Thursday, July 21, 2016

Pinchas 76 - The most important word in the world - YES by Allan Katz

In our parasha a census of the men takes place in preparation for the distribution of the land of Israel amongst the tribes. The daughters of Zelophehad came forward with their complaint. Because they had no brothers, their family would be without a share in the land. They therefore requested a share in the land among their father's brothers. Moses brought their claim before God- Hashem. God answers Moses with a YES to their claim. - כן בנות צלפחד דברת . The word Yes here implies that they have spoken right, properly, exactly, they have made a fair claim and they should be happy as God agrees to their words.

When it comes to relationships the word YES is the most powerful word in the world .As we have seen the word yes can communicate many meanings – Yes, I agree... Yes, you are right, Yes, that is a great idea, Yes, .. I understand you. The psychologist John Gottman suggests that we try to introduce as many yesses as we can into our conversations. We can answer Yes, that's a good idea, or Yes, that's a great point, Yes, I hear you.Yes, means agreement and connection. Yes passes on your power and presence to the other person, your friend, partner, your spouse and child, your team and employees. God answered the daughters of Zelphehad with a Yes and transferred His power and presence to them.

Dr Dan Siegel asks us to notice how we feel when we read these words, no, no, no, no,no,no, and how you feel when you read these words, yes, yes, yes, yes,yes,yes,yes …. When you hear no, you feel scolded, stressed, alone and start breathing heavy. When you hear yes, you feel relieved and relaxed. Yes makes us more receptive and when we are more receptive presence can created, which is vital for thriving relationships.

Yes opens the doors to collaboration, cooperation and co-creation. The question is – does the word Yes have a role to play in resolving conflicts and problem solving .? The advice that parents regularly hear is to say ' No' a couple of times during the day, so that kids learn that they can't get everything that they want and they learn to accept the No word. For many challenging kids saying NO triggers the cortisol hormone which puts the child in the ' fight – flight mode. 'What follows is kids either go ballistic, explode or implode accepting that their parents don't consider that they have legitimate concerns or feelings. There is the assumption that parenting is about win-lose scenarios , kids resisting parental control and parents trying to get kids to do what they want them to do. If we really want our kids to ' hear us ', hear our concerns and experience learning when they interact with us, we need to help them live by Hillel's words - If I am not for myself, who will be for me and if I am only for myself, who am I. ? We need to help them go through the thinking process and make meaning of what is happening, we need to get them talking and reflecting, exploring situations and addressing both their own concerns and the concerns of others. Saying No is essentially only one solution to a concern or a problem. Because the solution only addresses the parents concern we are using Plan A, imposing Adult will on the child. Traditionally kids have never had their concerns heard. Some parents will empathize with a kid and validate their feelings or concerns but at the same time demand compliance. They do so, just to make compliance easier for kids to swallow. This is called ' Perfunctory empathy, not true empathy. Kids need reassurance, that when we use collaborative problem solving - Plan B that we are not trying to force a solution, but we first want to hear their perspectives and concerns and work on a mutually satisfying solution that addresses all concerns.

- I like the phrase - ' I am not saying No '

Of course this does not mean I am saying yes, it means ' I just want to hear your concerns, can you tell me more?' Our purpose is to get a conversation going with the child mainly speaking and us listening , and focus on solving the problem.When the solution addresses the concerns of parents, we have in fact set a limit with the child.

The psychologist Dan Wile says that we can manage conflict with a Yes. We don't have to say – ' I am not saying No' – we can say Yes and yes, I will seek to understand your problem before I seek to solve it. Yes, I will work to cultivate empathy for your point of view. Yes, I will respect your dream. Yes, I will dialogue with you, even when I disagree with you and try to solve problems in a mutually satisfactory way. Yes, I will remember to talk to you like I talk to somebody I love. So we can introduce what we say with a yes,- yes , I hear you … Yes , can you tell me more, Yes, I am concerned that …. Yes makes us more receptive, gives us presence and helps us connect with kids crucial for the CPS - collaborative problem solving process.

For sure, there will be situations when compliance is vital and we say –' you have to or you can't.' Children are more likely to comply with parental demands ,if parents generally focus on cooperation and allow children to participate in making decisions, rather than demanding obedience all the time. Kids will trust their parents and comply even if they are a bit unhappy about it, because in the past their parents solve problems in a collaborative way, give reasons for their positions and take into account kids' concerns and best interests... God in his Torah does the same. He builds trust by sharing reasons that man can understand, but there is also חוקת התורה – פרה אדומה - the decree of the Torah, the law of the Red Cow, which is beyond our understanding and so beyond criticism.

In situations which are non-negotiable, we can still have discussion and try and be as non-confrontational as possible,- make the request and back off to give them some space, which helps maintain autonomy and dignity. We can give them a choice of how to do the request, when or with whom. We can validate their feelings and be honest that our request is not much fun. We can try and compensate for loss of autonomy in other areas and respond with many yesses.

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