“If I told him would he like it”: how do we communicate?

red lips

We humans are thinkers and over-thinkers. Sometimes, in the name of not making a fuss, not angering someone, not making someone sad, we mull our thoughts over and over. We ask ourselves: “Should I tell him/her that…?,” “is it worth telling them that…?”, “How will he/she react to this?” As children, we don’t have these thoughts–we have acquired them at some point during our social education. Along with directness and sincerity, our spontaneity went out the window.

Gertrude Stein, in her “Portrait of Picasso,” couldn’t have expressed it better, how we keep failing at communicating our thoughts even to those we love and respect:

If I told him would he like it. Would he like it if I told him.
Would he like it would Napoleon would Napoleon would would he like it.

In this short passage, Stein struggles to finish her thought since perhaps it might offend the addressee of the poem, Picasso himself. The “would he like it” and “if I told him” are the thoughts she keeps repeating, turning around in her mind.

Then she chooses to communicate her ideas indirectly by comparing Picasso to no other than Napoleon the 1st. We may surmise that she alludes to their male dominance and its consequences in their respective fields, “exactly as as kings,” she admonishes both and mocks them: “He he he he and he and he and and he and he and he and and as and as he and as he and he.” She ends the poem with “Let me recite what history teaches. History teaches,” managing, despite the many seemingly incomplete thoughts, to make her point very succinctly to Picasso: if you behave like Napoleon, we can look back into history and see what it can teach you/us.

Let us all learn from Stein and do our best to communicate our thoughts to others, even if communication proves difficult and even if the truth is hard to hear.  And beautiful things might happen in the end–we would not have had this wonderful and witty portrait of Picasso hadn’t Stein written her thoughts down for our reading pleasure.




Karo Caran, the Rainbow Poetess, is a poet and a non/fiction writer. Her novel, "Breaking the silence: A story in paintings" focuses on the censorship of art and gay relationships in the postwar, communist Poland. Her poetry-based memoir, "Life in a Footnotes" will be published this summer.
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4 thoughts on ““If I told him would he like it”: how do we communicate?

  1. … and the truth shall set us (and others) free.
    I will certainly come back to this post, Karo. Lots of food for thought.

  2. and as simple as the poem seemingly is, I have no doubt she wrote and wrote it until the words were exactly what she wanted them to be. A reminder to reflect on what is to be communicated and to listen to the pause in between the words. Thank you!

  3. I am learning by his response whether I’ve communicated it well enough. Then I’m rephrasing and at times stating my feelings about his response which tells me he’s not heard what I’m saying. Communication is difficult but If you are open to rephrasing, the communication gets delivered.

    Julieanne Case
    Always from the heart!

    Reconnecting you to your Original Blueprint, Your Essence, Your Joy| Healing you from the Inside Out |Reconnective Healing | The Reconnection| Reconnective Art |


  4. Love the poem and the way unfinished thoughts can create a different story in each of us. And it is true. Communicating our truths may not be liked by all who hear, but we are freed by speaking them. And that is the point isn’t it? To exercise our right to free expression, which has long been denied for so many.. Lovely post Karo and much food for thought

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