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  KD MAGAZINE! 
Posted: Monday, September 26, 2005 - כ"ב אלול, תשס"ה
 
 
True Communication
Part Two                 Click here to read Part One

Rabbi Shea Hecht
About the Author
 

Last week I wrote about a study on the amount of words we speak each day and how many statements we make that are considered lies. The study on lies got me wondering. Is there a study on negative statements and how detrimental they are?
 
So over the next few years I conducted my own private study - both formally and informally. I studied statements of the people around me, politicians, those I counseled, people at meetings and in public places. I would listen to people talk and keep a tally of how many negative statements were said. I eavesdropped on adults talking to their pets and children talking to their dolls and  playmates. I listened to news reporters and commentators. I would concentrate on conversations between spouses and siblings, parents and teachers, people in their work place and places of leisure. I kept my eye open for negativity and I realized that many people speak counterproductively.
 
Negativity breeds negativity. Its influence is a damper and kills the mood of the moment. It destroys homes, children, jobs, classrooms, and public relations almost everywhere. Negative energy affects the giver as well as the receiver of the comments.  The great thing is that positive energy has the same ripple affect and a person who speaks positively creates a wave of positive energy and could accomplish great things with their words.
 
Sometimes it's the bad mood of a parent that kills the atmosphere at the dinner table, a child who ruins the atmosphere in the class with his detrimental behavior, or a spouse that destroys what should have been a lovely evening spent together with their bickering. Negativity can be in tone or in language.  It can be sarcastic or straight. It can be subtle or overt.
 
With all the statements that we make each day, it's interesting to note that the average couple has meaningful conversation for as little as one minute a day. Meaningful communication between parent and child is less than two minutes a day. With so little meaningful communication every day we must make sure to keep our communication honest and open and positive. By communicating positively and helping those around us see the best in themselves we can assure ourselves that the communication we do have has been productive.
 
I remember sitting at a meeting that was called to deal with a community crisis. One of the main players at the meeting, someone that I respected, was negative about everything. In fact, I kept a written tally and he made 22  negative statements just in his opening presentation. I must tell you that the negativity didn't help much. He was smart and well meaning. His statements were logical and powerful.  Had he made his presentation in a positive manner he would have accomplished so much. As it was, his negativity spiraled, holding us back from accomplishing as much as we could have. He poisoned the atmosphere in the room; the other people were tired of his negativity and wouldn't agree with what he said even though a lot of what he said made sense.
 
One couple that sat in my office for counseling tossed 47 negative comments back and forth - sometimes quite loudly. True if the relationship was perfect (whatever that means) they wouldn't have been sitting in my office, but there are ways to phrase statements, even negative ones, and do so in a positive tone. I couldn't help but think how much more civil the atmosphere would have been had the issues been phrased positively.
 
Think about it on a practical level. Would you want to come home on time, if when you walk in the door you are bombarded with accusations and complaints of why you are late and why you forgot what you were supposed to bring home? Would you call home if you know you will be welcomed with an argument and a lack of appreciation? If a story you share will be bombarded with negative comments, why share it?  It makes no difference if  you are a child coming from school or an adult coming home from work. It's irrelevant if the negativity is spouse to spouse or parent to child - it destroys. 

Here is an interesting result of my study, if we in fact find that people are negative in their conversation or in their behavior, attitude or speech, the way to counter it is by being positive and pleasant. By criticizing negativity you are feeding right into it. If when bombarded with negative questions, you give sweet and calm answers, you can change the direction of the negative ripple and create a positive tide.
 
The next time someone is cynical or discouraging to you, the next time you hear negativity, stop and think one moment: is this a response to my negativity or merely an opportunity to turn negative energy into positive energy?

Read more articles by Rabbi Hecht

 

 
     
 
 
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