Al Qatif, Saudi Arabia- Um Mohammad sat on the edge of the hall, last Saturday, eagerly awaiting the presentation on “successful communication in the household” by Mansur al Qatri, a lecturer at the Institute for Public Administration in the eastern Saudi city of Dammam.
Organized by the al Qatif charitable foundation, the event was part of a series of programs aimed at women, on the sidelines of a fair launched on Tuesday 11th October 2005.
Like other women who attended the lecture, most of whom were educated professionals, Um Mohammad had a number of questions she wanted clarified. What she did not dare ask others mentioned in the course of the talk and by the end, Um Mohammad felt confident she could face her husband’s longstanding lack of communication and emotional detachment.
Focusing on “how to acquire skills for better household communication”, al Qatari indicated that, “a solid family is based on three main elements: personalities, communication and sacrifices. Today we are going to focus on dialogue.”
Questions by members of the audience indicated “misunderstanding between spouses was rife,” said al Qatri. He believes the problems are rooted in psychology since “in the developing world, we often forget that women utter an estimated 13 thousand words everyday while the man only says 8 thousand. A lack of communication becomes frustrating.”
Explaining that emotional aloofness was not an incurable state, al Qatari pointed out, “love is expressed differently: men show their affection and feelings by buying furniture and other household items but women misunderstand their actions and convince themselves their husbands no longer love them. It is important to shed light on this confusion.”
While women tend to “prefer to show their emotions and verbally express themselves”, men “do not feel the need to communicate and are rarely expressive”, al Qatri indicated. The solution would be for me to communicate more and use engaging language and women to be understanding of their husbands.” This is why, “Education is crucial because it encourages critical thinking and enlightens people.”
Through his talk, the lecturer engaged the audience and asked the women a number of questions and encouraged them to participate. Seeking to rid the women of the tradition of memorizing, learnt in school, al Qatri deliberately asked the audience a number of open ended questions to encourage them to think for themselves. “My aim is to stimulate their curiosity”, he said.
“Do we learn or inherit our communication styles?” the lecturer asked at the start of his talk and then proceeded to answer using a saying from Prophet Mohammad as an example, “Knowledge comes through learning and patience through practice.” He also established a link between family life and culture and modern theories.
In the second part of the lecture, al Qatri asked, “Do individuals have different personalities?” Drawing from Kalila wa Dimna, the well-know Arab literary classic by Ibn al Muqaffa, he compared different animals to humans. The fox was a cunning person, the gazelle a shy and modest individual and the giraffe a self conceited character. Quoted the Prophet Mohammad, he called for women to “address individuals according to their intellect.”
“Every family has its young and its old. Social intelligence means we need to deal with every person according to their characteristics”, al Qatif concluded.