most powerful about having this type of conversation, is not actually the answers you get in the moment, as helpful as those are, what’s most powerful is that it gives permission to have another conversation about how it’s going.

Ah, because if I’ve had a conversation with you around how do you wanna be spoken to, how do you wanna interact? And I’m like, well, Pat, I’m, I’m best if you gimme encouragement and a gentle nudge, not shouting and shaming and humiliating. Then you do that thing where you’re like, you know what I actually felt, you know, like you stepped over the line there, I’ve actually somehow got more permission to actually say that to you now rather than see than resentment because you’re actually saying, this is the start of us continuing to fine tune the way we work together. It’s not a one and done thing. It’s actually a, a checking in. And one of the questions that I think is most powerful and that I use all the time with the people with whom I work.

Is what needs to be said, that hasn’t yet been said because I know, you know, in in, in my world, you know, I’m the founder of two companies. I’m often the teacher of the thing. I’ve got a certain amount of status and authority that comes with being old, being tall, and being white, and having books written and all of that sort of stuff.

So it means that my mere presence, Is a discouragement to say some stuff because power rests with me. And the question, what needs to be said that hasn’t yet been said is an invitation to say that little thing that’s kind of, you’ve been trying to find the right moment or has been whispering, or you’re like, I’m not sure I’ve had permission to say this.

It gives permission for that conversation to continue that thing to be said. That can help the conversation move on, stay the best possible relationship, be repaired, stay safe, stay vital, all of those good things.

Pat Flynn: Is that question, one of the questions marked in the book?

Michael Bungay Stainer: It’s not, but it’s a question that is in the book, but it’s part of the general conversation around the fifth question.

The fifth question is the repair question, which is how will we fix it when things go wrong? So we’ve kind of talked a little bit about this already, but it says, Hey, look, I really like you. You really like me. This is a honeymoon period. I mean, we, we’ve just hired somebody on my company and they’re in their first week and we were chatting on Monday and I was like, so how’s your first weekend?

It’s like, it’s amazing. This is so great. I love you. I love her. And I’m like, oh, this is amazing. We love each other. And in my mind I’m like, and this too will pass. Like there’s gonna come a moment where, where Emma will go. Ah, Michael, I’m starting to see the real who you are and maybe it is not as great.

I’m like, great. So we’re still allowing this. It’s, we need to know how to repair it when it gets broken, even though we love each other at the moment, cuz we’re seven days into a working relationship. And so this repair question, how will we fix that when things go wrong? One of the questions that helps uncover what needs to be repaired is what needs to be said, that hasn’t yet been said. One of the preemptive acts you can do is one of the, kind of the deeper dive exercises is the question is like, how are you misunderstood? Because you have a history of people not getting it right about you. You do something with an intention and you know what your intention is, and your intention is good, and they take it the wrong way.

And you’re like, how is that even possible? You know, little things like when I’m thinking, I have a slightly grumpy, slightly stern face, and I’m just trying to be present. I’m just trying to listen. But I worked with an assistant once and at a certain time she’s like, I am, every time I’m talking to you, I feel slightly nervous and I’m like, why?

I’m such a, I’m a lovely man. She’s like, you look totally grumpy. And I’m like, I’m never grumpy. I’ve never said a nasty thing to you, ever. And she’s like, yeah, but, so I’m like, oh, this is how I get misunderstood. So now in conversations with people, I go, let me tell you how you will misinterpret stuff I’m doing, what you think will be happening, and what it actually means to me.

Yeah. So I will tell people, look, I can get a stern look on my face when I’m sitting and listening, and it doesn’t actually mean I’m grumpy or upset or worried or anxious. It just means I’m listening. And it’s just a helpful way to preempt potential damage.

Pat Flynn: It’s funny cuz people have said the exact same thing about me. Right?

There’s no way that anybody could understand every bit and piece of us, but we need to help others understand who or what we’re coming from or, you know, what are the common misconceptions. And I, I think that’s really key, especially in a working relationship. I mean, literally, I’m not gonna ma mention any names, but this just happened in our company, where one person got super upset about something that wasn’t even a thing, but when the two finally met and had these conversations, there was an understanding and things were better.


Michael Bungay Stainer: Yeah. It’s not even something which is on surface looks bad and can be misinterpreted, like, you know, a resting grumpy face like I’ve got, like one of the conversations I have, Pat is I’m very good at having ideas in meetings, but I say, look, what is often misunderstood is that people think I’m attached to these ideas.

You know, I have ideas strongly expressed, but very lightly held, and so I’m trying to preempt people feeling like my ideas are overwhelming their ideas, just cuz I’ve got excited around that. Oh man, that’s good. I’m like, let me tell you all I can about how I might screw this up because believe me, I’ve screwed up plenty of relationships, so I’m, you’re still gonna happen.

I’m just trying to reduce the amount of things we have to fix. You know, as somebody once said, I know I’m, I know my kids are gonna need therapy. I’m just trying to give them fewer things to talk about.

Pat Flynn: Yeah. Ah, Michael, we could talk for days about this kind of stuff. Yeah. And we’ve only breezed through, even just lightly touched a couple of the questions in this book.

So I definitely wanna recommend we have people check it out and read it and, and, and absorb it and practice it. That’s the beauty of your books is they’re very, very actionable and you can see results almost immediately. I saw that with both the coaching habit and the advice trap, and, and again, I appreciate you for writing another one in this style because I think it, it’s, it, it’s gonna do a lot of good for, again, not just business relationships, but I imagine that a lot of people listening to this were also thinking about their life partners as well.

Michael Bungay Stainer: Or friends or, or just, you know, anybody you’ve gotta work a relationship with where you’re like, I’d like it to be a little deeper and a little safer and a little more vital. Yeah. Then there may be something in this book that can be helpful.

Pat Flynn: Thank you so much for this. One more time. Where can people go to to check it out?

Michael Bungay Stainer: Yeah. There’s downloads and there’s free stuff and all of that good stuff there as well. So I hope you’ll jump on there and grab the resources that you’re interested in.

Pat Flynn: And if somebody reads that book, they get a lot of value, their life has changed as a result of that.

What would be the best way to let you know about that?

Michael Bungay Stainer: They don’t have to let me know about it. I get a thrill when people email me. So you can email me at [email protected] and that’s certainly pretty cool. But honestly, that there’s one part of this Pat, which is like, I put this work out in the world and I get thrilled to think that it might be having an impact and I don’t even know about it.

So, I’m celebrating anybody who’s brave enough to give it a good shot.

Pat Flynn: Thank you for that and I’m sure people will reach out and thank you. Just like I, I personally did.

Michael Bungay Stainer: Which you did. That was so nice. Actually, I heard from somebody going, yeah, Pat Flynn has just said that your book is the, I’m not sure book of the year or something.

I’m like, yeah, Pat Flynn, oh my goodness. That was so exciting. That was pretty cool.

Pat Flynn: I appreciate you and I’m glad that we’ve kept this relationship going and, and yeah, me too. You know, I feel like you definitely helped me be the best version of myself, so thank you for that.

Michael Bungay Stainer: Thank you, Pat.

Pat Flynn: All right. I hope you enjoyed that interview with Michael. And, man, just, I love him so much.

He’s helped out so much in my life and in my career, and definitely want you to check out his book, Again, not just about your loved ones, although this can definitely help with that, but just anybody, anybody, coworkers your team, et cetera, colleagues, it’s so important. So definitely check this out.

Many strategies that we didn’t even talk about and ways to think through a lot of the situations that you’re gonna be finding yourself in. And as we always talk about here on the show, relationships are key. They’re absolutely essential to your growth as a creator and an entrepreneur. So definitely, again, check that out. So thank you so much, Michael. I appreciate you.

And definitely check out the show notes and links to all the things over at Again, Take care. Make sure you subscribe. Sweet to miss out on these other amazing interviews that we got coming up, plus our Friday episodes with me.

Thank you so much. Until then, peace out. Take care. And, as always, team Flynn for the win. Cheers.

Thank you so much for listening to the Smart Passive Income podcast at I’m your host, Pat Flynn. Sound editing by Duncan Brown. Our senior producer is David Grabowski, and our executive producer is Matt Gartland. The Smart Passive Income Podcast is a production of SPI Media, and a proud member of the Entrepreneur Podcast Network. Catch you next week!

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