Principles of the Soul: #13 - The Communication Lie
Spouses don't feel alienated from each other because they can't communicate; they feel alienated because all they are communicating is negativity.
One of the great modern fallacies is that a "communication problem" is often the reason that married people feel distant from their spouses. The theory goes that if couples would simply learn how to communicate -- to honestly express their feelings -- they would soon find themselves waltzing through tulip gardens and prancing around lily covered ponds.
It is probably impossible to measure the amount of needless pain that people have put each other through as a result of couples innocently falling for this oh-so-popular myth.
Think of communication as a pipeline connecting you to your spouse. Let's say you have honed your communication skills to a razor's edge. You can -- at will -- get anything you feel like saying across to almost anybody.
Now let's say you are an extremely critical person. You're Attilla the Hun with a microphone. You are communicating your feelings all right -- you are constantly ripping apart yourself and others.
By learning to "communicate," you have enabled yourself to level your criticisms more clearly and effectively. Congratulations! Now everyone will get exactly the piece of your mind that you feel like blasting in their direction. You'll probably have to register your mouth with the police department.
If your pipeline to each other is open but what you put in that pipeline is verbal sewage then you will communicate that sewage clearly and effectively and wreck your relationship.
What do people really mean when they say they have a "communication" problem in their marriage?
They mean that one or the other or both spouses are communicating clearly negative content and feelings to each other. People don't feel alienated from each other because they can't communicate; people feel alienated because all they are communicating -- either verbally or non-verbally -- is anger, frustration and negativity.
The Sages say "Never reason with an angry man."
The Sages say "Never reason with an angry man." This means that when your spouse is angry or you feel angry temporarily stop communicating. And if you can't keep quiet try shooting novocaine into your jaw.
What people must realize is that when their souls are submerged by the their egos, when they are upset, angry, dissatisfied, defiant, they have no business unleashing that on somebody else. What they must do is tell their partner that they are temporarily caught up in their egos, and that they need to temporarily stop communicating because whatever they are likely to say could be toxic.
It is important also that their spouse realize that this is not a game or a punishment, but an honest attempt to spare them both from a needless destructive argument.
Later, when everybody is calm, you will know how to communicate even hard feelings in a way that brings you closer.
Earlier in this series, we introduced the Torah principle, "things that go out from the heart go into the heart." When a person is feeling relaxed and centered they will naturally speak from the heart. When the pipeline is filled with the warmth of the soul, the pipeline is a source of nourishment for both of you.
You will only need to whisper to be heard. The same discussion that would have exploded when you were caught up in your ego has the potential to bring you closer when you are speaking from your soul.
WHY WE HAVE EARS
Truth is, the essence of communication is in listening more than speaking. We all know that most conversations basically revolve around each person waiting for the other one to finish, so they can talk. (I've seen families where you didn't bother waiting for anyone to finish, you finished for them by talking louder then the other person. If you really want to get someone angry, give this technique a try.) Everyone knows intuitively that this isn't true listening. The word for listening in Hebrew shomeah, means both to hear and to understand; when you listen from the soul, the person talking immediately feels understood.
My rabbi taught me how to listen. Here are some tips:
- Clear your head of any extraneous thoughts. The only thing entering your should be what the other person is saying.
- Listen for content, but more importantly listen for the feeling that is carried with the words. The essence of what they are saying will be carried in that feeling.
- Now, and only now, engage mouth. Move your lips and tongue and breathe at the same time and you will be speaking in no time.
If you can do 1 and 2, the other person will feel heard and understood without you saying a word. They'll see it on your face.
The Torah calls the feeling or tone of what a person is saying the kol or the voice of the person. The kol is always were the real action of communication takes place. In the Book of Genesis, when God tells Abraham to listen to Sarah, Abraham is told to listen to the kol of Sarah -- to the essence of her words.
If you can hear the kol in people's words, when you reflect back to them what they said they will think you are a genius in how perceptive you are. You probably are a genius, (your mother certainly thinks so!) but even you're not, you have something greater than genius, the ability to listen with your soul.