||GETTING PAST PRACTICAL AND PERCEPTIVE LIMITATIONS
- Friday, March 1 '02 - Parshas Ki Sisa 5762
Trouble that married couples have is commonly due to, or includes, their inability to effectively communicate. Often, as a marriage counselor, I have to play the role of a translator for the couple. By learning to communicate, people learn how to link up in meaningful, effective and fulfilling ways.
A major and typical problem is that each one is locked in his and/or her own mental reality. This sets up a serious barrier to dealing with who the other person truly is and to getting along peacefully, happily and steadily. Being locked in one's own inner mental reality essentially causes the "human erasure and negation" of the other person. This is painful, rejecting and destructive to a relationship. It is, therefore, imperative to learn to substantively recognize and deal with each other's separate and different reality; including feelings, needs, values, upbringing, habits, perspective and what each issue means to the other. Through sensitive and on-target communication, one can learn the wrong things to NOT do, the right things to do, and how to do things in the nicest way and with the nicest attitude.
In my research, Torah learning and work experience doing private counseling and public workshops, I've learned much about communication and linguistics. I will share some representative techniques and ideas to help people who want to relate and link up more successfully. You might want to cut this article out and save it.
Speak in private, especially when saying anything that might embarrass either of you or show discord. Always show others peace, happiness and unity; especially in front of your children. Speak from the heart, from real inner person to real inner person. Don't put on an act. Be sincere, straight and "down to earth." The midrash says that when you approach a person for a subject that is of interest to you, open the conversation with something first that is of interest to the other and then draw him softly to your subject.
Speaking harshly or disrespectfully builds natural resistance, defensiveness and barriers. No one wants to feel bullied, trampled, belittled or insignificant. Therefore, no matter what the situation is, effective communicating requires speaking gently and politely at all times. This makes the other person recognize that you are in control of yourself and, therefore, are open to WHAT THE ISSUE REQUIRES rather than seeking to force onto the issue what you require, and that the person you are talking to matters and is important. Steadily and sincerely speaking respectfully, in a soft heartfelt voice, evokes the psychological perception that you, likewise, matter and are an important person who has concern for the other's good and has consideration for the other's feelings and side to the story. This engenders the needed two-sided atmosphere, credibility, trust and the good and unblocked feelings necessary for a genuine and constructive dialogue. If the subject matter is (or might be perceived to be) critical or confrontational, make sure you speak in a soft voice and convey absolutely no ill-will nor anger.
Work actively together on building a two-way frame of reference for the relationship. Learn what each other's thoughts, needs, perspectives and feelings are; and what matters to the other - even for things that do not matter to you or things that you don't understand. IF THE OTHER PERSON MATTERS TO YOU, WHAT MATTERS TO THAT PERSON HAS TO MATTER TO YOU! If you can't understand why your wife wants perfume, buy it anyway - and do it with a smile! Recognize the impact of your actions, attitudes and positions on the other; factor in, respect and respond to the reality of the other. Go beyond your own reality for the sake of constructive and peaceful outcomes. Give on behalf of the other's feelings and good (as long as it is allowed by Torah).
When you have any reason to feel suspicious, judge kaf z'chus (with benefit of doubt).
Never attack, criticize, be judgmental nor jump to conclusions. In Torah law, you may not deem someone to be bad or guilty without substantiating the case by approved methods, such as kosher witnesses or chazaka (HALACHICALLY ESTABLISHED "track record" or status). Obviously, you each must be honest and trustworthy at all times as a matter of standard course.
When you have doubt about something, rather than accusing, presuming or "knowing it all," gently ask information-evoking questions. "Wasn't the arrangement supposed to be that other way?" "Is such and such what is happening?" "Why did you do that?" "Did you get my phone message?" Check and verify communication so as not to risk unclear or inaccurate understanding. "What I hear you saying is X, is that correct?" "What I mean to say, in other words, is Y. Is that how you understood it?" Know the other's side of the story as well as your own side before so much as forming an opinion, never mind reacting! Mature and civil handling of differences builds trust and closeness, and strengthens any relationship.