My Friend is a Palestinian Bedouin: XVIII. Uncertainty Avoidance, Language and Communication

My Friend is a Palestinian Bedouin: XVIII. Uncertainty Avoidance, Language and Communication

Sometimes, there actually is an issue of conscious deception. As Bashar explained to me once, according to Arab culture lying is not seen as positive, but there are three exceptional situations in which Arab men are allowed (and recommended) to lie: a) when your wife is asking too many questions; b) to make or keep peace between friends; c) to one’s enemy. This was more than merely a saying. On several occasions, I was requested to participate in lying for one of the aforementioned reasons. With these three exceptions in mind, lying was made easier. Thus, I lied to prevent upheaval in a few situations; examples of which are respectively: a) to Bashar’s wife, about his whereabouts; b) to Bashar and one of his friends, about what negative things they had said about each other; c) to Israeli soldiers, about my Jewish/Israeli identity. Even though this concerned minor and non-harmful (“white”) lies, with my Dutch upbringing and understanding of the value of honesty, I found it incredibly hard to participate. At some point, I decided to speak with Bashar about the issue and in particular about his wife. Initially, Bashar stopped the conversation, because he felt that I insinuated that he is a liar. However, when I made clear that this was neither my intention, nor the reason for raising the point, we could continue the conversation. When he understood my difficulty in blurring the facts, he suggested that I would tell his wife instead that he had asked me to refrain from telling her all the time where he is.

Bashar is much more than I attuned to intonation and nonverbal messages. In fact, he repeatedly would be aware of my nonverbal communication before I was aware myself. Thus, he would notice and interpret my sleepy red eyes, my disappointed gaze, or my light touch of the ear (the latter possibly indicating some discomfort with the conversation). This for me was often a positive surprise, and gave the feeling of being understood without saying a word. Likewise, he expected me to understand him without clarifying matters verbally. However, I am not that skilled in reading his behavior and body language (though I am getting better in it). In many situations, I failed to understand the situation without verbal explanation.

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About the Author

Daniel WeishutDaniel J.N. Weishut, born in the Netherlands but living in Jerusalem, is a professional with a diverse background. He holds an MA in Clinical Psychology and an MBA in Integrative Business Administration, both from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and a PsyD in Clinical and Organizational Psychology from the Professional School of Psychology (Sacramento). He has about thirty years of experience in consultation and therapy with a wide variety of clients and issues, more than twenty years of practice in group facilitation, and over fifteen years of know-how in governance and management in various organizations. Daniel Weishut offers his services as a "Partner on the Way", while taking a world-view that people are diverse but equal. He works with a variety of clients, but his special interest is in work with those who have found themselves persecuted or otherwise in conflict with their social environment, because of their culture, identity or belief system. For example: migrants, expats, refugees, Holocaust survivors, soldiers, pacifists, and individuals from religious, cultural or sexual minorities. Daniel Weishut is a social activist and in this capacity he volunteers as Chairperson of the Israeli Association of Group Psychotherapy, as Member of the Membership Appeals Committee of Amnesty International and as forensic expert for the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel. He also is involved in raising awareness about the situation of Bedouins around Jerusalem; awareness which led among others to the writing of his dissertation "My friend is a Palestinian Bedouin: Challenges and opportunities in intercultural friendship".

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