The Art of Communicating
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Torah Portion: Shemot
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The Art of Communicating
Birds chirp, dogs bark, frogs croak and people speak.
All creatures communicate. Yet, Torah pinpoints our ability to speak as the factor which distinguishes us from all other life forms. Why? What makes the conversation I just had with a friend, or what I’m doing right now (communicating through the written word), so different from the dog’s bark?
My words express my thoughts and feelings. Isn’t that dog doing the same?
Human beings don’t need to act purely on instinct; they have the capacity for self- analysis and self-calibration. A human can control his strong temptation for someone else’s property, by bringing his moral compass to bear on his actions.
Human beings have the capacity to put themselves in the other’s place. When we convey an idea, we can take into account the listener’s emotional-availability, their knowledge of the subject matter and their familiarity with the lexicon being used.
In other words, human communication isn’t just about getting something off your chest; that seems more akin to animal-level communication. Communication is a connection between two parties, which means we’re investing consideration and intent as to the kind of connection we want to forge.
We can respect a person who “says it like it is,” in the sense that this person is bringing boldness and transparency to the relationship. While that may feel uncomfortable, you have benefit of “knowing where you stand.”
At the same time, there’s almost no upside to angry or impulsive communications. That’s just unloading, which isn’t humanity’s claim to communications fame.
Our instant information age has made it more challenging to maintain the human edge in transmitting thoughts and feelings. Years ago, if you awoke in middle of the night feeling resentment to someone, you couldn’t convey your feelings until the next day (unless the person lived in your house!). If you wanted to write a biting letter, you needed to sit down with a pen and paper, considering your words’ impact as you write, and then wait until you could actually deliver or mail it.
Today, the miracle of technology allows us to simply reach for the smartphone and send off whatever invective we feel.
We can do better. G-d gifted us human beings with the capacity to build real relationships. We can communicate in a way that creates connection, even when we’re criticizing.
Let’s remember: Technology can be a blessing. Or the opposite.
It’s up to us.
Rabbi Yanky and Rivky Klein
This email is In Loving memory of my dear father
R’ Yerachmiel Binyamin Halevi ben R, Menachem Klein OBM