Wednesday, January 04, 2006

PARENTING: From Nothing To Everything


Tevet 4, 5766 * January 4, 2006


From Nothing To Everything
By: Yaakov Lieder

"We've spoken to our son numerous times about his behavior at school," a pair of parents said to me recently. "But nothing changes. He's just the type of kid that never gets along with his teachers..."

"I'm not going to ask my father for help," a young woman told me. "I have asked him a couple of times in the past and he said he could not help me. I'm sure he'll say the same thing again, so why should I bother?"

Our mind is the hardest working organ in our body. It works overtime, even when we are asleep, and a lot of the time it is busy acting as a judge of the Supreme Court. Even before we speak to someone, our mind begins to guess what the results are going to be. It says things like, "He will say no," "She is too busy," "They have no money to spare," and so on. Many of life's opportunities are missed because people are guessing what the other person's response will be.

Walt Disney asked 3,241 people if they would like to invest in building an amusement park. They all said no; some of them even made fun of him saying, "You are dreaming -- it will never work. Go and get a job." However, when he approached prospect number 3,242, he started with a clean slate. He did not bring the previous 3,241 failures into the conversation, and he got a positive response.

In order to have a meaningful conversation we need to give up trying to predict what the other person is going to say. We should approach the conversation out of nothing. Because people and situations change all the time, the fact that your child (or parent or spouse or friend) did not respond positively yesterday -- that only indicates where they were yesterday. Today is a brand new day with new opportunities.

If, in fact, we enter into the communication out of "nothing," then everything becomes possible. You can only fill up your cup with fresh water if you have emptied out the old, stale water that's there from yesterday.

The concept of "coming from nothing" should continue even after the communication has begun. We should refrain from making a judgment about what we are hearing. Rather, we should simply listen and try to understand where the other person is coming from. A good and just judge will save his judgment until all the evidence is presented. It is very hard to effectively listen and judge at the same time.

A colleague of mine put it like this: We sometimes listen to good music and get swept away by it; we then start dancing with a natural flow. Even though we don't know the steps, we just dance to the music. The same applies to communication: dance with the conversation; just let it flow without pushing for a desired outcome; just let it happen.

This is especially true in relationships that are not fully expressed or are not as good as they used to be. A good way of bringing about change is by re-engaging in communication from a point of forgiveness and "nothingness." To let go of the past and open up new opportunities for a positive flow of communication.

Take action that makes a difference:

Make a list of relationships that are important to you, but are not as deep, as meaningful or as effective as you would like them to be. Write next to each one what you may have been bringing in to the conversation that is preventing you from improving the relationship. Give it up! Give up the old attitudes. Come from nothing and you can bring everything in to the conversation. Watch a new phase of love and understandings enter your relationships.

Try it -- it works!

- Rabbi Yaakov Lieder has served as a teacher, principal and in a variety of other educational positions for more than 30 years in Israel, the US, and Sydney, Australia. He is the founder and director of the Support Centre to aid families struggling with relationship and child-rearing issues.

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