By SALMAN RIZWAN
Communication is the process of passing information and understanding from one person to another. In simple words it is a process of transmitting and sharing ideas, opinions, facts, values etc. from one person to another or one organization to another.
If the communication is done just to share news and facts, it is quite simple. However, most of the communication that takes place between humans is inherently done(deliberately or in deliberately) to expect some outcome.
Such form of communication is done to influence opinions, require action(s) or develop consensus. This may not be so simple.
As simple as it sounds, such communication offers a major challenge as a lot of external and internal factors influence it. Often, the intended message gets lost under the influence of these factors and the receiver gets a distorted version. These factors include environment, social setting, personal biases, style, complexity, situation and the topic itself.
This in turn creates a problem as the reply is made based on the distorted information received thereby compounding the distortion. Soon the two parties involved in the communication move away from the “original” message and get involved in secondary clarifications.
Now imagine this in a group setting. Things get quickly out of control if everybody is contributing to the discussion. That is why in most of the professional settings, a moderator is needed to ensure good level of communication.
As such all of us struggle with this problem. While we cannot control most of the external factors mentioned above, we can certainly work on a few of these like Style, Technique, Topic, Complexity and Bias
A lot of very useful research has been done in the last century on communication techniques and some very useful tools and techniques have been developed to aid the communication. Public speaking itself is a field in addition to personal communication skills.
However, we refer to our two original sources of guidance(Qur’an and Sunnah) to understand the basics of communication and to find out what advices we are offered.
When it comes to communication, there are two basic ingredients; Wisdom and Patience
Wisdom to ensure the transmission of desired contents and Patience to deliver it
The first thing we learn from the noble Qur’an about communication is that Allah(swt) himself taught this knowledge to the human beings
The Most Merciful. Taught the Qur’an. Created man. [And] taught him eloquence.
Ar Rehman, 55: 1-4
Eloquence here refers to Speech which is done at the finest level. This clearly suggests that we the human beings are genetically programmed to make the best form of speech. Only if we are conscious of the external factors and the basic two ingredients as stated before.
Let’s study a few more Ayaat to understand this clearly
Speak good words;
We learn from the noble Quran;
“………………. And speak to people good [words]……………..”
This instructs us to speak good (words) to each other. Compare this with our normal communication which is full of often objectionable or slang words which do not help the cause at all
“……………………. And when you speak, be just, even if [it concerns] a near relative…………..”
This is particularly important in the context of communication being made with two parties and both are known to the speaker. Often people expect to hear things that show that they are being favored because of their relationship to the speaker (especially in matters of dispute). Allah(swt) clearly instructs us to always speak just meaning to not favor one to the other
Speak noble, gracious;
“……………….Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], “uff,” and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word”
For those of us who are fortunate enough to see their parents reach old age and get to look after them, Qur’an has a special advice. It advises us to be kind to them and communicate with them in a noble gracious way. Parents in old age require special attention especially if they become dependent and often (again because of external factors) their proper care and the communication demand wisdom and patience.
“And if you [must] turn away from the needy awaiting mercy from your Lord which you expect, then speak to them a gentle word”
A gentle word is always useful however, it is especially helpful if you know that your reply is not what the listener is expecting. To ensure that the listener understands your situation and processes your reply(negation) in the right manner, use of gentle words is a very effective communication tool
“And tell My servants to say that which is best. Indeed, Satan induces [dissension] among them. Indeed, Satan is ever, to mankind, a clear enemy”
The way communication is done is arguably more important than the contents. A politely communicated speech can help lower the heat of a discussion and diffuse the influence of the external factors in understanding the message.
Elsewhere in Qur’an Allah(swt) says;
“And speak to him with gentle speech that perhaps he may be reminded or fear [Allah]”
This is in context of Allah(swt) instructing Musa(as) and his brother Haroon to go to the Pharoah for this purpose of da˝wa. To speak to even to the staunchest of enemies, Allah(swt) advice is to use lenient polite words
Speak no false;
“……………….and avoid false statement”
This is one of the places where we have been instructed to stay away from lying. This social menace is widespread and has become a norm. Lying is a temporary relief from getting into trouble however it causes more trouble than it solves. Speaking the truth is a fundamental aspect of communication which also relates to moral and ethical values. The language used by Qur’an is very clear. It does not say, “Don’t speak lie”. Rather it says, “Aviod…”. This is far stronger and powerful message to show the severity of lying. It is important to note that same words are used for advice against drinking alcohol and adultery
“O you who have believed, fear Allah and speak the straight words”
An important point to clarify here is that speaking right does not mean that one must be rude. Quran advises us to say straight words. This means we should not make efforts to cover up (which borders on lying) but to make a direct and straight speech.
Finally, Quran advises us what to do, in case the communication is not effective and there is an argument which is distorting the message and after you have tried your best to ensure effective communication
“And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace”
As someone once said,”50% of the problems that we face are because of poor or ineffective communication”
Let’s follow these guidelines from Qur’an and make our communication effective and productive.