FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Communication Principles to Live By

with Emerson Eggerichs | October 23, 2007
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Why do men and women so often misunderstand one another? On today's broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with best-selling author Dr. Emerson Eggerichs about communicating with the opposite sex.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Why do men and women so often misunderstand one another? On today's broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with best-selling author Dr. Emerson Eggerichs about communicating with the opposite sex.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Why do men and women so often misunderstand one another?

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Communication Principles to Live By

With Emerson Eggerichs
October 23, 2007
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Emerson: I'm not saying you intended to be disrespectful.  Many women say "I didn't even know I was coming across disrespectfully." That's right, I understand that, but ask the question – did that feel disrespectful to him?  And, if it did, my prediction is you're going to get on the crazy cycle, he's going to shut down, and then you're going to interpret him as unloving.  But here's the deal – he's not trying to be unloving.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, October 23rd.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  We're going to find out today what you do to get off the crazy cycle, and how you can do a better job of communicating with one another in marriage.  Stay with us.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  Have you ever done something – well, no, I'll take this back.  I know you've done things in your marriage, in your relationship with Barbara, that she just thought, "Why did he do that?"

Dennis: How do you know that?

Bob: Well, because …

Dennis: I've shared them here on the broadcast, that's why.

Bob: And because you've been married for more than three decades, and we've all done stuff that …

Dennis: No doubt.

Bob: … even if we pull back and look at it, forget our wives, we pull back, and we go, "That was kind of a dumb thing to do.  I was kind of a bonehead when I was …

Dennis: Many of them, many of them.

Bob: That's right.  But when your wife is aware, and you're aware that you've done something that was not the wisest choice, how does that make you feel?

Dennis: Stupid.  Dumb.  Inept.

Bob: And what would you like your wife to do at that moment?

Dennis: Erase it.  But, no, I don't want to be reminded of it.  I think I want a little understanding that maybe I tried my best or I was attempting something good.  Well, that's not always the case.  Sometimes, you know, just flat blew it.

Bob: I'm thinking of a time when we were driving somewhere as a family, and I was operating more on the basis of my natural instincts with regard to direction than I was with the map, you know? 

Dennis: Mm-hm, I've been with you on a few trips.

Bob: Just kind of going instinctively.

Dennis: You know, I want to introduce our guest on the broadcast, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs.

Bob: Before I tell the story?

Dennis: You need to be in on this story, Emerson, because I've traveled all across the country with Bob, and I always let him drive, because it's plenty of entertainment …

Bob: It's not just a drive, it's an adventure.

Dennis: … entertainment material.

Emerson: Preaching material.

Dennis: Oh, my goodness.

Bob: Well, we were driving at one point, I remember, and I was looking for some of the familiar landmarks.  You know, we'd been this way a couple of times before, and so I was starting to look for some of the familiar landmarks that I knew should be just around the next corner.

Dennis: Sure, sure.

Bob: And they weren't showing up, and I think after about 15 or 20 minutes …

Dennis: Oh, you went that long, huh?

Bob: … of not seeing those familiar landmarks, I thought, "I think I took the wrong turn," and I actually think that had dawned on Mary Ann maybe prior to me catching onto it, because there was still kind of a stubborn holding out of "I can't be wrong."  You know, this pride inside of me?

 But I did realize that we were on the wrong road, and I so appreciated the grace with which my wife responded in that moment when I said, "You know, I think we're on the wrong road."  She – you could almost see inside her mouth, the words being held back that said, "I told you you should have looked at a map," or "You always do this," or those kinds of things that you could see the words were rumbling, but her lips were sealed, and she just smiled and said, "Well, where do you think we made the wrong turn, honey?"

Dennis: Yeah, really.

Bob: But, you know, we got back on the right road, and that was one of those times when I think Mary Ann responded to a circumstance where it wasn't me putting my best foot forward, but she responded in a way that was not ungracious and that still showed respect for me.

Dennis: And allowed you to turn around without driving for an hour.

Bob: That's right.

Dennis: I'll never forget hearing Dr. Henry Brandt tell a similar story going down the freeway, and his wife pointed out, and said "I think you missed the turn."  And the way she said it so grated on him, even though he knew he'd missed the turn, he drove for 30 minutes at 70 miles an hour, sitting there stewing, as a man, trying to think about how he could turn around without her knowing it.

Bob: And I want to ask you, Dr. Eggerichs, and for our listeners who don't know Emerson Eggerichs, he is the author of the book, "Love and Respect," he's written a new book called "Cracking the Communication Code," and the first book has sold more than a half a million copies, and a lot of our listeners have gotten copies of the book.  The second book is new.  Why would a man drive in the wrong direction for 30 minutes even if he knows it's the wrong direction just because his wife said the wrong thing?  Why would a guy do that?

Emerson: Well, I mean, many women are asking that question, for sure.  That is one of the classic illustrations.  I mean, from a philosophical standpoint, I think it's rooted in our desire to lead, our desire to be that hunter, that warrior, there's something in us, and all of us have tendencies, you know?  You don't buy a diet book for a woman because her nature is designed by God to shut down on that real quick, and she'll go eat her second piece of chocolate cake, for instance.  There's a stubbornness that comes – "I can't believe you treated me this way," even though maybe she needs to lose a little weight.

 But you just don't go there because love understands the vulnerabilities, and I think there's something in males, too, when it comes to leading the family, deriding, and that comes a classic point of humor, but I don't think we've really unpacked why men keep doing that.  But I think the deeper point here is if you react in a disrespectful way, then that stubbornness will come out just like the woman might go and eat the second piece of cake.  We're trying to send a message, "Don't treat me this way.  I'm too vulnerable."

 Well, but you made the stupid mistake in the first place, so why can't you be big enough to take the hit to be told that you didn't, you know, well, why not lose 10 pounds, too?  But we have to be sensitive to the vulnerabilities.  You know, it's so easy to pass judgment on a spouse based on our strengths and their vulnerabilities, and I've discovered that's when we start judging our spouses.

Dennis: You just illustrated one of the three vital principles you talk about in your book, "Cracking the Communication Code," that what we say in our mouth does matter.  I mean, if we use words accompanied with attitudes, we can watch our wives shut down, and also men can shut down as well.

Emerson: Yes, and the book is written around, again, what Jesus said, the apostles said, I always try to go back to Scripture and Jesus, in Luke 6:45 said, "The heart is really the key to the mouth."  In other words, the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart."  So the mouth matters in marriage, because Jesus said that it matters.  Exactly.

 And when I say things that are unloving to Sarah, I can either say, "Well, the reason I said that is she's so unlovable," or the Lord is saying to me, "Wait a minute, Emerson, you're speaking out of what's in your heart.  You've now made a decision to be loving man at that point in time, and you're speaking unlovingly because right now you don't have love in your heart.  Why don't you be a man of honor and just confess that to me and go tell Sarah that you were wrong."  "But, Lord, she's unlovable." 

 She's irrelevant right now.  You know what the first sin was after the first sin.  When Adam sinned what was the first sin after that sin?  Blame-placing.  And the only new two beings, God and the woman, and when the Lord said, in effect, "Adam, what happened here?"  "The woman you gave me" – he blamed both beings in one sentence.  Talk about the economy of words, but blame-placing is the propensity of the male heart.

Dennis: Our words and Barbara and I wrote a book a number of years ago called "Building Your Mate's Self-Esteem."  We said at that time that words can either be a paint brush to build your spouse up and to paint a vivid picture, or you words can be like icepicks that chip away at the other person and really chip away at the image of God in them.

 You know, the Proverbs have a lot to say about the power of words in another person's life.

Bob: Life and death are in the power of the tongue, right?

Emerson: Yes, yes, yes, yes, oh, yes, and we have nursery rhymes – "Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me."  Talk about a lie.  Words are extremely poisonous and devastating, and that word picture you created there is profound.

Dennis: There's a second truth about communicating better that you have in your book.  The differences between men and women aren't wrong, they're just different, and it's interesting you write this because – and I don't know, Bob, you shared earlier how later on in your marriage after 28 years, you're kind of learning some things.  Well, here we are, we're in our 35th year of marriage, and I don't know how many times since we became empty-nesters, I've said with Barbara, and we've laughed about it, different isn't wrong, it's just different.

 And, you know, God did make us different, and that's why we were attracted to each other in the first place.

Bob: I had to laugh about the way you illustrate this in your book.  You'd had a conversation with a friend, and Sarah asked you a question after that conversation, and the question was something about his family, right?

Emerson: Right, exactly.

Bob: And what was your answer?

Emerson: Well, she was asking about my good friend, Ray, and then she wanted to know how the family was doing, and did you ask Ray about the family?  And I said, "No, I didn't.  We didn't get into that."  He was in the highway patrol and had set up this protection for the president of the United States coming to the LA area, and we were talking so much about that that I didn't ask about the family, and that's happened before, because God has wired women to be concerned about relationships.  They are nurturing; they care about people; they care about our friends; they care about the friends and their family, and yet sometimes when you and I, as men, get together, we're thinking sometimes about global issues and so on and so forth, and that's not wrong, it's just different.

 But what Sarah then did was suggest that maybe somehow I am an uncaring person.  You know, and sometimes I can be. 

Bob: Sure, right.

Emerson: There's no debate on that, but if that is ultimately saying I'm an uncaring human being because I didn't ask about it, we have to really be sensitive.

Bob: I get together with a group of guys once a week.  We go out to a deli on Wednesday night and sit around and talk, and I'll come home, and Mary Ann will say, "How did it go with the guys tonight," you know, and "What did you guys talk about?"  Well, what we typically talk about is, like you said, global stuff – what's going on with the geopolitical situation or the elections.  We'll talk about sports, we'll talk – one of the guys is an FBI guy, so we'll ask him what's going on at the bureau and anything we need to be worried about, you know, and we have those kinds of conversations.

 We get into spiritual topics, and we talk about our work and our relationships and all of that, but we spend a lot of time talking about guy stuff.  I'm sure, for Mary Ann, she's wondering why do you waste all that time when you could be zeroing in on the important stuff?  What is it?  But, you're right, we're different, and if we got together, and the first thing I said was, "Well, how have things been going with your wife and with your kids this week?"  The guys would start to go, "I'm in the wrong place, man, I came to the wrong meeting tonight, because that's just not who we are, is it?

Emerson: And up to this point, we've passed judgment on our sons for that, and what I'm cautioning us to do is to remember what Jesus said – "Have you not read He made them from the beginning, made them male and female," and we have to understand that there are going to be these male and female differences, and it's so easy, as I was referencing to pass judgment on men as uncaring because they're not talking about the issues that women would talk about, and that doesn't mean that men shouldn't.  It doesn't mean that we're justifying, but the pattern is so incredible.

 Now the question is, well, what are men doing in these situations?  You know, Sarah has talked a lot about – my wife has gotten in tune with this – she says, "You know, we criticize men who aren't necessarily talking about Mary's pregnancy, but that same man is making an incubator that's going to save the lives of those children."

 That God has created men to think along a certain line, and that doesn't mean that women are not mechanical engineers but, generally speaking, you can see the bent, and those men who are out doing certain kinds of things, are doing these things to serve humanity in some broader brush strokes and are creating things.  Sarah talks about men make these bridges, they make these buildings, they build these houses.  She's caught this vision that they're different but they're not necessarily wrong.

Bob: And how many times does a guy come home and say, "Hey, I heard Frank and his wife had their baby," and the wife says what?  "What'd they have?"

Dennis: He doesn't know.  He doesn't know any of the details.

Bob: They had a baby.  I don't know if it's a boy or a girl.  "Well, how much did it weigh?"  "I don't know."  "How long was it?"  "I don't know."  "What hospital is she in?"  "I don't know, I just know they had their baby, and I'm glad I remembered that to tell you, you know?  I should get some credit just for remembering it.

Emerson: And what I'm trying to encourage us is we've taken this to illustrate that men are jerks or buffoons or idiots, and I'm saying, "We're going to be saying that about our sons," and we've got to think differently about this that, yes, that can suggest that there may this uncaring indifferent spirit, and that may be the case, but because this pattern is so prevalent, and it's so consistent, what I'm cautioning us to do is to pick our battles.

 It would be so easy for a wife, then, to say, "You know, he's an uncaring human being," and to globalize from this and say, "That's proof that you are – you've got a problem."  "Well," I'm saying, "let's be cautious here."  Choose your battles.  Where do you really want to judge him?  How does the Lord look at him at this point in time?

 And that's just an illustration of the caution that I'm trying to bring to the church today about how we're evaluating one another.

Dennis: Yeah, and the culture is really attacking here, too, Emerson.  I mean, men who are being men are not being celebrated in this culture.  If anything, the media is eroding and chipping away at true masculinity trying to create a gender blender where the sexes are all the same when, in reality, the Bible does begin "Male and female created He them."  He made us different, and we need to celebrate those differences.  That's what I'm hearing you say.

 Be careful about chipping away at your husband's strengths just because he is different.  There is another side to this I want to talk about, too, because it's just not the differences between male and female.  We marry our spouse because they're different.  It's not just because she's a woman, although I did marry her because she is a woman and she was beautiful, but Barbara brought to my life all kinds of strengths and qualities that I don't have.

 My wife is an artist.  She is intensely interested in color, in very minute details, and we recently did some work on our house, and we were working on a window that she wanted to get the framing of that window just absolutely perfect.  Now, I appreciate visual things.  I like beautiful golf courses, and I like mountain ranges, okay?  Are you getting the picture here?

Emerson: Yes.

Dennis: And I stood before that window, but here is where this pays off.  A man is wise when he can say, "You know what?  This isn't about what I think is good looking.  This is about what my wife appreciates and who she is because you know what?  She's going to be in that house many more hours than I am, and that window that's being framed out is for her.  It's not for me.  If it was for me, "Ah, yeah, you can frame that out however you want to frame it out."

Bob: You would say, "It's fine the way it is, honey."

Dennis: That's what I said, Bob.  But I did say that, but then I backtracked, and it was – it's back to your principle here that you teach in this book, that we need to honor our wives because they're different, and because they're different doesn't mean they're wrong.  It's not wrong that she cares about the details, about the image of how that looks precisely.  It's just what she values, and I need to value that, too.

Bob: So if we're going to crack the communication code, we've got to recognize that our words do matter.  We've got to make that a priority.  Secondly, we've got to recognize that there is a difference between men and women and then the third thing we've got to recognize about our communication, as you say in the book, is that we've got to – I use the phrase, "the judgment of charity."  We've got to give one another a little grace; we've got to recognize that we're not married to somebody who is fundamentally an evil person, right?

Emerson: Yes, and, in fact, again, these three ideas that we're talking about, the foundation to really healthy communication is coming to that point where we realize the mouth matters in marriage; that Jesus said the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.  Jesus also asked the question, "Have you not read he who made them from the beginning made them male and female."  So we're different – pink and blue.  We're not wrong, we're just different unless there is clear, evil moral behavior going on.  Biblically we can assess that.

 And, thirdly, believing that the spirit is willing though the flesh is weak, and though we talk theologically that the total depravity of man, that we need the Savior, that none of us can be good enough to earn heaven, but that doesn't mean that the image of God has been obliterated, and it's a sad day in marriage when we begin to think that because my spouse fails me or my spouse does not fulfill my needs, that somehow they must not really value me.  Maybe they don't have goodwill toward me; maybe they have ill will toward me; maybe they're a bad person.  I mean, these kinds of leaps are humongous.

 But Jesus said the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.  Paul said the good I want to do I don't, the bad I want to avoid I end up doing.

Bob: And you say that that principle of recognizing that your mate really does fundamentally have goodwill toward you and not ill will toward you has been revolutionary for a lot of causes.

Emerson: Humongous, humongous, and we make the point, it's sad when you call your spouse a "Judas" when really they have the spirit of a "Peter."  Both Judas and Peter denied Jesus Christ, but we all know Judas had a different spirit about Him, but Peter denied Him, and how said when you call your spouse a Judas when, truthfully, Jesus Christ sees your spouse more as a Peter.  Does Christ view your spouse in the way you view your spouse?  And if Jesus's view of your spouse is different than yours, and His is more positive, then I think it's time for you to kind of step back and not pass that kind of severe judgment.

 Yes, they failed you.  Peter failed Jesus.  They fell asleep in the Garden, but He said, "Your spirit's willing but the flesh is weak."  At the nadir of His experience, when He needed those three friends around Him more than any other, they were sawing logs, but He didn't impugn them with evil, and he didn't show contempt toward them.  And if we're going to Christ-like, we cannot justify contempt; we cannot justify hostility toward a person who isn't intending to be unloving and disrespectful but are just vulnerable and weak.

Dennis: You know, there are evil people in marriage who do a lot of evil things, but what you're talking about occurs in most marriages, and, unfortunately, Emerson, a lot of these marriages end up in isolation, in battles and conflict with one another and, ultimately, divorce when they don't have to.  They're in love with each other, they should, as Paul wrote in Romans, chapter 12, "give preference to one another in honor."

 And I think that's what's missing in a lot of marriages today.  We really don't give our spouse the benefit of the doubt.  We somehow get so focused on the negative that all we can think about is how they failed us and he did this or she did that and instead of giving preference and honor, we convict them and declare them guilty.

Bob: There need to be liberal doses of grace and forgiveness in most marriages, and there may be, as you said, somebody who is malevolent, somebody who is perpetrating evil, and when that's there, then the church needs to come around and be involved in that.  There needs to be a community response, there are civil authorities who can help you with that, but many wives, many husbands, are married to people who are not intentionally evil.

Dennis: They got up today thinking about how they could, indeed, love their wives.

Bob: That's right.  And when that happens, we need to know how to respond, how to communicate with one another, how to speak the truth in love, how to lovingly confront and how to understand the differences between men and women when it comes to communication, and then apply the biblical principles we've been talking about today, the same principles you talk about in your book, Dr. Eggerichs, which is called "Cracking the Communication Code."

 We have the book in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and let me encourage our listeners to go our website,  On the home page, when you get there, you'll find a red button in the center of the page that says "Go."  If you click that red button it will take you to an area of the site where you can get more information not only about Dr. Eggerichs's book, "Cracking the Communication Code," but about his first book, "Love and Respect."

 Really, these two books go hand-in-hand.  The second book amplifies some of what you talk about in the first book and is a great follow-up.  But if our listeners haven't read the first book, I'd encourage them to get both books, and they're available, again, at our FamilyLife Resource Center online at  when you get to the home page, click the red button that says "Go" in the center of the page, and you can order copies of the book from our website, if you'd like, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we can make arrangements to have copies of either of these books sent to you.

 And while we're talking about communication, let me just mention that the book you and Barbara have just finished, Dennis, called "Moments With You," is designed to give husbands and wives an opportunity for regular communication, to practice that discipline on a daily basis.  As you read through a devotional each day that's based on a passage of Scripture, and then there are some discussion questions that you can interact over, and it helps to build healthy, meaningful communication.

 Of course, we've got the book in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  It's also available now in Christian bookstores across the country.  The book is called "Moments With You," and let me encourage our listeners to pick up a copy and begin the regular discipline of spending time together in God's Word praying and communicating around things that really matter.

 And then, finally, if you are able to help us with a donation this month for the ministry of FamilyLife Today, we have a thank you gift we'd like to send to you, and I'll tell you about that in just a second, but first I want to make sure you know two things.  The first thing is that FamilyLife is listener-supported, so your donations are vital for us to continue this daily radio ministry on this station and on other stations all across the country.

 The second thing I want to make sure you know is that we don't want you to take any money away from giving to your local church and give that to FamilyLife.  We think the money that you give to your local church needs to be your top giving priority, and we would not want to do anything to interfere with that.

 But if you are able to go above and beyond what you give to your local church and help with a donation to the ministry of FamilyLife Today, and you can do that this month, we have a thank you gift we'd like to send you.  It's the audiobook of "Thanksgiving, a Time to Remember."  We took the Thanksgiving story as written by Barbara Rainey in her book about Thanksgiving.  We took it and turned it into a dramatic retelling of the Thanksgiving story, and we'd love to send a copy of the CD to you when you make a donation of any amount this month to the ministry of FamilyLife Today. 

 If you're donating online at, you'll come to a keycode box.  Just type the word "remember" in that keycode box so we know to send you the audiobook.  Or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation over the phone, and, again, just mention that you'd like the audiobook about Thanksgiving, and we'll send it out to you.  We appreciate your support of this ministry and your partnership with us here at FamilyLife Today.

 Well, tomorrow we're going to continue to talk about talking – about communication and about what we can do to better understand the differences between men and women when it comes to communication.  Dr. Emerson Eggerichs will be back with us tomorrow.  I hope you'll be back as well.

 I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. 


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