Susan Heitler
Clinical psychologist, popular book author, and blogger

Why Benny Gantz sounds weak

The alternate prime minister has this one habit of speech that hints at a failure to lead: He speaks in negatives
[(c) Vlue/fotosearch]. Like physical body parts, verbal speech patterns can convey weakness.

Strong leaders explain their viewpoints in a way that paints clear pictures for listeners of where they stand on issues, why, and what they aim to do to address these concerns.

Gantz does the opposite.

Gantz tells us what he does not think, what he does not want, and what he will not do.  Consider for instance these recent quotes from an Algemeiner article about Gantz’s views on annexation:

“We will not continue to wait for the Palestinians.”

What would be a positive version of this sentence, a version that would convey strength?

“We would welcome Palestinian participation as we move forward.  With or without their participation, we are moving forward.”

Quite a contrast.

Here’s another example.  Gantz said, “We will not jeopardize the peace agreements.”   Again, this sentence tells us nothing about what Gantz will do, causing him to sound like a man without a vision. He knows what he will not do, but does he know what he will do?  If he does know, then why does he withhold the information?

The article noted also that Gantz said he was unsure (not sure) if the annexation process would begin on July 1 or “be slightly postponed.”

Gantz added, “If they forever say ‘no’ to everything, then we are obligated to move forward without them.”

Contrast that last sentence with this more positive version: “If they can agree to say ‘yes’ to living side by side with Israel, then we would happily talk with them about political arrangements that work best both for us and for them.”

Positive phrasing conveys strength. Positive phrasing, expressing wants rather than don’t wants, leads to progress.

Why does not, even when buried in a contraction like don’t, make a speaker sound weak and ineffective?

If I ask you please to get me a book from the bookshelf, and I say, “Not one with a red cover,” will you know what book to get me?  No. I could be wanting any of the forty non-red books on the shelf.  And I will come across therefore as a weak communicator.

If, by contrast, I say, “Please hand me the book with the green cover,” you know exactly what I am asking for.  I have said what I want rather than what I don’t want. I have painted a clear picture for you.  I therefore am more likely to get what I want. That’s strength.

Furthermore, because you know what I want, you are more likely to trust me, especially if we negotiate with each other. Transparency builds confidence.

Will Israelis eventually move forward without Gantz? 

The likelihood that Gantz will have difficulty inspiring the country to keep him in a political leadership role increases if Gantz keeps locked into expressing primarily what he does not want.

Let’s look again at Gantz’s remark that “If they forever say ‘no’ to everything, then we are obligated to move forward without them.”  Interestingly, Gantz may have been projecting onto the Palestinians what could happen to him if he continues his not this and not that way of speaking.  Will Israel eventually move forward without Gantz?

Can Gantz learn to sound like he is leading the troops from in front?

With this small yet highly impactful speech pattern change, Gantz could sound, and even could become, significantly more effective.  “Here’s my view of what is happening, my concerns, my goals, and my action plans for getting us there.”

Let’s hope that Gantz can learn.  We shall see.

About the Author
Susan Heitler, PhD, a clinical psychologist formerly from Denver, has recently made aliyah to Israel. Dr. Heitler's popular blog—Resolution, Not Conflict—has received more than 25 million reads. Her Power of Two book and workbook, teaching communication and conflict resolution skills, has been published in six foreign languages including Hebrew. For her techniques for relieving depression, anger, and anxiety, see her website at
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