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How to De-escalate an Argument in 2 Minutes or Less

In this video, Janna gives you two questions you can ask:

  1. What do I need?
  2. What am I protecting?

Have a listen and post your comments below.

Janna Denton-Howes is a Marriage Coach whose passion is to help couples get unstuck and move powerfully towards the vision of true Baha’i marriage.  If you liked this video, you can visit her site; read her blog and watch her other videos.

Common Communication Problems and Baha’i Solutions

 

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!

Barriers to Effective Consultation

 

What puts up barriers to consultation, making it difficult to move forwards?  Let’s have a look at the Baha’ i Writings.

Aggression:

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)

Anger:

. . .  if he does not use these qualities [anger and wrath] in a right way, they are blameworthy (‘Abdul-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, pp. 250- 251).

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, Lights of Guidance, p. 93)

Backbiting:

You ask in your letter for guidance on the implications of the prohibitions on backbiting and more specifically whether, in moments of anger or depression, the believer is permitted to turn to his friends to unburden his soul and discuss his problem in human relations. Normally, it is possible to describe the situation surrounding a problem and seek help and advice in resolving it, without necessarily mentioning names. The individual believer should seek to do this, whether he is consulting a friend, Bahá’í or non-Bahá’í, or whether the friend is consulting him.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 90)

Conflict and Contention:

Bahá’u’lláh has forbidden “conflict” and “contention”; open disputation in the public arena over matters in the Bahá’í teachings is an inappropriate means of clarifying difficult issues. (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

Confrontation: 

You are urged to avoid confrontation and dissension; these would tend to increase the antagonism.  (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 185)

Criticism:

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, Directives of the Guardian, pp. 17-18)

Cynicism:

Skepticism, cynicism, disbelief, immorality and hard-heartedness are rife, and as friends are those who stand for the antithesis of all these things they should beware lest the atmosphere of the present world affects them without their being conscious of it.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 542)

Dictatorial authority and arbitrary power:

Let us also bear in mind that the keynote of the Cause of God is not dictatorial authority but humble fellowship, not arbitrary power, but the spirit of frank and loving consultation.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 33)

Discord:

The members thereof must take counsel together in such wise that no occasion for ill-feeling or discord may arise.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 87)

Disruption:

Disruptive forces, which are but the outcome of human passion and selfishness, should be entirely crushed down and should give way to a living and constructive faith which alone can ensure the efficiency and the high quality of the work to be achieved.  (Shoghi Effendi, National Convention compilation)

It is important to note, however, that individuals who wish to present their views should do so in a way compatible with the Bahá’í spirit of consultation. It sometimes happens that a believer insists on expounding his views at Bahá’í meetings, and frequently disrupts such gatherings, and may even display such behaviour in the presence of non-Bahá’ís. If he stubbornly persists in this conduct, despite exhortations and warnings given to him by the proper Bahá’í institutions, he will somehow have to be prevented from taking the law into his own hands and jeopardizing Bahá’í interests. When differences such as these arise, it is important that frank and loving consultation between the person concerned and the Local Spiritual Assembly, and if need be the National Spiritual Assembly, should take place, or perhaps the institution of the Counsellors could help resolve the problem.  (Universal House of Justice, 7 February 1993, “Issues Concerning Community Functioning”)

 Disunity: 

Should harmony of thought and absolute unity be nonexistent, that gathering shall be dispersed and that assembly be brought to naught.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 88) 

Estrangement: 

Nothing whatsoever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than … estrangement … among the loved ones of God. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 8)

Should the least trace of estrangement prevail the result shall be darkness upon darkness.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 87)

Fear, alienation and resentment:

It is very bad for the believers to have the feeling that their Assembly will deal too harshly with them, and the net result can only be that a feeling of fear or alienation or resentment may grow up in their hearts towards the body that they should look to as being, not only their elected representatives, but their helper, – one might almost say their father – and the one to whom they can confidently take their problem, and whose wishes and decrees they will respect and obey unhesitatingly.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Light of Divine Guidance v I, p. 168)

Harshness:

It is very bad for the believers to have the feeling that their Assembly will deal too harshly with them, and the net result can only be that a feeling of fear or alienation or resentment may grow up in their hearts towards the body that they should look to as being, not only their elected representatives, but their helper, – one might almost say their father – and the one to whom they can confidently take their problem, and whose wishes and decrees they will respect and obey unhesitatingly.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Light of Divine Guidance v I, p. 168)

Hostility:

The prospect of a believer’s displaying an attitude of hostility, when being interviewed by a Spiritual Assembly or its representatives who are seeking to determine the facts of a matter, is abhorrent.  (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

Opposition:

In France I was present at a session of the senate, but the experience was not impressive. Parliamentary procedure should have for its object the attainment of the light of truth upon questions presented and not furnish a battleground for opposition and self-opinion. Antagonism and contradiction are unfortunate and always destructive to truth. In the parliamentary meeting mentioned, altercation and useless quibbling were frequent; the result, mostly confusion and turmoil; even in one instance a physical encounter took place between two members. It was not consultation but comedy.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 72)

Passion and Rancor:

The members of an Assembly must learn to express their views frankly, calmly, without passion or rancor.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, par. 590)

Personalities:

The Bahá’ís must learn to forget personalities . . . (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 50)

Quarreling:

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)

Resentment and Grudges:

And this is clear: a power above and beyond the powers of nature must needs be brought to bear, to change this black darkness into light, and these hatreds and resentments, grudges and spites, these endless wrangles and wars, into fellowship and love amongst all the peoples of the earth. This power is none other than the breathings of the Holy Spirit and the mighty inflow of the Word of God.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 52)

Selfishness:

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)

Sharpness: 

Further, it is sometimes the case that staff members at your National Center, in their eagerness to be exactly and completely obedient, carry out the instruction of your Assembly with a sharpness of manner and tone that hurts people and provokes resentment against the very body the staff are striving to serve with loyalty and devotion.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1994 May 19, response to US NSA)

 Splitting Hairs:

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

Stubbornness:

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)

Sullenness: 

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)

Superiority:

Therefore, no one should glorify himself over another; no one should manifest pride or superiority toward another; no one should look upon another with scorn and contempt; and no one should deprive or oppress a fellow creature.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 62)

As soon as a believer feels himself the least degree superior to others, the beginning of his spiritual decline has set in, all unaware to himself.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 449-450)

The teacher should not see in himself any superiority; he should speak with the utmost kindliness, lowliness and humility, for such speech exerteth influence and educateth the souls.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 30)

Taking Sides:

The Bahá’ís must learn to . . . overcome the desire—so natural in people—to take sides and fight about it. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 50)

Threats:

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)

The honoured members of the Spiritual Assembly should exert their efforts so that no differences may occur, and if such differences do occur, they should not reach the point of causing conflict, hatred and antagonism, which lead to threats: When you notice that a stage has been reached when enmity and threats are about to occur, you should immediately postpone discussion of the subject, until wranglings, disputations, and loud talk vanish, and a propitious time is at hand.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 178)

Undermining the Institutions:

The Guardian believes that a great deal of the difficulties from which the believers … feel themselves to be suffering are caused by their neither correctly understanding nor putting into practice the administration. They seem – many of them – to be prone to continually challenging and criticizing the decisions of their Assemblies. If the Bahá’ís undermine the very bodies which are, however immaturely, seeking to co-ordinate Bahá’í activities and administer Bahá’í affairs, if they continually criticize their acts and challenge or belittle their decisions, they not only prevent any real rapid progress in the Faith’s development from taking place, but they repel outsiders who quite rightly may ask how we ever expect to unite the whole world when we are so disunited among ourselves! There is only one remedy for this: to study the administration, to obey the Assemblies, and each believer seek to perfect his own character as a Bahá’í. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations, Vol. II, no. 1469)

Violence:

In domestic violence situations, where consultation between abuser and victim is often inherently impossible, the principle of consultation is likely to be most useful when applied between each party and the institutions, civil and/or Bahá’í, which provide protection, guidance, necessary assistance, and corrective measures.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 101)

How has this been helpful?  What other barriers can you think of?  Post your comments below!

Communication Problems in Marriage

 

In this series of articles we’re looking at how the Bahá’í Marriage Vow “We will all verily abide by the Will of God” can help solve the 10 most common marriage problems.  In this article we will explore the topic of communication problems in marriage.

Many marriages break down because of a lack of communication, or knowledge of how to consult effectively.  The Bahá’í Faith gives us many tools for effective consultation, which is beyond the scope of this article, but I suggest you seek them out and learn how to apply them to your marriage.

The standards in the Bahá’í Faith for consultation are very high:

The prime requisites for them that take counsel together are purity of motive, radiance of spirit, detachment from all else save God, attraction to His Divine Fragrances, humility and lowliness amongst His loved ones, patience and long-suffering in difficulties and servitude to His exalted Threshold.  Should they be graciously aided to acquire these attributes, victory from the unseen Kingdom of Bahá shall be vouchsafed to them.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Administration, p. 21-22)

Learning how to apply each one of these could take a lifetime!

Once these have been considered and understood, you can move on to full and frank discussion, characterized by moderation, balance and lack of domination:

Family consultation employing full and frank discussion, and animated by awareness of the need for moderation and balance, can be the panacea for domestic conflict. Wives should not attempt to dominate their husbands, nor husbands their wives.  (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 453)

It should be focused on fellowship and void of power struggles:

 The atmosphere within a Bahá’í family as within the community as a whole should express ‘the keynote of the Cause of God’ which, the beloved Guardian has stated, ‘is not dictatorial authority but humble fellowship, not arbitrary power, but the spirit of frank and loving consultation’.  (Universal House of Justice December 28, 1980)

The discussion should be animated by love and not by arguing.  One of my favourite quotes is:

 If two individuals dispute … both are wrong.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 84)

Shoghi Effendi explains it further:

 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)

Sometimes when tempers are flaring, you might need to walk away and return to the topic when clearer heads prevail:

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, Directives of the Guardian, pp. 17-18)

When you notice that a stage has been reached when enmity and threats are about to occur, you should immediately postpone discussion of the subject, until wranglings, disputations, and loud talk vanish, and a propitious time is at hand. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 178)

Learning to consult effectively is not an easy tool to learn, since it involves letting go of your ego, so that you can understand the other person’s opinion:

Consultation is no easy skill to learn, requiring as it does the subjugation of all egotism and unruly passions, the cultivation of frankness and freedom of thought as well as courtesy, openness of mind, and wholehearted acquiescence in a majority decision.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1966 Jun 10, Youth in Every Land)

In order to find truth we must give up our prejudices, our own small trivial notions; an open receptive mind is essential. If our chalice is full of self, there is no room in it for the water of life. The fact that we imagine ourselves to be right and everybody else wrong is the greatest of all obstacles in the path towards unity, and unity is necessary if we would reach truth, for truth is one.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 136)

In the end, it’s not a matter of who’s right and who’s wrong.  It’s best to come to an agreement in unity and both are wrong, than to continue to press for one’s point:

It is my hope that the friends and the maid-servants of America become united on all subjects and not disagree at all. 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-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 411)

For more information please see:

Role Confusion 

Money 

Sex 

In-laws and Children

Spending Time Together

Love and Effort 

Unresolved Baggage from Childhood

Gossip and Backbiting

For more on this topic, please see:

Introduction to Marriage Vows

We Will All Verily Abide by the Will of God

Sex Before Marriage 

Sex Inside Marriage 

Using the Year of Patience 

 How have these principles helped you understand the Will of God in communication in marriage?  Post your comments here:

 

 

Responding with Love

 

Thanks to Harley M Storey, the Life Coach Toolman for the following posting:

It has been said that being in relationship is a great way to grow. This is because, we automatically encounter OUR unresolved issues, and often theirs as well! We have all experienced other people, especially those we are closest to (family?), pushing our “buttons” and prompting issues that we are sensitive about.So what do we do when other people “push our buttons?” We have a choice to react – or respond.

When we react, we are usually not giving much thought to what we are doing, this can easily become a fully fledged argument if the other person also reacts without thinking.

By responding, rather than reacting, we have made space where we can consider the situation and decide the best way to handle things.Responding consists of patience, humility and intelligence.

Patience, because we are holding back from reacting straight away and often inflaming the situation.

Humility, because it feels good to react with a sarcastic comeback or put down.

Intelligence, because we understand that in the long run a compassionate response is the best way to handle the situation and enhance and maintain our relationships.Communication is also really important because if we know that our partner or friend is having a difficult day and under stress – we understand that the reason they may have spoken harshly is NOT ABOUT US, but because of what THEY are dealing with.The next time you are spoken unkindly to, try responding by asking “Are you ok? Are you having a difficult day?” Then watch their jaws drop and their face soften!I put this approach to the test myself when I went to my local Postal Office recently. The lady serving me was extremely rude. However, rather than responding in anger, I decided to try the compassionate approach. I visited a bakery, bought a large chocolate cookie, returned to the Post Office, gave it to her, and wished her a great day. Ever since, she has been very nice to me.

Know thou of a certainty that Love is the secret of God’s holy Dispensation.
Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 27

So like ‘Abdul-Bahá, I conclude that compassion gets better results than anger! What’s been your experience in responding instead of reacting?