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In doing the research for my book on Learning How to Consult Effectively, I wondered what some of the most common communication problems might be.  I went onto the internet and gathered some ideas which I felt could be easily addressed by implementing Baha’i concepts.  Let’s take a look at what I’ve found.

Aggression:

Abuse is forbidden:

No husband should subject his wife to abuse of any kind, whether emotional, mental or physical…. When a Bahá’í wife finds herself in such a situation and feels it cannot be resolved through consultation with her husband, she could well turn to the Local Spiritual Assembly for advice and guidance, and might also find it highly advantageous to seek the assistance of competent professional counsellors. If the husband is also a Bahá’í, the Local Spiritual Assembly can bring to his attention the need to avoid abusive behaviour and can, if necessary, take firm measures to encourage him to conform to the admonitions of the teachings.  (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 458)

Aggression has lost its credibility as a means for solving problems:

At a time when conquest and aggression have lost their credibility as means of solving difficult problems . . .   (Bahá’í International Community, 1993 Mar 15, Women Peace Process)

Be moderate in your tone of voice:

Bahá’ís are enjoined to be . . . moderate in tone . . .  (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

The threat and fear of violence must be removed before effective consultation can take place:

According to guidance in the preceding passages, both the threat and fear of violence must be removed before effective consultation “animated by awareness of the need for moderation and balance” can take place.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 101)

Avoiding Conflict

Consultation is a law in the Faith, so when there is conflict we must consult:

The principle of consultation, which constitutes one of the basic laws of the Administration . . .  (Shoghi Effendi, in Consultation: A Compilation, p. 15)

It’s important to choose a time when you can use these principles.

Every word is endowed with a spirit, therefore the speaker or expounder should carefully deliver his words at the appropriate time and place, for the impression which each word maketh is clearly evident and perceptible. (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 172-173)

Blame Game

Blame no one but yourselves:

It behoveth you, therefore, to attach blame to no one except to yourselves, for the things ye have committed, if ye but judge fairly.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 222-223)

When we’re being blamed we need to show forth love and affection:

The more they deride and blame thee, show thou forth the greater love and affection. Do not look upon their shortcomings. Look thou upon all of them as the people of God and endeavor thou in right-doing and well-meaning. Ignorant are they; understand they do not. Therefore they are avoiding, criticizing and scorning thee.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 504-505)

NoteThis does not hold true in situations of abuse. 

It is not advisable to show kindness to a person who is a tyrant, a traitor or a thief because kindness encourages him to become worse and does not awaken him. The more kindness you show to a liar the more he is apt to lie, for he thinks that you know not, while you do know, but extreme kindness keeps you from revealing your knowledge.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 412)

Closed Mind

We need to listen to the opinions of others without taking offence or belittling their views:

They must also learn to listen to the opinions of their fellow members without taking offence or belittling the views of another.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 179)

We need to meditate on what has been said to us:

Bahá’u’lláh says there is a sign (from God) in every phenomenon: 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.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 174)

Competitive Attitudes

We aren’t to advance ourselves before others:

Of all men the most negligent is he that disputeth idly and seeketh to advance himself over his brother.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Persian 5)

We must listen to others without belittling their views:

They must also learn to listen to the opinions of their fellow members without . . .  belittling the views of another.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 179)

If two souls quarrel, both are wrong.

In brief, O ye believers of God! The text of the divine Book is this: If two souls quarrel and contend about a question of the divine questions, differing and disputing, both are wrong. The wisdom of this incontrovertible law of God is this: That between two souls from amongst the believers of God, no contention and dispute may arise . . .  This is the irrefutable command!  (Άbdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 56)

Defensiveness

We can’t be upset if someone contradicts us:

If another contradicts him, he must not become excited because if there be no investigation or verification of questions and matters, the agreeable view will not be discovered neither understood.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 406)

We’re not to give offence or take offence:

Thus no member should ever allow himself to be prevented from expressing frankly his view because it may offend a fellow member; and, realizing this, no member should take offence at another member’s statements.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 179-180)

Expecting Your Partner to Read Your Mind

Express your own thoughts:

The honoured members must with all freedom express their own thoughts, and it is in no wise permissible for one to belittle the thought of another, nay, he must with moderation set forth the truth.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 88)

Set forth your ideas:

Show forth that which ye have: if it be accepted, the object is attained; if not, interference is vain: leave him to himself, [while] advancing toward God, the Protecting, the Self-Subsistent.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, A Traveller’s Narrative, p. 83)

Giving in and Not Really Saying What You Want or Think

Everyone must be free to express his own opinion and set forth his argument:

The members thereof must take counsel together in such wise that no occasion for ill-feeling or discord may arise. This can be attained when every member expresseth with absolute freedom his own opinion and setteth forth his argument. (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 87)

Harping on Issues

Stop arguing:

The more the friends argue back and forth and maintain, each side, that their point of view is the right one, the worse the whole situation becomes.   (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations, Vol. II, p. 23)

If two souls quarrel, both are wrong.

In brief, O ye believers of God! The text of the divine Book is this: If two souls quarrel and contend about a question of the divine questions, differing and disputing, both are wrong. The wisdom of this incontrovertible law of God is this: That between two souls from amongst the believers of God, no contention and dispute may arise . . .  This is the irrefutable command!  (Άbdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 56)

Suppress every critical thought and harsh words:

You should urge your fellow-Bahá’ís to take this point of view, and to support you in a strong effort to suppress every critical thought and every harsh word, in order to let the spirit of Bahá’u’lláh flow into the entire community, and unite it in His love and His service.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations, Vol. II, p. 23)

Put the past behind and refrain from mentioning the subjects that have led to misunderstanding:

When criticism and harsh words arise within a Bahá’í community, there is no remedy except to put the past behind one, and persuade all concerned to turn over a new leaf, and for the sake of God and His Faith refrain from mentioning the subjects which have led to misunderstanding and inharmony.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations, Vol. II, p. 23)

Cling to patience and resignation and observe silence:

He must . . . cling unto patience and resignation, observe silence, and refrain from idle talk. For the tongue is a smouldering fire, and excess of speech a deadly poison. Material fire consumeth the body, whereas the fire of the tongue devoureth both heart and soul. The force of the former lasteth but for a time, whilst the effects of the latter endure a century.  (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 192)

Set aside every personal sense of grievance – justified or unjustified – for the good of the Cause:

All should be ready and willing to set aside every personal sense of grievance – justified or unjustified – for the good of the Cause, because the people will never embrace it until they see in its community life mirrored what is so conspicuously lacking in the world: love and unity. (Shoghi Effendi, Letters from the Guardian to Australia and New Zealand, p. 55)

Forget these insignificant disturbances and rush to the rescue of humanity:

When we see the condition the world is in today, we must surely forget these utterly insignificant internal disturbances, and rush, unitedly, to the rescue of humanity. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations, Vol. II, p. 23)

Insisting on Your Own Opinion

We should not voice our opinions as correct and right:

He who expresses an opinion should not voice it as correct and right but set it forth as a contribution to the consensus of opinion, for the light of reality becomes apparent when two opinions coincide.   (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 72)

The purpose of consultation is to investigate truth, not to determine who is right and who is wrong:

The purpose is to emphasize the statement that consultation must have for its object the investigation of truth.   (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 72)

We can’t insist on our own opinion:

They must . . . not insist upon their own opinion, for stubbornness and persistence in one’s views will lead ultimately to discord and wrangling and the truth will remain hidden.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 88)

We can’t insist that our views are the only correct ones:

Bahá’ís are enjoined to . . . not insist on the correctness of their views; however, such conditions should not preclude the frank expression of differing views. (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

We can’t be splitting hairs:

. . . no fruitless and hair-splitting discussions indulged in, under any circumstances.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 81)

If someone has expressed an opinion that is more true and worthy, he should accept it immediately:

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.   (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 72)

If one person is right and they disagree, that will be the cause of a thousand wrongs:

Though one of the parties may be in the right and they disagree that will be the cause of a thousand wrongs  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Individual Rights and Freedoms in the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 13-14)

If they agree and both are wrong, the truth will be revealed and the wrong made right:

. . . but if they agree and both parties are in the wrong, as it is in unity the truth will be revealed and the wrong made right.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Individual Rights and Freedoms in the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 13-14)

Lack of Kindness: 

We all need to be kind in speaking the truth: 

Be kind in truth, not only in appearance and outwardly. Every soul of the friends of God must concentrate his mind on this, that he may manifest the mercy of God and the bounty of the Forgiving One.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 216)

God is kind to all of us, so why should we be unkind?

He founded the oneness of the world of humanity. He declared that all humanity is the servant of God, and that God is kind to all, that He created all and provides for all; that He nurtures all; therefore why should we be unkind? Inasmuch as God is kind and merciful to all His creatures and manifests His care and goodwill to them in every way, why should we show forth that which is contrary? Inasmuch as God loves all, why should we entertain animosity or envy? For if God did not love all, He would not have provided for all; He would not have created man; He would not have trained him. Now that He has created, provided for all and preserved man, it is therefore evident that God is kind to all. Why then should man be unkind to man?  (Compilations, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 315)

Lying:

 Without truthfulness, there can be no progress:

Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues. Without truthfulness progress and success, in all the worlds of God, are impossible for any soul. When this holy attribute is established in man, all the divine qualities will also be acquired.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 338)

Search for the truth:

They must in every matter search out the truth and not insist upon their own opinion, for stubbornness and persistence in one’s views will lead ultimately to discord and wrangling and the truth will remain hidden.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 88)

Don’t promise what you can’t fulfill:

It is an important principle of the Faith that one must not promise what one is not going to fulfill.  (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

Making Character Attacks

Individuals can change:

It must be remembered that individuals can reform, and a reprehensible past does not necessarily disqualify a believer from a better future.  (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

Me Instead of We

We need to send love to others and receive strength from them:

The beloved of God must, like the roses of the rose-garden, send fragrant messages from one to another, receive strength from one another, and cooperate together, by the strength of the Kingdom. There is no greater means than communion and communication. Communication is half a meeting.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 417)

Where unity exists in a family, their affairs flourish and they enjoy comfort and tranquility:

Note ye how easily, where unity existeth in a given family, the affairs of that family are conducted; what progress the members of that family make, how they prosper in the world. Their concerns are in order, they enjoy comfort and tranquillity, they are secure, their position is assured, they come to be envied by all.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 278)

Not Considering Things from the Other Person’s Point of View

We must have regard for the interests of others:

It is incumbent upon them to take counsel together and to have regard for the interests of the servants of God, for His sake, even as they regard their own interests, and to choose that which is meet and seemly. Thus hath the Lord your God, the Gracious, the Pardoner, commanded you. Beware lest ye put away that which is clearly revealed in His Tablet. Fear God, O ye that perceive.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Synopsis and Codification of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 13)

Overgeneralizing

Consider moderate views based on facts rather than suppositions, speculation or fears:

[You] may also find it helpful to steer thinking away from extreme outcomes, worst-case scenarios or unrealistically optimistic scenarios, as those kinds of thinking tend to escalate apprehension between both parties, exacerbate the current situation, or set them up for future disappointments if they are unrealistically optimistic. It should assist the parties involved to consider moderate views based on facts rather than suppositions, speculation or fears. It may find that either or both parties need assistance in clarifying and separating facts from assumptions and/or opinions. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 21)

Refusing to Talk or Listen

Sullen resistance causes situations to deteriorate:

Beginning with demonstrations of sullen resistance, the situation steadily deteriorated to a point where the children and grandchildren of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá felt free to disagree with His appointed successor and to disobey his instructions.  (Universal House of Justice, Century of Light, p. 46)

Trying to “Win” The Argument

There is no argument!  There’s just a difference of opinion which fulfils a valuable function in all deliberations:

The friends should therefore not feel discouraged at the differences of opinion that may prevail among the members of an Assembly, for these, as experiences has shown, and as the Master’s words attest, fulfil a valuable function in all Assembly deliberations.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 48)

If we quarrel, we’re disobeying God:

As long as the friends quarrel amongst themselves their efforts will not be blessed for they are disobeying God. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 21)

The more we argue back and forth about who’s right, the worse things become:

The more the friends argue back and forth and maintain, each side, that their point of view is the right one, the worse the whole situation becomes.  (Shoghi Effendi, Directives of the Guardian, pp. 17-18)

The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions:

Should anyone oppose, he must on no account feel hurt for not until matters are fully discussed can the right way be revealed. The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions. (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 87)

It’s better to agree and be wrong, than to disagree and be right:

If they agree upon a subject, even though it be wrong, it is better than to disagree and be in the right, for this difference will produce the demolition of the divine foundation. Though one of the parties may be in the right and they disagree that will be the cause of a thousand wrongs, but if they agree and both parties are in the wrong, as it is in unity the truth will be revealed and the wrong made right.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 411)

Have I missed any?  How has this helped you with your understanding?  Post your comments below!