When Yehuda decides to argue with the Egyptian viceroy (who was really his brother Yosef) to not take Binyomin as a slave, the Torah states: "And Yehuda approached Yosef and he said, 'Please my master, allow your servant to speak in the ears of my master and do not become angry at your servant for you are like Pharaoh.' " (Genesis 44:18) Yehuda was under the impression that this Egyptian leader (Yosef) did not understand Hebrew since he used an interpreter. Why then did Yehudah ask to speak in his ears? The late Rosh Yeshiva of Brisk in yerushalyim, Rabbi Yosef Dov Soleveichik, explained this in two ways. The first explanation: even though Yehudah thought Yosef did not understand the language he was speaking, he wanted him to hear the depth of feeling behind his words. Even if one does not speak the language, sincerity will come through. "Words that come from a person's heart enter the heart of the listener." This happened to the Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, while speaking to a high government official in Russia to remove a harmful decree against the Jewish people. Even before the interpreter translated the Chofetz Chaim's words from Yiddish, the listener said that no translation was necessary. He understood the language of feeling that permeated each word that came from a pure heart. Rabbi Soloveichik's second insight: when you try to influence someone, it is imperative that he be open to what you have to say. If a person is close-minded and has made up his mind not to pay attention to you, nothing you say will influence him. You can give all kinds of rational arguments for your position, but the person will be as if deaf. Therefore, yehudah asked Yosef to at least give him a fair hearing. "Keep your ears open to the possibility that what I will say has merit." These two ideas are important to keep in mind when trying to impact someone. Speak with sincerity. When you speak from the bottom of your heart, your words have tremendous force and power. Secondly, make certain that the other person is open to hearing what you have to say. For instance, you might start by saying, "If what I say makes sense, are you willing to change your mind?"
- Written by Benjamin A Rose
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