What Are You Really Saying?

Posted: January 9, 2013 in Wicked Pissah

This week’s blog is a guest post from Jeremy Jernigan. Jeremy is the Executive Pastor of Creative Arts at Central IMG_5678--Christian Church. He is a second generation preacher with a passion for discovering and communicating truth. Jeremy is married to Michelle and they have three kids named Gavin, Madsen, and Adelyn. You can find him on his blog at TomorrowsReflection.com

Communication can be dissected into two parts: what is said and what is actually heard. Effective communicators take ownership of both. Average communicators pride themselves solely on what they say. I was reminded of this chasm between the two recently.

I was at our local Starbucks by my house working on a book. I was dressed in casual attire that included a T-shirt that said “I heart Gilbert.” It didn’t actually say “heart” but featured a giant red heart as is common with the New York variety. These shirts were made by our church to highlight the different communities where we have campuses. It is a reminder to us and to others that we exist to serve those around us. Since I live in Gilbert and we have a campus there, this is the shirt I wear. What was unique about wearing that shirt on this occasion was the unusual conversation that it prompted.

As I walked up to the counter, one of the baristas, (whom I will refer to as Barista No.1) asked me, “Is Gilbert your boyfriend?”

Needless to say I was caught a bit off guard. Dozens of thoughts rushed into my head. Do I look gay? Is she saying this because of the shirt, or something else? Is it my hair? Is it my tendency to wear a watch that matches my undershirt? If I was gay, how flamboyant would I have to be to make a shirt like that? Do people actually make shirts like that? Will I ever be able to wear this shirt again? Are there a lot of guys named Gilbert?

After I regained myself, I replied by saying, “No, it’s the town we are currently in.”

This seemed like a ridiculously obvious answer to me that was sure to end this bizarre exchange. I was wrong.

Barista No.1 (in response to my answer): blank stare. Barista No.2 (to Barista No.1): “Jeremy is a pastor at my church.”

Barista No.1 (to me): “Gilbert is the name of your church?”

Me: “No, Gilbert is the community in which we have a campus.”

Barista No.1: blank stare.

Yes, this is a true story. And it is a great reminder that those ideas that are obvious to us are not always obvious to others. To me, my shirt showed a no-brainer explanation of value for the town that I live in. To Barista No.1, it showed a bold declaration of my sexual identity. To be effective communicators we must own this disconnect and take initiative over what we say and how it is actually heard by others. To do that we must spend time evaluating how others are hearing our message instead of assuming they think of it the way we do. This post is excerpted from Jeremy’s book Crowdsourcing The Message.


  1. Denise King says:

    Omgoodness GREAT story!!! I literally laughed out loud. I can totally relate to this story actually being on both sides at work on a plane. Its both embarrassing and awkward. 🙂 Thanx for the SMILE on my face!

  2. Gary says:

    Thanks for sharing this unique and awkward social situation. A lot to read into. I will definitely be checking out this book 🙂

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