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Parashat Vaera

Effective communication is the key to success in so many life areas. How do we improve our communication skills? Where does one start?

An excellent place to begin is with the Meshech Hochma in this week’s Parasha. Moshe claimed to G-d that there is not a chance that Pharoah would listen to Moshe that he is their redeemer, and the time of Exodus had arrived if the Jewish people were not listening to Moshe. Moshe claimed that the reason why the Jews did not listen was that he had halting speech.

G-d ignores Moshe’s claims of his difficulty in communicating and commands Moshe to go back and speak to the People and Pharoah. As the Passuk says, וַיְדַבֵּ֣ר יְקֹוָק֘ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֣ה וְאֶֽל־אַהֲרֹן֒ וַיְצַוֵּם֙ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְאֶל־פַּרְעֹ֖ה מֶ֣לֶךְ מִצְרָ֑יִם לְהוֹצִ֥יא אֶת־בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם:  And YKVK spoke to Moshe and Aharon, and He commanded them to Bnei Yisrael and to Pharoah the king of Egypt, to take out the Jews from the land of Egypt. 

How did G-d command Moshe to go back and try communicating again, if Moshe had good reasons to believe that he was just not good at communicating the message? It almost seems as if G-d totally ignored Moshe’s seemingly legitimate claims of why he was not being effective in communicating the prophesy of G-d!

The Meshech Chochma answers that G-d was not ignoring Moshe’s frustration when He told Moshe to go back and tell the Jews and Pharoah that the Jews should exit the land of Egypt. G-d was teaching Moshe, and all of us, the essential tool to communicate effectively.

G-d told Moshe that the reason why the Jews did not listen was because of what Moshe told them. וְהֵבֵאתִ֤י אֶתְכֶם֙ אֶל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֤ר נָשָׂ֙אתִי֙ אֶת־יָדִ֔י לָתֵ֣ת אֹתָ֔הּ לְאַבְרָהָ֥ם לְיִצְחָ֖ק וּֽלְיַעֲקֹ֑ב And I will bring you (the Jewish People) to the land that I (G-d) raised My Hand to give it to Avraham, to Yitzhak and Yaakov. Moshe was promising his People the Land of the Patriarchs, the land flowing milk and honey. But G-d told Moshe that this is the reason why the message was not getting across! The Jews did not even have such dreams of fantasy lands on their radar! They were only interested in stopping their 86 year holocaust. This is what the passuk means when it says וְלֹ֤א שָֽׁמְעוּ֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה מִקֹּ֣צֶר ר֔וּחַ וּמֵעֲבֹדָ֖ה קָשָֽׁה And they did not listen to Moshe because of the short spirit and the hard work. All they wanted to hear about, all they wanted to talk about or think about or dream about was that the work and misery would end. Moshe, we do not have time, energy, or even headspace to hear about fantasy lands of flowing milk and honey!

G-d was saying, Moshe! If you want to communicate with your people, you need to listen to what it is on their minds! Go and tell them only that they will leave the land of Egypt! Don’t mention the Land of Israel and watch how they will listen to you!!!

If we want to be better communicators, the main way we can improve is by listening to what is going on in the head of the person with whom we are trying to communicate. Most times, we think that the problem is that we are not explaining ourselves well enough. ערל שפתים Or that the problem is that they don’t understand, trust, or respect the one who is trying to communicate — הם לא יאמינו בי. But most of the time, that is not the issue!! The issue is that we are not listening to what is going on in their heads.

Before you give a public talk, before you communicate, ask yourself first what the audience wants to hear. The question you should ask yourself when starting to prepare your speech should not be what you want to say, but what they want to hear. The question should not be, do you want to inform, entertain, motivate, inspire, or advise. The question that will make your speech great is, do they want to be informed, entertained, motivated, inspired, or advised. It’s all about them, not about you.

The key to being an effective communicator is not improving your vocab, or how you say what you say, although those are important. It is not changing your tone of voice, threatening, or complaining, because doing so will not communicate as much as confuse. Effective communication is mostly dependent on how well you actively listen, understand, ask Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How questions, so that you can learn and understand the one with whom you are communicating. Effective communication is dependent on how present you can be with those you communicate with, how much empathy you can have, and how much trust and rapport you can build. Effective communication is about speaking short, clear, and to the point, of what they want to hear. Effective communication is dependent on understanding where the person you are communicating with is at, and where they want to be.

So how do we become better communicators? Here are the selfie steps:

  • Engage. Make sure that when you communicate, you are doing 20 percent of the talking, and the one you are talking to is communicating with you 80 percent of the conversation. Ask and see if they understood what you said.
  • Know the person you are communicating with at as deep a level as you can.
  • Become a good listener by actively listening, showing with your body language that you are focused and present on the conversation.

About the author, Yosef

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