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Peretz: Welcome to a new conversation with Chanie and Peretz. Last week we had this wonderful conversation on conversation preventers, what prevents people from having conversations. And we also noted why conversations are so important and what conversations are supposed to look like, how you’re supposed to walk away from a conversation – uplifted, lighter, enlightened.
Chanie: Not necessarily lighter. It could be you’ve been exploring a heavy, difficult topic, but it should leave you understanding that you are in a space that is valuable that you want to seek out again.
Peretz: Liberated… Maybe… (Laughs)
Chanie: That’s maybe even too positive. But that, too.
Peretz: I think I’m falling into the mistake of cliche and looking for the cliche, looking for that tagline, looking for the brand that –
Chanie: Convinces people that conversations are it?
Peretz: Are it, or the mistakes, the reasons for conversation preventers, where you like to consumerize it and make it simple. But I fell to that, I guess, you know, we all do. That’s a cliche again. You see what I just did? I said –
Chanie: Tell me.
Peretz: I said that I did something wrong.
Chanie: Right. We all do it.
Peretz: And instead of being in that moment, I deflected and it said, “We all do.”
Chanie: Yes. Okay. But also it’s true.
Peretz: Cliches aren’t false.
Chanie: Right. It’s just how often you use them.
Peretz: When you use them.
Chanie: And when you use them, yes.
Peretz: You use them as a tool to soothe you.
Peretz: I digress.
Chanie: Okay. (Laughs) So today we want to explore –
Peretz: We begin with a little l’chaim.
Chanie: Okay. You do your wine, I’ll do my coffee.
Chanie: So you did not hear the clink because I am not drinking coffee in a mug. Today we want to explore what a healthy conversation can look like. And also it will reflect the importance of it. And the possibility. We were sitting with a couple who we’ve spent countless times with enjoying good times, family milestones, no-reason-to-celebrate times together. And it was on a lazy Shabbat afternoon. And the couple who has been married for quite a number of years with a number of children were sharing with us, she was sharing that her birthday’s coming up. And you know, she always asks for a handwritten letter from her husband as a birthday gift and he never gives it to her. So she’s going to bring it up. So, “Hey, can you give me a handwritten letter for my birthday?” And he… we all knew that that was true and he smiled and he attempted to brush it away. And all four of us realized, “Hmm, I don’t think she’s getting that letter again.” And in that moment I realized two things. Firstly, she’s been asking for a present – it’s amazing when someone asks for a specific present. I find that wonderful because you know exactly what you can give them. And she has asked for it and she’s not getting it. And then secondly, as to possibly why she’s not receiving this letter is because to write a letter is a big deal. From a husband to a wife, he would need to sit down and pause and reflect and share in written words. That is quite a task. And there’s a reason he’s hesitant to do it.
Peretz: Now I’ll just add that they have a good marriage.
Chanie: They do!
Peretz: They have a good marriage, and have raised beautiful, lovely children.
Chanie: Yes, yes. And I mean, we were all enjoying ourselves. It was a lazy Shabbat afternoon and it was just good food and lots of happy noise around us. And I stayed in that space and I took the initiative and I asked him to stay there and explain why he’s not giving it to her. And obviously I have a comfortable relationship with them, and I wasn’t afraid that this would shatter it. And there was a hesitancy. And then they both started saying, “Oh, why do you ask us such conversations that make us squirm? You know, we have a good marriage, you know we’re satisfied with the way things are,” and then both you and I began to recognize that there’s a whole space here that this couple is so hesitant to stay in. And they become satisfied with their relationship as it is. And they have every right – it’s understandable why they would be because they have enough of a satisfying relationship.
Peretz: It’s working.
Chanie: It’s working, but there’s a simplicity there that doesn’t have to stay simple. And what they’re afraid of is staying in that space. But not understanding that there’s such richness here -where if they can stay in there – and we’ll explain what does it mean to stay in there – and continue to ask each other questions and to be able to share, there’s a richness here that that will certainly allow for their relationship to become deeper. They will feel more intimate and close with each other because they were able to share their desire or frustrations, and they will feel more connected.
Peretz: And they’ll also be able to deal with what life comes. Life gets more complicated, more complex as we get older, as our children get older, and you need to have more resources to deal with it. And I’m digressing here for a moment, but I’m pointing out to some people when they… the tools and the resources that they have as a couple married for 10 years, and they keep to that, when they’re married for 20 or 30 years and life gets more complicated and with more complex issues to deal with, they don’t have the tools and it shatters. It has a negative, shattering effect on the marriage.
Chanie: But also because there’s enough to distract them with. So they don’t look inward. They become outward. Like, we’re busy with our children, we’re busy with our careers, et cetera. So in this space we were encouraging them to look at each other and ask “Why have you not given me this if you’ve heard me all these years? What are you afraid to say? Why are you hesitant to open up to me?” And different things came up like, “We’re both really good at,” for example, they said, “to become frustrated within a little bit of time, or the next day we put aside those frustrations as if it never happened and to us, that’s a strength.” That was, you know, one thing they brought up and it’s true. It is a strength. On the other hand, there’s also a fault here. You know, what’s another dynamic that came up?
Peretz: Another dynamic that came up is when when we raised something, she would – and he would, but more she would – not let it land. There was an immediate response to what was brought up in a certain deflection. An immediate response of either compartmentalizing it or distancing it but essentially what was going on here, they weren’t letting it land.
Chanie: Letting the other person’s response land.
Peretz: Letting the other person’s response land or what you would share with them, they wouldn’t let it land.
Chanie: Very quick to respond. As if, as you’re talking, you can see in the other person that they already know what they’re going to answer. Not only are they not letting it land, they are building a fortress where nothing can come in because they already know what you’re saying. They think they know what you’re going to say and they know their response already.
Peretz: Well, they don’t care what you’re going to say.
Chanie: Right, right. They don’t want to.
Peretz: Because they see what you’re saying as an attack and a challenge.
Chanie: And they want to just prove their point.
Peretz: They want to prove their point. So for a variety of reasons, essentially for whatever the reason may be, they’re not letting it land. And a critical element of a conversation is to let land what the other person is saying. So when somebody says something to you, a) not to formulate your response in your head, but if you can’t prevent that, your mind goes there, which sometimes you just can’t, we can’t, after they finish speaking, pause. Pause for a couple of seconds and process what they’re saying.
Chanie: Yes. Did you hear that moment of silence? I think I had to pause. It was an easier pause cause I didn’t, I wasn’t disagreeing with you and I’m familiar with this, but I notice that successful conversations are slower. They’re slower than usual. The tones of voices tend to, at a certain point, lower because people recognize, the two people recognize that the agitation or passion can be overpowering and overwhelming. There’s a softness that needs to be present. Those are, we want things to land gently, and a landing pad. We have to be that landing pad and it’s not easy at all. Especially if you’re someone who’s just passionate and agitated easily and frustrated easily by what you consider wrong.
Peretz: Another skill that needs to be brought forward for the letting it land is a word used in the Kabbalah, which is tzimtzum, to constrain yourself, not to take up the entire space of the room between you and the other person, to create empty space, to create empty space. And I’m speaking metaphorically. But the idea here is self restraint, is tzimtzum, to smallen yourself, or another word for it is humility.
Peretz: And these are both character traits that are not sexy, they’re not powerful, they’re not –
Peretz: Measurable, and they’re not even perhaps celebrated.
Chanie: But what is celebrated is proving your point and being right and being the victor of this conversation, which by the way, would not be considered a –
Chanie and Peretz: Conversation.
Peretz: And at the end of it all, you’re the loser because the connection with the other person, the learning, the growth, will not occur. You know, we know individuals –
Peretz: Many who it’s just difficult to have a conversation. When you speak to them, you know, before you are going to finish your sentence, before you even said your third word, they already, you can anticipate what they’re going to respond because they’ve already created their response to what you’re going to say. And sometimes you just sit across from them, and I can’t have a conversation.
Chanie: Yes. Or what they respond seems like they didn’t actually hear what you said, that they just completely missed it. And you know I’ve been in this and I’ve said, you know, “I don’t think you heard me. Do you want me to repeat it?” And sometimes the person does realize that they’re not responding to what I said, they’re responding to what they thought I said. Sometimes I have to change my words because my words were too difficult or abstract. But there’s so much excitement and possibility in a conversation because back to this couple, we ended up sitting at the table for hours for hours, and there were some tears and there was some laughter and there were some quiet moments. And there were some aggravated moments. But what happened is they themselves began to see each other with a certain respect and depth that they were afraid to let in because everything was going okay. So sometimes we’re so afraid to shake it up because we don’t know what will happen. And often we actually think the worst, like “If it’s good now, why shake it up?” We don’t give honor to that shakeup, which often can be so much extra and so much more… not even extra, I’m sorry, so necessary for a depth and a maturing of that relationship. And it was very powerful hours together for you and I also, because we’ve done this ourselves and we’ve pushed ourselves with tears, with laughter, with very difficult times in our lives and our relationship because we want more. And what’s really joyous is to see other people reach for it.
Peretz: Right. And we can see it in our relationship and in our conversations, they’ve gotten a lot easier. Between us when there have been moments of tension, which in the past would have festered and carried on.
Chanie: Or exploded.
Peretz: Or exploded. Now they are relieved and they bring us closer together through healthy conversations. So you must be wondering: did she get the letter or not?
Peretz: We were wondering, too.
Chanie: She did.
Peretz: She did, yes.
Chanie: And we’re thrilled for her. And for him.
Peretz: Yeah. Thank you for listening. Until next time.