The Failure of Syntax

Rabbi Edwin H. Friedman reminds us why we can’t seem to make headway when we argue.

My friend Thom recently pulled this prescient quote from Rabbi Edwin Friedman, applicable to dialogue today. His book, Friedman’s Fables, remains a favorite of mine in thinking and discussing the world.

The colossal misunderstanding of our time is the assumption that insight will work with people who are unmotivated to change. Communication does not depend on syntax, or eloquence, or rhetoric, or articulation but on the emotional context in which the message is being heard. People can only hear you when they are moving toward you, and they are not likely to when your words are pursuing them. Even the choicest words lose their power when they are used to overpower. Attitudes are the real figures of speech.

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