Added: Sat. Feb 23, 2013 9:18am
If you’ve ever been in court or watched a court TV show, you know that “hearsay” isn’t admissible in a trial. “Jane told me Sarah said….” or “Mark said he saw Joe do it…” have zero merit. This same principle holds true in relationships: Hearsay should never be admissible in a relationship. Why? Because it leads to communication breakdown, anger at the wrong people, misplaced blame, inaccurate decision-making, misjudgments, and a wad of confusion that, when trying to sort it all out, spirals into even more confusion. The following two true stories demonstrate the problem with “relationship hearsay”:
What happened really didn’t, but oh what a mess. “Sam” (not real name) routinely volunteered for a charitable organization that provided once-a-week programs for chronically ill people. Part of each program was some type of creative project. The usual program leader was absent one day, and a substitute took his place. On that day, a writer showed up because he was considering writing an article about the program for his magazine. After the program, Sam struck up a conversation with the writer, who explained his purpose for attending. Sam proceeded to share with the writer the difference this opportunity makes in the lives of the ill patients – they feel valued, productive, and temporarily get their mind off their pain among many other benefits. Sam also made the suggestion that he talk with the regular leader for more information, since he had been leading the program for years. Another volunteer overheard the last piece of this conversation and reported it to an executive of the organization, stating something to the effect that Sam was badmouthing the substitute leader to a guest. Uh oh! Trouble exploded. Shortly after, a stern letter was sent to all the volunteers from the executive of the organization. Without naming the “incident,” it alluded to a problem and strictly defined volunteer do’s and don’ts along with a lot of other subtle reprimands. Something clicked in Sam’s mind, and he contacted the regular program leader. Yes, he had connected the dots correctly. Sam recounted the entire conversation he had with the writer (afterall, he was the one who spoke it – it wasn’t hearsay), and that his intent and words were completely positive and well meaning. He also contacted the organization’s executive and gave him the same explanation. A subsequent memo of apology was sent out to all the volunteers in an effort to calm their fears and smooth things over. But, really, the damage was already done. They felt defensive and unappreciated, as well as apprehensive about continuing. As you can see, lack of all the information led to a major issue that was provoked by something that never happened which led to a whole series of unfortunate events.
I bought the rabbi’s balls. Ow, ow, ow. How painful is the image? But, this is exactly what I heard. E-X-A-C-T-L-Y. I was at Webster’s Flea Market in Webster, Florida. It resides on 50 acres, has over 1,500 vendors, and features some of the best junk, chachkis and valuables in the world; it’s a must for everyone’s bucket list. I shopped till I dropped. As I strolled along for hours, out of the blue I heard someone say, “I bought the Rabbi’s balls.” I’m Jewish, so this may have peeked my attention more than that of other people. Besides the excruciating imagery, I thought this might be something for Jay Leno’s “Weird Stuff Sold On Ebay” segment on his late night TV show. Could this be a new form of a rite of passage for elite rabbis??? I had to gather the information to calm my assumptions and get clarity. I followed the voice, stopped, looked and listened. The scene unfolded: This one vendor had tables full of sports memorabilia signed by famous athletes. Footballs, trophies, baseball gloves, and…baseballs. A very extensive collection of baseballs. The vendor proceeded to tell a customer the history of the baseballs, “The baseballs belonged to a rabbi….” and so on and so forth. And then he proudly pronounced, “I bought the rabbi’s balls!” Whew. I can’t recall the last time I’ve felt so relieved. Now, while this situation ended up being quite humorous, it is a distinct demonstration of how quickly misperception can occur and things can get completely (and ridiculously) misinterpreted if information gathering is incomplete.
Lesson: Never base an opinion, decision, or judgment on hearsay. Make the effort to gather thorough information and facts. If you don’t, breakdown in communication is going to occur, and the consequences of communication breakdown are rarely, if ever, good – including unnecessary worry about the rabbi!
Do you agree? What are your thoughts?
Sheryl Kurland, The Relationship Insider, is a relationship expert, speaker, and author whose advice is based on interviews with hundreds of couples happily married 50-plus years. Sign up for her free, easy Supercharged Relationship Tips here.