Monday, March 26, 2018

Knowledge 2.0

“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.”

― Miles Kington

A few weeks ago I was following a discussion on LinkedIn. People were discussing what a writer should do when they feel that they’ve hit a wall, when they feel that they need to write, but they don’t know where to start. One of my contacts made an awesome suggestion: “Search for a great quote, and just go from there”. 

I found this to be very helpful advice. First, I love great quotes, so just searching them and seeing new ones is very enjoyable for me. Second, this advice is right up my alley. The hardest thing in writing is taking the first step. Starting with a pre-existing quote means that someone has provided you with the first step.

The quote I will be working with is the quote that I posted on the top of the article; “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad”.

People often confuse wisdom and knowledge. Whilst they are in the same “family” they are not synonyms.

In the work that I do with my clients, very often I find myself trying assist them with differentiating between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is defined as ”the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association”. Knowledge is really about facts and ideas that we acquire through study, research, investigation, observation, or experience.

I like to refer to wisdom as “Knowledge 2.0”. Wisdom is the ability to apply that knowledge to the greater scheme of life. Applying this back to the original quote, my knowledge tells me that a tomato is a fruit. But what do I now do with that knowledge? How do I apply that knowledge into my life? If I am a greengrocer, do I now put my tomatoes between my apples and oranges for sale? If I am a chef, what type of salad do I add tomatoes to?

Wisdom is knowing that despite its classification as a fruit, it is eaten amongst vegetables. Wisdom tells the chef to put it into a salad with cucumbers, lettuce, peppers and carrots. Wisdom tells the greengrocer to place his tomatoes next to the onions and radishes.

There is a famous phrase that a little bit of knowledge can be a very dangerous thing. I would like to amend this slightly, Knowledge without wisdom can be a very dangerous thing. It can be extremely harmful for someone to have knowledge, without knowing its proper application. A person should train themselves to realize that there are two levels of “KNOWING”.

Level 1: Knowledge. This is the stage when the person has acquired information

Level 2: Wisdom. This is the stage when the person knows how to properly apply the acquired information

Problems often occur when a person at “Level 1” believes that they are on “Level 2”. Such a person will put tomatoes in a fruit salad, then argue with you for suggesting that they don’t belong there. They will view themselves as the smart one for knowing that tomato is a fruit, and will think you are foolish for suggesting that a fruit be put into a vegetable salad. It is imperative for a person to realize that knowing a fact doesn’t mean that they know how to apply the fact. When a person is capable of opening their mind to the idea that there are two stages of knowing, they will improve both their overall knowledge (1.0 and 2.0) and their daily functioning.

Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child safety.  
You can email Yisroel at
Follow Yisroel on LinkedIn here

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Are You Being Heard?

A good teacher must be able to put himself in the place of those who find learning hard. 
-Eliphas Levi

One of the teachers in my high school was an graduate of an Ivy League School. All of the students were able to recognize that this man possessed an intense amount of knowledge. Despite all of this, the consensus among the students was that he was the worst teacher in the school. This wasn't because he couldn't control the class, nor was it because he lacked personality. The reason he was not a good teacher was because he could not understand why the students weren't understanding the material. He was so smart but he could not grasp that concepts and methods that were so easy for him could be so difficult for others.

Communication isn’t talking. Communication isn’t conveying a message. Communication is the art of giving over information in a way that the recipient will understand what you are trying to convey. Whether at work or at home, whether with peers or with children, to properly communicate one must know that the other party understands what you are saying.

But there is also one additional step, and that is learning how to communicate so that the other person will not only hear, but will take action. The same message can be conveyed in different ways, one will be heard, while the other will be the motivation to act. In a previous article, I wrote about how knowledge needs action. While that article was directed at the person with the knowledge, it is something the communicator needs to recognize as well. Often people mistakenly believe that the transference of knowledge is the goal of communication, it isn’t. The goal should be to transfer the knowledge in such a way that the recipient will UTILIZE the knowledge.

I would like to now share a personal story, with the names and places changed. A number of years ago I was approaching a shul shortly before maariv. Outside I saw a friend of mine, let’s call him Ezra. Ezra was in front of the shul smoking. This disturbed me for two reasons. First of all, I had never seen Ezra smoke before. Secondly, looking at his mannerism, he seemed quite stressed. So I asked Ezra what was wrong. Before he even got around to tell me what’s wrong, Ezra blurted out:
 “I can’t handle it. I’m going to crack, I don’t know what I am going to do.”
This took me completely by surprise, but I tried to remain calm. so I asked him to kindly explain to me what the situation was.
He then told me “My Rabbi told me I need to move with my family to Wichita, and live there for the next 3 years, but I can’t I’ll crack, it isn’t for me”
I asked him what his wife thought. “My wife wants to do whatever I do”.
Then something fascinating started happening, Ezra started convincing himself that he should go.
He started saying “My Rabbi is right, this is what I need to do. This is my calling...Three years isn’t such a long time...I’m gonna go, I gotta go...It is only three years, three years isn’t so long, and I’ll be returning once those three years are up”
This upset me. He knows it is in his best interest to stay, but how could I get him to realize this? The idea of his moving is scaring him but he keeps talking himself into it.
So I asked him the following: “How old is your daughter?”
He responded: “My daughter is four”
I then said: “So you are saying that when your daughter is seven you will be returning back to Israel?”
His face fell, he said in a haunting whisper “Wow, that’s a long time”.

At that point maariv was starting, so we went in to the shul. A few days later I saw Ezra, he was a different man than the one I saw outside of the shul. He ran over to me to tell me that he turned down the Wichita offer, and he thanked me. I told him he didn’t need to tell me that he turned it down, I saw it on his face.

Saying that something was going to take three years can be said in multiple ways. Saying “your four year old daughter will be seven when you will return” was communication that caused action.

Einstein famously said: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Is that how we communicate with our children, with our parents, with our peers? Do we say the same thing over and over again expecting different results, or are we able to say the same thing in a different way?

In order to transform oneself from a speaker into a communicator, one needs to develop the following two skill-sets. Firstly one needs to be able to gage whether or not their message has been heard and whether or not it has led to action. Once they have that skill-set, they will then need to develop the capability to convey their message different ways and forms. This is needed when they discover that their first attempt at conveying a message didn’t succeed.

Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child safety.  
You can email Yisroel at
Follow Yisroel on LinkedIn here

Monday, March 12, 2018

What is My Title?

“You don't need a title to be vital.”
― Robert J. Braathe

Who am I?
What am I?

Before I proceed, let me explain a bit about the work that I do. The main focus of my practice involves something called Instrumental Enrichment. The goal is to work with the client to get them to know how they think. When the client recognizes how they think, together we correct the deficiencies within the thought process.
Perhaps the client is impulsive, perhaps they process all the information before they make a decision. Perhaps they process correctly, but they fail to adapt to changes and their decisions are based upon the old information, not the new information. These are some of the many examples of the issues I face with my clients.

I utilize a series of workbooks in order to accomplish this, but I need to adapt to my client. Workbooks aren’t for everyone, sometimes we need to accomplish this via games, or just through talking.

But this isn’t therapy. Sometimes it ventures into therapy, and I gladly go where my client takes me. My MSW allows me to go there and assist them accordingly, whether it be via Family Life Cycle Theory, Family Systems, Humanistic or Psychoanalytic approach, or whatever else the case may require. I am not locked into a theory, I evaluate the situation and I try to find the best fit. But Instrumental Enrichment is about explaining and understanding thought processes, not talking about feelings and events.

The goal here is to enable the client to think better, and to be able to apply this in all the areas of their lives. I don’t treat the effects, I treat the cause. If the client shows lack of social skills, treating the effect would be to train the client how to behave in public, treating the cause is getting the client to develop an awareness of non-verbal instructions, and to be able to apply them accordingly in different situations. I discussed this in my previous article titled “Bridge Out

I was recently asked to come up with a title for the work that I do. Something to put onto a business card. A fancy two or three word title that lets people know what I do. I came up with the title “Metacognition Mediator”. Mediator was chosen because I don’t teach, I don’t tell people what to do. I see how they do it, we see together how and if it works for them, and together we try to correct areas where there are deficiencies. Metacognition is the awareness and understanding of one's own thought processes. But the title Metacognition Mediator isn't something that is understood. (Side note: Metacognition isn't even recognized by spell check as a real word). People don’t know what it means without me explaining it, which is a problem. Titles shouldn't require much, if any explanation. 

I've thought of other ideas, but I feel that people would just misunderstand what it is I do.
“Thinking Coach”? - Bad stigma/Sounds like some type of guru
“Thinking Mediator”? Ditto
“Special Educator”? - Too Broad
“Special Educator - Instrumental Enrichment Method”? - People don’t know what Instrumental Enrichment is, plus people feel that “Special Educator” is only for people with certain types of diagnoses.
“Thought Process Facilitator/Assistant/Mediator”?

Is there a title for me? Or is the majority of my work so specific that I can’t describe it in two or three words?

Anyone out there able to assist?

Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child safety.  
You can email Yisroel at
Follow Yisroel on LinkedIn here

Monday, March 5, 2018

Why Do Victims Get the Blame?

“People may not realize the damage that they are doing by placing the blame on the victim, but that doesn't lessen the damage that they cause by doing it.”
― Darlene Ouimet

“He deserves it!”
“She had no business being around such people!”
“He should have fought back!”
“He went to a Community College, of course he won’t get hired”
“Serves her right for getting drunk!”

The five statements above are a small percentage of the thousands of different types of victim blaming that occurs daily.

But why? Why are people, even educated and smart people so quick and willing to blame the victim? Why do people do this even when it is of no benefit to themselves?

There are different theories as to why people choose to blame the victim. I would like to discuss one such theory, the findings of Dr. Melvin J. Lerner, known as the Just World Hypothesis.

What is the Just World Hypothesis?
It is the prevalence of the belief in a just world. A just world is one in which actions and conditions have predictable, appropriate consequences. Meaning that people believe that the world is fair, it is just. Good people get good things, bad people get punished.

The hypothesis states that most people have this desire to believe that the world is fair and just.

How did Dr. Lerner Discover this Hypothesis?
Lerner’s original experiments involved women, who were asked to observe what appeared to be learning by punishment. When the learner – actually an actor – gave a wrong answer, she received painful electric shocks. Afterwards, observers were asked to describe how they felt about the victim, how likeable or morally worthy she appeared to be. One group of women that just saw the victim get repeatedly shocked tended to derogate her. But another group, which before being asked to characterize the victim was told that she was not seriously harmed, did not engage in victim-blaming.
Lerner explained these results suggested that seeing innocent people get hurt with no resolution of the situation violated the observers’ sense of the world as just.

How Does This Connect to Victim Blaming?
The connection can be made in 4 steps
1. Person has the belief (possibly an unconscious belief) that the world is fair
2. Person witnesses or hears something that is a threat to that belief (e.g. rape, acquaintance getting fired from work etc.)
3. If person takes this new data and concluded that the world is NOT just, they are now vulnerable. It means they can be a victim.
4. Person therefore blames the victim. The victim was bad. Bad things happen ONLY to bad people. Person also thinks to themselves “I am a good person, these things don’t happen to good people”. Person can also choose to say the victim is a liar as an alternative to blaming the victim. Both accomplish the same goal.

Applying this reasoning suggests that the reason why people choose to blame the victim is due to their own personal safety. Unfortunately, this safety is a mere figment of their imagination. In fact, the perception of being safe when one isn’t can be a detriment, as it leads people to be less cautious, leading to victimization.

I had wondered why, in cases when a student accuses a teacher of abuse, parents of the other children in the class will blame the victim. Logically it just made no sense to me. It is still The Just World Hypothesis but it will apply slightly differently. Parents refuse to believe that their child could have been a victim. Rather than accept the reality that the world is unfair, and that their innocent child could just have easily become the victim, they prefer to perceive the world as fair, they prefer to view their innocent child as being protected, so the only option left is to blame the victim.

Perhaps this idea can be expanded. It still puzzles me that survivors of incest report that when they told a relative about the incest, they the survivor, was blamed. I always believed that this was purely denial. Perhaps this idea of Just World can be applied as well. The Just World idea can be boiled down to the need to know that the world is a safe place for me. If this idea is understood this way, then no place would one need to feel safer than with their family and within their home. Just like a person’s mind has difficulty knowing that the world is neither safe nor just, all the more so their own home and their own family.

Let me be clear. The Just World Hypothesis isn’t the only reason why people behave this way. It also isn’t applicable in every case. Sometimes people do it because they are in denial, sometimes they believe the reality, but they are trying to protect their own good name (e.g. any type of institutional cover-up). I am choosing to write about the Just World Hypothesis to offer a new perspective of understanding.

When I was young I was taught “Never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by ignorance”. Applying this Just World Hypothesis to victim blaming shows that people blame victims not out of malice, but out of an unhealthy defense mechanism.

Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages who are looking to improve their awareness and their social skills. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child safety.  
You can email Yisroel at