How We Miscommunicate[1]

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I was watching a mother soothing her crying child. The mother was holding her daughter close to her chest, kissing and caressing her lightly. The only sound I could hear were soft murmurs of love. No talking. No preaching. No judging. 
 
            I thought to myself we are all children at heart. When we are in pain, all we want is to be loved, caressed, held close to the heart, comforted by someone we love, not words. At those moments of hurt and anguish, words only interfere with our need to feel and be felt. 
 
            It has long been truism in our culture that women do not want someone telling them what to do. They are smart and can handle their problem often better than we men. What is wanted is emotional touching, a sense that the person they care for connects to their feeling. They want empathy. I call it feel to feel. 
 
            Come to think of it, men need and desire the same kind of response too. Imagine for a moment a man coming home from some interaction in the office that went badly. His partner tries to talk to him out of how he feels; tries to use logic; tries to persuade him not to be so bruised or unhappy or out of sorts. Provides a solution. 
 
            I believe the response of the person hurt will be predictable: unhappy and dissatisfied with the response. 
 
            Just feel my pain is what we all want although often we are unable to utter the words, too macho to ask for comfort. But wouldn’t it be nice if our partner just held us, hugged us, listened to us, and was “just there?”.
 
            Logical issues should be handled with logic, and feelings should be handled with feelings. Not feelings with logic or logic with feelings.
 
            Here are some examples. 
 
            Think of a person dying. Imagine someone telling him that it is not so terrible. Really. There is life after death. God is waiting. And, come to think of it, heaven is not a bad place to be. It is so idiotic that is it not even funny and it is an extreme example of feelings handled with logic, with words. 
 
            Something else is wanted here. Something simple. And direct. Perhaps as slight as a gesture, as holding someone’s hand. Silently. With a caress. Or placing a hand on his or her heart. Gazing directly at one another. 
 
            It becomes a way of showing love. Of transmitting your sense of caring. Do not speak. Talk will only interfere, will only blur the connection. 
 
            By the same token we should handle logical issues not with feelings but with logic. 
 
            Imagine that you come to someone and ask him for advice, explaining what went wrong. Instead of reasoning with you, offering alternate suggestions or possible paths to follow, she tries to make you feel better. You would dismiss that person in a heartbeat. You were seeking advice, not emotional support, tough analytical reasoning, not sympathy or empathy. 
 
            The rule is: feelings should be responded to with feelings and logic with logic. Do not confuse which stimulus calls for which response. 
 
            Look at lovers sitting on a bench by the beach at sunset. Is he saying, “let me tell you the many ways why I love you”, or is he just holding her in an embrace and not saying a word? Speak would ruin the moment. 
 
            Feelings come from the heart and, yes, there is and can be heart-to-heart communion. Without declaring a sentence or uttering a word. The mind speaks with words; the heart with feeling transmitted in silence. 


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           To me this insight, which evolved as I watched a mother soothe a crying child, has repercussions within marriage, in a lover’s fight, and even in a business partnership turning sour. 

 

 

 

          Because what hurts people, more times than we understand, is not what happens to them but what it means to them. Often it is the heart that is reacting to what is going on, not necessarily the mind. 
 
            To help someone in that situation we need first to empathize. When the hurt person calms down and asks for our comments—in effect want us to speak—only then should we respond with words of understanding. But nor sooner. 
 
            If this insight makes sense, it has repercussions in international relationships as well. For example, today there is still no peace in the Middle East. I suggest that there will be none until both sides are able and willing to respond to each other with “heart speak,” not only “mind speak,” with actions from the heart and not just words expressing the mind. 
 
            What is happening instead is that words of negotiation have become the form and substance of exchange. They have covered over and replaced the feeling side of the equation. What they have left on the table is all barter and logic; rational thinking; who did what to whom; who is the victim and who is the villain. 
 
            All the while the real problem is staring us (and them) in the face: Jewish hearts bleeding from the Holocaust, and Palestinian hearts torn by the loss of home and land. 
 
            I am not suggesting here that they hold hands and look into each other eyes. Please… but there are ways I believe each side can turn to one another with an open heart. Less talk, more heartfelt action. 



            Here is an example: In Israel, the Physicians for Human Rights Organization do that. Once a month dozens of physicians, Jewish and Arab, visit a different Palestinian village and offer medical services free of charge. That seems to me a feel-to-feel act. A response from the heart: less talk and more heartfelt action. 
 
            If there is going to be peace in a marriage, in a partnership going sour, in international relations, the path must lead from the heart… and include far fewer words. At least to start with. 

 

Just thinking

Ichak Kalderon Adizes

 

 

           

 

 

 


[1] First published in Adizes Insights,August 2013. It is a now an edited chapter in the forthcoming book Ichak K.Adizes: On Love, Life and Relationships. Due 2022

Written by
Dr. Ichak Adizes
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