Paint by Words

How easy it is to become impatient with a long story being recounted to us by a toddler, colleague, client, customer, or patient. Unfortunately, leadership, whether in business or the family, sometimes depends upon making the best decision after receiving nothing more than a written or verbal report.

When we are the ones relaying information, we can get frustrated as our listeners tune us out. Instead of our employees, spouse, children or patients paying attention, they seem uninterested or distracted.

How do we become better at both giving and receiving information?

This verse can help:

Just watch out for yourself…lest you forget the words which your eyes saw,

… and you shall make them known to your children and your grandchildren.

(Deuteronomy 4:9)

Why does Deuteronomy 4:9 refer to words that are seen? We see things, not words. I sympathize with the plight of translators who often mistakenly write, “Just watch out for yourself…lest you forget the things which your eyes saw…”

While ‘things’ is a possible alternative meaning for the Hebrew word, DeVaRiM, which is used here, it is not correct in this context. DeVaRiM, meaning words, is the Hebrew name for the fifth of the Five Books of Moses and is the second Hebrew word of the book.

These are the words (DeVaRiM) which Moses spoke to all Israel…

(Deuteronomy 1:1)

As our verse reveals, central to the entire theme of inter-generational Torah transmission is that we must transmit to our children and grandchildren specific words and not general things. But spoken words like the Torah taught by Moses are heard not seen!

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that the unusual language in the verse refers to the fact that the entire Sinai revelation was an integrated, comprehensive, multi-media experience; a sort of son-et-lumiere show. There was a visual depiction of the words spoken by God.

Why was this necessary?

When we see a landscape, a statue, a battlefield or a building, we instantly grasp the entire picture. No translation is necessary.

Many of us still prefer watches with hands because by merely glancing at the position of those little hands, we instantly understand that we’re late. Seeing a colorful graph reflecting sales figures immediately lets us know how the company is doing compared to last year. A picture really is worth a thousand words.

When we look at details or hear a recitation, our brains need to convert the information into useful real world information such as “you’re late!” Listening to a lesson, a speech or a piece of music requires that we concentrate through its entirety since it imparts meaning only once our brains have assembled hundreds of words or musical notes into one integrated totality.

Our verse teaches the correct technique for coping with the challenge of conveying and receiving information. As listeners, we need to exercise our memory muscles in order to concentrate on converting a long flow of words into one complete picture that we can almost see in our mind’s eye. Only then can we exercise judgment and leadership in arriving at the right conclusion and taking the best actions.

When relaying important information, try to make it come alive, using words and imagery which captivate your listener and help him visualize what you are saying. Try making your listener see a picture rather than just hear words.

In directing the children of Israel to convey words to children and grandchildren, God taught us how to effectively do so. The words must be so alive that they can actually be seen just as they originally were when God presented them.

Increasing your comprehension, vocabulary and fluency is one of the most important steps you can take to improve effective communication in your business and family lives. Whether or not you use it, the foul language which abounds in our culture impedes success. Every word you speak and hear affects your income, your family and your soul. Our best-selling (and on sale) audio CD, Perils of Profanity will help you become aware of the poisonous effect of profanity and provide guidance for combating it.

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Profiling, Racism and Reality

I am humbled by the responses to last week’s Musing. I asked for readers to participate in a conversation and you did. I truly appreciate the kind words from many of you and I am grateful for those who affirmed, gently chided, and wrote so passionately and eloquently. Race is an emotional topic and as a country (and a world) we need to feel comfortable speaking openly. I encourage you all to read the comments; it will be a good use of your time. (I have a culture gap admission to make here: the first comment which used the letters AA had me scratching my head trying to figure out what Alcoholics Anonymous had to do with the topic. It took a bit of pondering to realize that it stood for African American.)

Rather than quoting from and responding directly to your comments, I’d like to continue the dialogue…READ MORE

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