Guarding Our Mouths
About the Guest
Before You Hit Send Assessment: Find patterns that will put you on the path to improved communication
Emerson EggerichsEmerson Eggerichs, Ph.D., is an internationally celebrated communication expert and author of Love & Respect, which is a New York Times bestseller, Platinum and Book of the Year award winner, and sold over 2 million copies. Dr. Eggerichs’ newest book is, Before You Hit Send: Preventing Headache and Heartache. As a communication expert, Emerson has spoken to groups such as the NFL, NBA, PGA, US Navy SEALs and members of Congress. Emerson and his wife Sarah live in Grand Ra...more
Most of us think we communicate effectively using our devices. Dr. Emerson Eggerichs reminds us that the best communication still occurs face to face, using vocal tone, body language, and complete sentences.
Guarding Our Mouths
Bob: You’ve heard the expression, “…preaching to the choir”; right? Well, Emerson Eggerichs says we need to keep in mind that, for everything we’re posting on Facebook®/putting online, it’s not just the choir who’s paying attention.
Emerson: We can make our point—we can get people, in the backroom, high-fiving us. You know, we’ve got the political divide now—everybody’s into one up-manship; you know? But we’re losing civility.
If we don’t step back and have enough care for ourselves to say, “You know what? I want to be an individual who, ultimately, is an influential individual. No matter where we are in the culture, they say, ‘I don’t agree with him, but he’s a man of integrity,’ / ‘…she’s a woman of integrity.’”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, October 9th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. If there’s a disconnect between who you are in person and who you are online, that’s an integrity issue / that’s a problem. We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, I see you on Twitter® from time to time. Are you active on Twitter? Do you look at Twitter every day?
Bob: Do you look at Twitter every week?
Dennis: Yes; usually.
Bob: So you’re checking it out?
Dennis: A little bit.
Bob: Would you say the tone on Twitter is God-honoring? [Laughter]
Dennis: [Suppressed laughter]
Bob: What was that!? [Laughter] I thought, “That’s just such a ridiculous question, just asking it!”
Dennis: Yes. No; I’m afraid it isn’t. I think the question is, “What has it become?” I think it’s become a harmful way of human beings relating to each other. You know, real relationships don’t occur in 140 characters.
Bob: Even now that they’ve boosted it up to 280—
Bob: —that still doesn’t help!
Dennis: It’s still not how—you need to know how to relate to someone in complete sentences over a lifetime. That’s what makes a marriage that goes the distance and, also, relationships with our children.
We’re joined today by the author of a book. I really like the title—when I saw this, I thought, “Well done; well done.” You’re a marketing genius! [Laughter]
Emerson: It wasn’t my idea! It was my daughter’s.
Dennis: Oh, was it? Well, she’s a marketing genius! [Laughter]
Emerson: She is; she is.
Dennis: It’s called, Before You Hit Send: Preventing Headache and Heartache.
Dennis: Emerson Eggerichs joins us again. Welcome back, Emerson.
Emerson: Thank you, Dennis.
Bob: Are you on Twitter? [Laughter]
Emerson: I am not, personally; but the organization is.
Again, the question on the table is: “Why is there this kind of lack of civility/mean-spiritedness? What’s happening?” I think everybody recognizes, “You know, this doesn’t seem to be a prudent way to communicate; and yet, there seems to be this ongoing narrative.”
Maybe we can address that—and whether or not there is going to be a consequence to that—or this can continue. I’m going to take the position that these principles are eternal and, when you violate them, there is a consequence.
Particularly, I think Jesus Himself said, “The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.”
Emerson: So there is the content that I’m communicating; but the way in which that comes across is saying far more about who I am, as a person, than what I’m saying about the other person in that tweet.
Bob: And these principles apply whether we’re face to face or whether we’re texting—
Emerson: Absolutely; absolutely!
Bob: —whatever the form of communication is.
Let’s talk about the fact that more and more of our communication is happening through devices. It’s happening, almost, in a detached sense. What’s going on in terms of our ability to relate to one another, given the technological environment we’re in, and how communication has been affected by that?
Emerson: Right. Well, there are two sides to that. Obviously, we see the social ineptness of some people, because they’re all sitting together in a room—they’re even texting each other while they’re two feet away from each other. At the same time, I think there’s more communication going on than ever; so there’s another side of this that, I think, has an upside.
I’m more optimistic about this if people abide by the principles, because they’re not going to go away.
They apply: text to text, face to face, voice to voice. Those are the dimensions—you sit down with someone over a cup of coffee, or whether you’re on the phone to your mother in some other state, or you’re texting somebody or emailing them. These principles cannot be violated. When we violate them, even if we’re innocent, we’re going to end up rupturing relationships, at some level, or we’re going to make an enemy, where we don’t need to.
Right now, there are people who believe that—if you lie about someone; you bully them; you say things that aren’t necessary; you have innuendo and you’re communicating something that really isn’t true, but it’s unclear; but it gives the impression—that, somehow, we’re going to win the day in that. I’m taking a strong stand: you’ll win short-term, but you won’t win long-term.
Emerson: It will not work long-term, but many people are trying to figure that out in the politics of things as well as in business. You know, it’s beginning to come back now. I know how many businessmen who are going to hire—they’re telling me now that, after the interview, the first thing they do is go to the person’s Facebook—
Emerson: —and they are determining based on this.
They don’t quote Jesus: “The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart”; but when they read the content, they immediately know about character. They make a decision based on how they see that person communicating content that suggests the heart and the character of the person; and they’re not hiring individuals [with damaging communication].
I think, again, this digital footprint that we’re leaving—everybody has to realize there is a serious issue here. Nothing you put out there is going to go away. Worldwide Web means “world-wide.” Social media means it’s “social.” Even though you delete it, somewhere, it’s being collected. We just need to be reminded of what Jesus said—that everything that I say that’s a careless word—I’m going to have to say to my heavenly Father something about that. That’s a sobering thing! It’s actually discouraging; it’s overwhelming.
What we just have to ask the Lord is, “Help us to do this!” Let’s me mindful—we have an audience of one, ultimately.
What I’m saying: “I may get away [with something] on social media,”—if that’s even an option—but we, who believe in Christ and trust Him, He’s the one that said, every careless word, we will have to give an account for.
That’s why I think this book was so important to me. Over the years, I wanted to make sure: “Did I say things that were untrue? Did I say things that were unkind? Did I say things that were unnecessary? Did I say things that were unclear?” more often than not. Because of those four questions that I ask myself as a checklist, I kept myself out of a lot of trouble.
I have to say that I think that’s why Joy, my daughter, was watching this. She wanted me to write this book, because she saw me attempt to abide by that—not perfectly—but I’ll tell you—I have everything within me to make a mess of things real quick! [Laughter]
Dennis: I’ll tell you—on a Saturday morning, I was reading the newspaper—this goes way back—but just to your point: I was reading the newspaper. I read about how a—for all practical purposes—a pornographic movie was going to be shown at the local theater. It was called NC17; I don’t even know if that category exists anymore!
Bob: I don’t think they have those ratings anymore; yes.
Dennis: It was beyond “R”; and I thought, “I need to do something!” You know: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph,”—Edmund Burke said—“is for good men to do nothing.” I decided I was not going to do nothing. I also decided that, in order to keep my own passions under restraint, I would take my daughters with me as I went down to talk to the theater manager.
I wanted them, first of all, to see their dad taking a stand and dealing with kindness with someone, where he disagreed with them; but I also wanted to be accountable to them, to make sure I didn’t lose my cool with this guy.
Dennis: So we went down there, and we met with the manager. I know it was not his decision—
Dennis: —he’s just doing what the big corporation said to do. I just said: “You know, I want you to know I’m just a daddy. I’ve got six kids; here are three of my daughters. I just ask you, if you’re a dad, would you want your daughters to be treated like what you’re showing in there?”
He said, “No, sir!” I said, “I would just like for you to pass that on.”
I got in the car, along with the girls; and we drove back home. I don’t remember what they said; but I do have a sense in which I had dealt with that guy, speaking the truth with kindness and fairness. I recognized my own weakness—I’ve got one—because I’m a passionate person, I can overstate things.
I think it’s good, if we know our own liabilities in these situations—and if it’s in our most intimate relationships, like with our spouse—it’s not good to have a knock-down, drag-out argument with your spouse at midnight. Maybe you just need to call a timeout and reschedule this debate/disagreement—whatever it is—for tomorrow. Recognize your weaknesses, so you can speak the truth with kindness.
Emerson: It illustrates something—and you modeled this when you talked, last time, about Hook Rainey and the integrity of the way your father walked and lived.
One of the challenges for us, as parents, is to realize it’s important for us to abide by this, even if the people around us don’t; because people are watching. Our kids are watching. For them to see this—what a legacy! What a joy to know that, when we’re in our casket, our children will say: “My mom” or “My dad spoke the truth. They were kind every time they did that. They only said what was necessary. There was never any gossip in our home. They were always clear, and they taught us this by the way that they lived.” Your dad did that; you did that toward your daughters.
The challenge for all of us is to be reminded here: “It isn’t just enough for me to get away with something so that, in my self-serving, I’ll lie and be unkind and rude; because I can get something.” Yes, you can, short-term; but it’s the whole idea that people are watching. What are they watching? And what are we really going to gain in the end?
You know, it’s like the father in a line with his six-year-old boy. They’re getting in to some amusement park or whatever, and somebody drops a $10 bill out of their pocket.
The boy sees the [bill] come out of that person’s pocket. The dad reaches down, picks up the $10 bill, and puts it in his own pocket. I’ve made the point—for $10, you just sent a message to your son—
Dennis: Right; right.
Emerson: —that integrity doesn’t matter.
Emerson: For $10, you just sold your integrity!
The flip side of that: the boy was in court; he was ten years old; he was told to testify about something that he saw. The lawyer was trying to twist him out of it: “Your dad told you what to say here; didn’t he?!” “Yes, sir; he did.” “That’s what I thought! He told you what to say! What did he tell you to say, son?” My dad said: “Son, just tell the truth. That’s all you have to keep telling, over and over again.” [Laughter]
Bob: Let me ask you about Dennis’s trip to the movie theater; because some people might say: “Okay; was that necessary? Did he need to go down there and do that? Did he need to speak out on something like that?”
Dennis: Why are you questioning me?! [Laughter]
Bob: Because here’s what I’m trying to get to: “How do we apply that principle?” and “Why would anybody communicate something that’s unnecessary? What’s our motive for doing that?”
Help us practically with the whole idea of how I weigh out whether this is necessary?
Emerson: Well, I think the point we made the other time: “…if it’s true; if it’s kind; if it’s necessary; if it’s clear”—each of us has to decide. You know, in this case: “You know what? If good men do nothing, evil’s going to triumph,”—in that regard. And even though Dennis made clear reference to the fact that this probably wasn’t going to go anywhere, there was a sense, in his own heart, that somebody needed to give voice to something; because it was the right thing to do.
Coming to mind is Luther. There were some beggars, who came to the home, late at night and so, “Give to those who ask.” Luther gave them all this stuff; you know? And early in the morning, they were awakened; because these guys had come back. They were burglars; they had broken into the home, and they were stealing stuff. Katie, his wife, had been suspicious of them when they came to the door. So, when they then burglarized, and the police had come, she was saying to him: “See? I told you! Would you do it again?” [Laughter] He said, “Yes, I would; because the Lord said, ‘Give to those who ask’.”
There comes a moment when, sometimes, it isn’t just about pragmatics and what’s practical. We have to be obedient to that sense that, “This is the right thing for me to do.” And, in that case, the right thing was to be an example before your daughters as well. There was more going on than just the manager.
Emerson: But I think that’s where it begins. I think sometimes, maybe, we just need to say: “You know what? Something’s bothering me. Maybe—if I say it in truth, and say it kindly, because it’s necessary and clear—nothing’s going to come of this; but you know what? I need to learn to do this.”
Most people are passive; most people are phlegmatic; most people sit back and don’t do anything. The message I’m sending would be: “You know what? You need to step out, even if you say to yourself, ‘It may not result in anything.’” That’s okay. It’s because the Lord wants you to do this.
Dennis: And it doesn’t mean you have to be the most gifted or you have to be prophetic. You may just have to be disturbed about what’s taking place and say: “You know what? I’m going to say something.
Dennis: “I’m going to do my best to say it in a way where it gets heard.
Emerson: That’s right.
Dennis: “I’m going to push back against this.”
Emerson: Well, on this point—people say, “Well, I’m not a great communicator.”
One of the points I make is—people that you think are great communicators are that way because they work really hard at these four principles. It isn’t a matter of being eloquent or a naturally-gifted person. It’s a matter of taking time to apply these four things.
I say to that person out there, who thinks: “Well, I’m not a Dennis,” or “I’m not an Emerson,” or “I’m not a Bob,”—“How did Dennis, Emerson, and Bob get to this position?”—because we made a commitment that we were going to guard our mouth as best we could, and we were going to follow our passions—
Emerson: —in such a way, though, that it didn’t turn people off but, hopefully, was more appealing and was a sweet aroma.
Bob: There have been mornings that I have come down into the breakfast room. Mary Ann is usually up before I am, so I’ll come down. I have, on occasion, left the garage door open all night long—you know, I just didn’t put the garage door down. I pulled the car in; I leave it open all night long, which does not serve my wife well in terms of her security.
Bob: Right? She’ll wake up, find that, and it is like, “I’m not being well-protected.” She didn’t realize she was threatened in the night, but now she’s feeling it.
There have been times, when Mary Ann has said: “I need to share this with Bob—that he left the garage open.” There have been other times, when she has said, “I’m just going to let it go.” I think what she has done is—she has tried to weigh out, in terms of, “Is this necessary?—that I share this at this time?”
Bob: She has tried to weigh out: “What are the circumstances that were involved in all of this? Is Bob preoccupied with something? Is this common for him to do this? Is this a pattern that he’s getting into?”
Bob: She has tried to ask some evaluative questions and has sometimes said, “Yes; I need to bring it up,” but other times said, “No; I’m just going to let it go.”
We do that all of the time in marriage, when we overlook some things and choose to confront on other things. What are the kinds of criteria we ought to bring to that question?
Emerson: Well, I think that’s a great illustration: “Is it really necessary?”
One woman said, “You know that little thing—in the back of your brain—that tells you not to say something before you say it?”
“Yes.” “I don’t have that little thing!” [Laughter] You know, “I don’t have that little thing.” [Laughter] We justify the fact that we don’t have a filter; and we’re just blurting things out. Then we wonder why, when we show up, everybody else is leaving. They don’t want to be around us.
I think part of your wife’s wisdom there is that she has paced herself; you know? “There is a point where it is necessary to remind him of my insecurities / my need to be protected; but there are other times: ‘You know what? It’s really not necessary. He’s a good-willed man who would die for me if I don’t kill him first. [Laughter] This was a situation where he was overwhelmed with all that’s going on.’”
There’s no right or wrong answer in this, but it illustrates her willingness to practice these principles. Again, this is a great illustration; because we’re never going to know the perfect way of doing it.
Emerson: There isn’t! You know, it’s not the “perfect” way. Sometimes, we may say it’s not necessary; and maybe it was necessary.
Emerson: We think it was kind, and they didn’t. We thought it was unkind, and they didn’t. Again, the excitement is that checklist.
Part of the challenge with social media is—I begin the book talking about the fact that we need to do what we do with emails with the understanding that: “This might be read again at a deposition before the Supreme Court.” [Laughter] You know, there has to be this serious, I think, commitment to doing this right.
Right now, in our culture, that’s exactly the growing sentiment—whether it’s our conduct/how we treat people—with sexual harassment issues / whether it’s emails that were using suggestive language—there is a price to pay when we cross over. We think we can get away with this stuff. It’ll come back to bite us, and it will discredit us until we go to our grave. There are people, now, who have completely lost all credibility because they didn’t abide by these things, whether it was in emails or whether it was in personal/inter-personal dynamics. There is a price to pay.
Bob: When I think about what I tweet, or if I’m going to post something on Facebook®, I do try to stop and think: “Okay; there are going to be people who disagree with me. If I were to say this to them, face to face, would I say it this way?—
—“with this tone?—with these words?” In the blindness of social media, where you’re not face to face with somebody, you can be more reckless with your words. If you stopped and asked the question, “Is this how I would say it if I were face to face with somebody who might disagree with me?” that might moderate the tone of what you’re saying significantly.
Emerson: That’s why I wrote the book; because again, you cannot violate these things.
Emerson: We can short-term. We can make our point; we can get people, in the backroom, high-fiving us. You know, we’ve got the political divide now; everybody’s into one up-manship; you know? But we’re losing civility and the idea that, if we sacrifice truth in order to win a debate, you will win that debate. It’s kind of like the whole idea that you can win battle after battle after battle; but eventually, you lose the war.
Emerson: And if we don’t step back and have enough care for ourselves to say: “You know what? I want to be an individual who, ultimately, is an influential individual—and both sides of the aisle—
—“no matter where we are in the culture—they say, ‘I don’t agree with him, but he’s a man of integrity,’ / ‘…she’s a woman of integrity.’”
You can do this! We can be a person who is winsome even though the people that we’re talking to do not like what we’re saying. We can do this; and we need to be reminded that that comes through civility, and personal dignity, and also believing in other people. That’s the challenge that I’m extending to people now: “Abide by these four principles; and when you get near to death, you will look back and not regret the impact that you made.”
Dennis: You know, if we could start a national campaign to have the entire nation memorize Ephesians 4:31 and 32, I think we could change the tone of the discourse.
Emerson: Do you want to read it?
Dennis: I’m going to read it right now; absolutely! “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”
Bob: Back up! “All bitterness, wrath, slander, clamor—
Bob: —“put away from you.” That’s a good starting point; because there’s a lot of bitterness, anger, wrath—slander going on!
Dennis: —“and all malice.” I’m not sure exactly what malice means, but it seems to me to be thinking about getting even.
Bob: It is wicked intent; yes.
Dennis: Yes; it’s trying to get even with somebody. And then, the last part of that verse—verse 32: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted,”—imagine that!—“forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
So, did you deserve forgiveness? I didn’t, but He forgave me. That means those of us, who profess to follow Christ, ought to be image-bearers of the forgiveness that’s been afforded to us. It’s why what you’ve written here is so important.
I’m grieved by some of the national discourse that’s taking place—I really am.
I fear for what we are training our children to do, and to think, and a way of behaving, going forward. It may be that we’re approaching a time when we have to turn off some of the media, and turn back to the Bible, and memorize these verses and talk about them. Then talk about, “How can we do that as a family?” You’re not going to do it perfectly! So when you fail, what do you do?—you ask the other person to forgive.
Dennis: That’s really when I think families are operating most and looking like what they’re supposed to look like, Bob.
Bob: And you know, I think a family could benefit just from spending time in those four questions; but I’m thinking about a husband and wife reading through this book together.
Dennis: That’s too convicting! [Laughter]
Bob: You don’t want to go that far; huh?
Emerson: No, no; of course not! [Laughter]
Dennis: That would really change the way husbands and wives relate to one another.
Bob: And when that changes, that’s going to affect the whole dynamic of the family. When mom’s and dad’s communication shifts, and kids are seeing that mom and dad speak the truth in love—that they’re kind and tender-hearted; that they put away anger, wrath, malice and slander—that changes everything!
Dennis: May I grab the soapbox back, just for a second?
Bob: Yes; go ahead.
Dennis: I think what we’re talking about here is really important for the next generation and how they’re going to practice the faith we’re trying to pass on to them.
Dennis: When they do not see us, as adults, modeling what the Bible teaches—they hear us talk about it! They go with us, as their parents, to church, and hear these passages taught—but they don’t see mommy and daddy practicing it; living by it; and when they fail, they admit it—
Dennis: —that’s when children will start to grab hold of what we’ve got and: “That’s authentic! That’s no bologna faith there!” That’s what we have to be passing on to the next generation.
Bob: Okay; so before you post something on Facebook or hit send on an email, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link for the online assessment. I think, again, this would be great for a husband and wife to do together. It’s also great for all of the kids in the family to go through this assessment and see where your strengths and weaknesses are in your interpersonal relationships / your communication with one another.
Then, get a copy of the book, Before You Hit Send, from Emerson Eggerichs, and read it together, as a couple or as a family. I’ve already mentioned this week that this is a book that Christian high schools are starting to use / youth groups are going through this book together—this is practical stuff. Again, you can order it from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to order: 1-800-FL-TODAY is the number—1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk about the power of humor—why funny is powerful. Michael, Jr. is going to join us—he’s a stand-up comedian. If you saw the movie, War Room, he was in that movie. He’s got a new movie that’s coming out next week. We’re going to talk about that with him tomorrow. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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