The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
We can all agree that good communication is essential to leading a happy life, but we often struggle to listen to one another.
The Baha’i writings provide profound insight into how we can use language to improve our relationships. They highlight the importance of meaningful, truthful conversations where everyone’s opinion is respected. Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, wrote that consulting with each other in this manner “is and will always be a cause of awareness and of awakening and a source of good and well-being.”
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Even when trying to have a productive conversation, we often don’t actually listen to one another. While the person across from us speaks, we mentally prepare for what we might say next or process how what we said might have been received, but forget to actually listen to what the person shares with us. When we take up too much space in a conversation, we miss the opportunity to deepen our intellect and better understand things.
Listening, according to the Baha’i writings, is actually a sign of heightened intellect. In a talk in Paris in 1911, Abdu’l-Baha, the son of Baha’u’llah and his designated successor said:
The sign of the intellect is contemplation and the sign of contemplation is silence, because it is impossible for a man to do two things at one time – he cannot both speak and meditate.
In this same line of thought, the writings suggest that we should genuinely and carefully consider the usefulness of our thoughts before stating them. When we detach from our ideas, we more effectively nurture unity and truth in our communication with one another.
As Abdu’l-Baha explained:
Man should weigh his opinions with the utmost serenity, calmness and composure. Before expressing his own views he should carefully consider the views already advanced by others. If he finds that a previously expressed opinion is more true and worthy, he should accept it immediately and not willfully hold to an opinion of his own. By this excellent method he endeavors to arrive at unity and truth.
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Another challenge is to speak to one another in a way that others can understand and accept. If the goal of a conversation is to explore an idea, all members of the conversation have a role to play in creating a tactful, open tone. This includes avoiding competitive attitudes commonly encouraged in society, such as defending one’s posture at all costs or dismissing others’ ideas because of their background or social status.
For me, this usually looks like pushing myself to hold my tongue when I find myself in a conversation on a topic I tend to feel passionate about. I try to listen a little longer, scanning for seeds of truth or deeper intended meanings before jumping to conclusions and responding vocally. I remind myself that there is always more to learn, and there is always a possibility of increased understanding. Abdu’l-Baha explained:
It is in no wise permissible for one to belittle the thought of another, nay, he must with moderation set forth the truth.
Taking the time to reflect on what we will say also gives us time to check our tone and intention. And ensuring that our words come from a place of humility and wisdom allows for an easier conversation.
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