LESSONS FROM HOME SHALOM
DECEMBER 13th 2018
Adinah Singer-Frankes
Miscommunication is one of the most common types of misunderstanding. When something is not made clear in a relationship between two people there is a loss of clarity. As human beings, we tend to forget to mention things that are very clear to us personally. We forget to say things like “remember to turn off the kitchen light before you go to sleep,” if it's something we are good at remembering ourselves. However, not every person remembers the same things. This lack of understanding also translates into sexual and romantic relationships. People's requests and needs are usually not made clear in the first place. Though it sounds strange or odd, communicating about every single thing that happens in a two-way relationship is crucial. Whether the conversation is about keeping the relationship monogamous, or not, or if the conversation is about how comfortable someone feels in a sexual situation, each and every face-to-face interaction is beneficial and important.

The best way to begin a routine of communication is by doing it with everything (even if it feels silly). For example, “Is it OK with you if I use this charger to charge my phone?” Something as simple as a question can give a whole new perspective to a relationship. Simple changes in everyday vernacular can completely shift the way we view communication as a whole. When two people have mutual consent about everything they do and say they begin to have more respect for each other.
Now, here’s what we teens, ask of you. Please make this kind of communication normal. When you want to give us a hug for doing well on a project, ask us. This teaches us to then later ask our friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, or anyone in our lives for the same thing. We need a clear understanding of what it means to respect someone, and when you model that exactly, we are able to adapt to it. Most importantly, our and your words have the power to change the world. When we, human beings, can directly communicate through discussion, we are able to dream, imagine, plan, and create whatever our hearts desire.
Naomi Ackerman
Interpretation / Clarification / Honesty

Often we hear what we want to hear and not what is being said.

We say something that is covering up a real feeling or we respond to one thing in an exaggerated way because of events that may have nothing to do with what we are responding to or because of hurt feelings.

It is hard not to read into things, misunderstand, misinterpret, or translate something being said.

Someone can have an intention that we choose not hear, understand, or realize and/or we simply project our own feelings and intentions into a conversation.

This is the main cause of miscommunication – and so many hard feelings.

We ask someone to hang out and they say they are busy: we think they don’t like us.

Someone asks us how our day was: we answer “fine” in a snarl, not because our day was fine, but because we actually had a really bad day.

At Home Shalom, we use the exercise below to explore, discuss, and address the fact that we often interpret things based on what we are feeling and not what someone is actually saying.

We use this exercise as an introduction to clarify intentions and practice honesty. Honesty about our own feelings and honesty about how others’ words and actions really make us feel.
Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben
The biblical Book of Proverbs teaches one of the most profound lessons we can learn about life when it says, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). In Jewish tradition, speech itself and the words we use to communicate with one another are actually the most powerful weapons that we have to either build up or tear down the self-esteem of others, friends, family or enemies. In fact, the Torah begins with God creating the entire universe simply through words: “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). Here, we learn not just God, but actually the words we speak as well have power, impact, and consequences. We have all heard the famous childhood rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” and we know from personal experience how foolish and simply wrong that is. Every one of us has experienced the pain and trauma of gossip, slander, rumors, and other hurtful words that have been spoken about us or thrown in our faces. These words have hurt us to our very core and left lasting wounds that often haunt us our entire lives.

Knowing how powerful words can be to build up or tear down, to inspire us to be and do our best or crush our spirits, deflate our self-esteem and make us feel worthless or small, our tradition constantly challenges us to take responsibility for the impact that our words have on others. The Talmud reminds us that once the arrow leaves the bow we often have no control over where or whom it will strike. So, too, with the words that we speak. In fact, Jewish tradition even suggests that words are more powerful than swords, since the sword can only hurt one person at a time, while words can continue to hurt many even over long distances. And they taught this lesson thousands of years ago long before the internet, Twitter, Instagram and texting even existed!

There is a reason why the single most important prayer in Jewish life is the Shema. Shema literally means, “listen,” and it remains the single most important ethical challenge of our everyday lives. To cultivate the skill of listening to others so that we actually hear what they are intending us to hear, and not what we have already predisposed our minds to believe they mean. The simple but profound reality is that the most common source of all our miscommunications with others is that we don’t focus our attention on what each other is saying. We don’t make sure our words are heard as they were intended. That is why the ultimate challenge always is for each of us to accept responsibility for making sure that our own words, our own communications, actually reach their intended targets in the hearts and minds of others
Naomi Ackerman
Exercise #2 Gibberish Exercise: Translation

1. Introduce the use of language of gibberish. Gibberish is a language that is (or appears to be) nonsense. It may include speech sounds that are not actual words, or language games and specialized jargon that seem nonsensical to outsiders.
"Gibberish" is an umbrella term for any nonsensical language that is hard to understand, such as baby talk. For example, “Helons aoxta elpana doseken alhata?”

2. Ask the group: What do we need to pay attention to when people are talking to us in order to understand them? Example of answers, Facial expressions, tone of voice , eye contact, etc.

3. Invite two participants to volunteer. 

4. Give participant A something to introduce to the group like a new camp, an alternative school, a cool new restaurant, etc. (Get suggestions from group, food truck or restaurant is usually a good choice) but their introduction must be in gibberish.
They need to create their own version of gibberish. It can be simple syllables like "blah blah blah" or "cha cha cha." Encourage them to be animated and use their imagination. Clarify that there is no wrong or right in speaking gibberish.

5. Explain to participant B that their job is to translate Student A's speaking, as best as they can.

6. Go back and forth between A and B for several sentences. Where A speaks and B translates.

7. Discussion:
Did A feel that B was translating accurately?
What does B have to pay attention to in order to translate A well?
What happens when you mistranslate someone's words?
Have you ever said something that someone else mistranslated?

At the Advot Project, we try to encourage the practice of honesty.
Be honest and say how you feel.
Be honest and express what you want.
Most importantly, always say what hurts you.

So many conflicts and ill feelings stem from a lack of understanding and/or people not being honest about how something makes them feel.
This seems simple, but we know it is not easy.

We invite you to practice honesty in your communication.
Not just honesty about how we feel about the other and their actions but also honesty about our own feelings and actions!
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