Noona the Mind Reader – What About Us?

By Shlomo  Maital   

  Noni very small

  In Orit Gidali’s new children’s book, Noona the Mind Reader, illustrated by Aya Gordon-Noy,  a little boy says to Noona, “You have the legs of a flamingo!”   And Noona, “even though she does not know exactly what a flamingo is, she is insulted.  A lot.”   (For now, it is only in the Hebrew language).

     Her mother hugs her, and goes to find “a magical device”, for days when there is not enough magic.  

    “Noona picks up the magic device that her mother gave her, and suddenly she can see behind everything people say, what they are thinking, but not saying”.

     Noona sees that people do not always say what they think.  Or think what they say they are thinking,  or say what they think they are saying.  

     “I understand!”  Noona shouts.

     “You have the legs of a flamingo!”.   The little boy means, according to Noona’s magical device, “when you’re around everything is rosy”,  and “wow, am I smart, to know how to say ‘flamingo’ “.  

     “Nya, who wants to be friends with YOU!”, means “I do”.   “I don’t want to play soccer” means “I don’t want to lose again.”

      And so on.

      Years ago, Harvard psychologist Chris Argyris pointed out that people have two columns on their pages.  In the right hand column,  what they say. In the left hand column, what they mean.  And he ran clever exercises, getting people to reveal their left hand column – which many people found very distressing. 

     What if we all had Noona’s mother’s magical device?  What if we knew what people really meant, not just what they said?  What if we knew BOTH their left hand and right hand columns?    People would then have to tell the truth.

     It’s not necessary to injure or hurt people by always saying what  you think.  You don’t have to say,  Yuk, that’s an ugly dress!    You don’t have to say it.  But maybe the world would be better, maybe there would be more trust among people, if we pretended that we all had Noona’s device.  If we built trust by telling the truth and saying what we mean. 

     There are countries where it is regarded as polite to be oblique, obtuse or even say the opposite of what you mean, to spare people’s feelings.  I live in a country where people are usually quite blunt.  Those who don’t understand us find this very rude, sometimes.  I think, in the end, it is good.

        What if Noona’s device were replicated and distributed, say, to the European Parliament or the U.N. General Assembly?    Or to the press at Obama’s press conferences?     What would we hear?  What would we understand?  And how would politicians and politics change forever?!