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Our Words

By Rabbi Shea Hecht

RABBI SHEA HECHT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

Ever notice how it’s becoming more and more difficult to get a smile out of someone in passing, let alone a nice hello? I believe that I have gotten a clue as to the reason why…

Put yourself in the following situations: 1) You’re on your way to shul Shabbos morning when you see your neighbor in the street. You nod and say “Good Shabbos”; 2) You run into a wedding to wish your best to the celebrating families. you push your way through the crush of people to the father of the bride and say “mazal tov”; 3) You come home from the office at the end of the day. Your first grader tells you that he got a 100 on his test. You say, “wow, that’s great”.

What do all of these scenarios have in common? In all of them, there’s a very strong possibility that our acknowledgements are not being received at all. And depending on our frame of mind, they all bear the potential to create a terrible breakdown in communication.

Let’s face it. Words, especially without enthusiasm, are pretty cheap. Let’s also face up to the fact that if we’re running a little low on energy, or if we had a tough day at work, our kind words have probably just evaporated into the air without having done their job of delivering their brief message of goodwill.

What aggravates the situation is that this all usually goes right over our heads. Our child thinks we don’t appreciate his test score, our neighbor feels slighted and our friend struggles to remember if we even came to their child’s wedding. And even as this happens, we see ourselves as having done our best to maintain a sociable and neighborly disposition.

In such exchanges one side feels a pang of neglect while the other is not only oblivious, but actually feels fulfilled. That’s what we call terrible communication. Yes, the words are there, but no one actually hears them.

Anyone who needs an example of how this works can take a moment to smile into the mirror. Is the face smiling back at you what you expected? My guess is that it’s probably not. The smile that we see looking back at us and the smile that we think we're giving are, in fact, two different faces. In our minds, we are beaming a bright, happy smile. Unless that mirror is lying, our actual expression is a foggy middle ground somewhere between pleasure and pain.

The mirror test is true for any type of communication. The amount of energy and enthusiasm that it takes to give the smile that we really want to give is much greater than we think. And so too with our words. In order to say the words that we really want to say, we must invest a great deal of our energy and attention into what we’re saying.

Communication is focusing not on what we want to “give”, but upon what we want the other person to “get”. That means that a greeting must be not only audible, but even cheerful and lively. A smile (especially one covered by a bushy beard) really does need to change the look of the face, and maybe even show a few teeth.

Communication is the essence of any relationship. If we want our friends, family and neighbors to feel fulfilled, we have to invest ourselves into our words and actions so that they show energy and enthusiasm, and actually inspire goodwill.
 
Rabbi Shea Hecht is the Chairman of the National Committee for Furtherance of Jewish Education . His web site is: www.sheahecht.com

 
   
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