Have you ever had a “failure to communicate”? (a famous line by Paul Newman in the movie Cool Hand Luke). Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Art of Communicating will help.
It Starts with You
It all starts with communicating with yourself and Hanh devotes a whole chapter to it.
“Many of us spend a lot of time in meetings or e-mailing with others, and not a lot of time communicating with ourselves. The result is that we don’t know what is going on within us…How, then, can we communicate with another person?”
Throughout the book, Hanh urges us to come home to ourselves by breathing, practicing mindfulness and being present to ourselves. Hanh advises that when we begin listening to ourselves, we notice the suffering present in our lives. He urges us to connect to that suffering because, “If we know how to take good care of suffering, we will know how to take good care of happiness.”
When communicating with others, the keys to effective and true communication are deep listening and loving speech. The quality of our listening and writing is powerful and reflexive. “If you can listen for thirty minutes with compassion, you can help the other person suffer much less.” And “If you can write a letter that’s full of understanding and compassion, then during the time of writhing that letter you will nourish yourself.”
Hanh outlines 6 phrases that are loving speech.
- I am here for you. “To be there like that, for yourself and for the other person, is an act of love.”
- I know you are there, and I am very happy. “You are letting your loved one know that his or her presence is important to your happiness.”
- I know you suffer, and that is why I am here for you. When you notice that something is not going well with a loved one.
- I suffer. I want you to know. I am doing my best. Please help. When we suffer, we often want to punish the person we believe caused our suffering by telling them we don’t need them.
- This is a happy moment.
- You are partly right. When receiving praise or criticism.
When Difficulties Arise
Hanh includes a brilliant chapter on communicating “when difficulties arise.”Pretending everything is fine isn’t the answer.
“When anger is there, we should handle it with tenderness because our anger is us. We shouldn’t do violence to our anger. Doing violence to our anger is doing violence to ourselves.”
It’s the perfect time to say, “I suffer, I want you to know, I am doing my best. Please help.”
I love this insight from Hanh:
“Communication is as much a part of your job as is the end product. If you communicate well in your work environment, not only do you enjoy yourself more, but you create a harmonious atmosphere that will carry over into your work. Everything you do will have a stronger element of compassion and be of greater benefit to more people.”
After I finish reading books I usually sell them back. But I will keep this one for a reference and reminder.