Former US President Harry S. Truman captured the value of good communication as essential to the reduction of fear and war between nations. He said, “We shall never be able to remove suspicion and fear as potential causes of war until communication is permitted to flow, free and open, across international boundaries.”
What are the elements of communication? Speaking and listening for the purpose of exchanging ideas or information. It’s an art to speak precisely what we have in mind. And sometimes it’s a greater art to listen carefully to grasp the motive and message of the speaker. The speaker needs to know what he or she is trying to say. The speaker also needs to know his or her listener. And the listener needs to put aside prejudice and fixed opinions in order to hear what the speaker is trying to convey.
In short, perhaps the basis of good communication is with the heart – caring, humility, brotherly kindness, receptivity, a constructive tendency, are just a few of the heart qualities that we all appreciate when communicating with others. They speak louder than words.
A proper balance of speaking and listening is essential to both sides of the kitchen table, as well as the conference table. Haven’t we all appreciated someone who is patient enough to let us bring our sentences or thoughts to completion instead of interrupting with an opinion? And haven’t we all felt the need for patient discipline, for listening thoughtfully to a friend striving to get a point across? A more loving sense of communication in our daily lives with each other is as important as the discussion among nations. Why? Because nations are made of individual lives, where the foundation of harmonious world relationships begin.
To those who are used to turning to God for direction, real communication begins with listening for divine direction – selflessly reaching out for spiritual ideas and quieting human will. Starting with loving and spiritual intuition instead of personal opinion or human will often keeps the door open for further exchange of ideas. Why? Because self-interest is not the focal point. Self-interest and self-promotion often lead to confrontation and arm-wrestling. Selflessness more often leads to open exchange of ideas because it cultivates unselfishness in the other party. Starting with thoughts of God’s goodness and care for each of His children so often strikes a similar chord in others.
One psalm says, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer” (Ps. 19:14). The desire to please God, to express divine goodness, and to bless others often finds a quick response in others.
In a very short article titled “Heart to heart,” Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, thanked church members for the good work they were doing. She prefaced her praise of them with this: “When the heart speaks, however simple the words, its language is always acceptable to those who have hearts” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 262).
Starting with heartfelt, selfless motives and genuine care for others, whether an individual or a group or a nation, often opens the door to a genuine and abundant flow of ideas that is beneficial for all concerned. Communication from a loving heart goes a long way, is clearly understood, and lasts a long time.