The Molotov Cocktail of Communication
A Molotov 1 cocktail is a bottle filled with two liquids, stoppered, and topped with a lit wick. When thrown, the bottle explodes and starts a fire.
The combination of these three ingredients—the two liquids and the spark—is explosive. Similarly, when a person trying to communicate activates two organs in their body at the same time, they can create a dangerous concoction.
There are three organs involved in communicating a message which if activated simultaneously are like a Molotov cocktail, the person might explode with anger or fury. They are: the stomach, the brain, and the mouth. These organs are responsible for feelings, thoughts, and words, respectively.
Some people speak and think at the same time. They activate two organs simultaneously: the brain and the mouth. They think about what they want to say as they say it.
If you have ever encountered a person who does this, you know how confusing they can be. They will repeat themselves and change their message from minute to minute. They are communicating their own deliberations.
The Serbian expression for combatting this type of communication is tri put peci, jedanput reci, which means, “Bake it three times, and say it once.” The other universal version of this expression, which comes from measuring out cloth when sewing, is, “Measure twice, cut once.”
If a person is thinking about what he wants to say while he is saying what he is thinking, he is “cutting the cloth” multiple times and confusing the hell of the listener.
Open your mouth only when your brain is done thinking. Activate only one organ at the time. Then, you will speak slowly and confidently. Otherwise, you will speak quickly and in broken sentences. If you activate your mouth and brain at the same time, you will contradict yourself. You will disagree with things you said just minutes before, and then you will get upset with the listener for not understanding. Even worse, you might accuse them of not wanting to understand.
Divrey hachamim be nahat nishmaeem. This is a Hebrew expression that means, “The messages of wise people are listened to peacefully. This is why wise people often take a piece of paper and write and rewrite what they want to say before they say it.
Communication is even worse when our stomach and mouth are activated simultaneously. Communicating a deep message, one that we cannot easily articulate, starts in our stomach. We know that we feel something. We are hurt or upset. We feel uncomfortable. Some people even get a stomach ache when they need to communicate something sensitive, especially if they fear retribution.
If we start speaking before we have articulated what we are upset about, then we are activating our stomach and mouth simultaneously. What will emerge are accusations, offenses, some crying, and—even worse—calls for action. We will find ourselves saying things like, “Let us go our separate ways . . .”
If you are uncomfortable, upset, or emotional, if your stomach is acting, close your lips. Before you communicate the idea, you must calm down your stomach. Write it all down. Bring it from the stomach to the brain. If your write-up is still emotional, keep writing until it is not.
Once your stomach and brain are quiet, now go and open your mouth.
Ichak Kalderon Adizes
*1 Named after Vyacheslav Molotov, Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Soviet Union during the 1940s