Would your life improve if you had better communications skills? Would you have an easier time connecting with your loved ones, sharing what’s important to you, understanding them better and reaching your common goals in a cooperative and pleasant atmosphere? Would you be more successful in your work if you could communicate with your clients more clearly?
Communication is the foundation of much that we do. It is the raw material with which we establish and expand relationships. Yet how much thought do we give to the way that we communicate?
We are in the time period of Sefirat HaOmer, during which we count from Pesach towards Shavuos in anticipation of receiving the Torah. It is a time of contemplation, when we carefully consider our middot (personal attributes) and make the changes that need to happen for us to reach our potential and be capable of receiving the Torah on a whole new level.
During the 49 days of Sefirat HaOmer we weave our way through the forty-nine gates: seven configurations of each of the seven sefirot. These permutations contain every way in which we can improve ourselves as human beings, bring more Divinity into our lives, and improve our relationships with others.
This week is the week of Tiferet, which connotes a balance between the out-flowing loving kindness of Chesed, and the strength and boundaries of Gevurah. What a perfect time to work on communication!
It is the power of Tiferet, the filter of truth, balance and compassion that allows us to constantly strike a harmonious balance between Chesed and Gevurah in our conversations. When we communicate we are sharing the essence of who we are, opening ourselves to another and sharing a taste of our soul-print. That’s Chesed. Our Gevurah provides the strength and courage to say what needs to be said, even when it’s difficult. We use Chesed to temper those difficult statements with love. We are also using our Gevurah to set a limit on how much we say, keeping our speech within the boundaries of what is appropriate in the moment.
Both Chesed and Gevurah are also essential to being a good listener. When HaShem created the world, the first thing that He had to do was to create a vacated space, a space in which there can be room for something else. Within that space He created us. Of course He is still present; He is constantly holding the space for us to exist. By deeply listening to another human being we are using our loving kindness and compassion to create space for them by setting boundaries for ourselves, having the strength to contain the other. That loving, holding, listening place for another person is a beautiful manifestation of the balance of Tiferet.
When there is something important that needs to be discussed we have three options:
1 – To Attack and Defend – This includes blame, self righteousness, and defensiveness. It usually leads to distance and alienation and almost never leads to positive results.
2 – To Avoid and Deny – This includes changing the subject, pretending that the issue is unimportant even though it is, denying yourself the opportunity to share meaningfully and to listen deeply to the other. While important issues can sometimes be postponed short-term, letting problems go on for too long without discussing them often leads to more problems, and sometimes by the time we are forced to deal with the issues, they are so overwhelming that we fall into the Attack and Defend pattern.
3 – Self-Disclose and Connect – This option takes the most courage, but yields the best results. Share honestly what you are feeling and experiencing, and connect deeply by listening to the other with your ears, mind and heart.
This week, as we focus on Tiferet, challenge yourself to go with option 3. Find the right time and place to sit with someone you love and to share with them what is in your heart and listen deeply to what is in theirs.
This works very well when there is no conflict between your desires and theirs. When you have conflicting ideas about what should be done and how it should be done this gets more complicated. If there is a history of intense conflict between the two of you, or if you have had high levels of conflict in other relationships, these kinds of conversations can activate or ‘trigger’ you, making it highly uncomfortable to continue. As we enter the weeks of Netzach, Hod and Yesod we will discuss how to manage ‘triggering’ situations and to respond with healthy self regulation.
 This works well in relationships with people who are basically healthy and stable. When dealing with people who are abusive, mentally ill or addicted this may not be your best option. Speak to a competent professional to get the help and guidance that you need.