How many of us have had a discussion with a loved one that ended badly? We’ve either ended the discussion with an argument or departed on a sour note. All we want is for our loved one to understand our point of view, but we end up regretting what we’ve said and how we’ve said it, angry and frustrated at ourselves for not being able to convey our point.
We are unable to understand why it is that this person is unable to understand. The issue here may be our approach; we may be trying to convince our loved one of something that they are not mentally prepared to understand, we may be trying to force them to think the way we do. Each of us has our own set of experiences that govern our opinions, and hence our actions; individuals have different mentalities and education so we should speak to that person appropriately so they understand – we are advised to speak to people according to their understanding.
This wisdom can be clearly demonstrated in that explaining an idea to a three year old would be starkly different from explaining that same idea to an adult, or the way a doctor expresses information changes whether he/she is communicating with a patient or a colleague. Sometimes we assume that all adults think alike when the reality is that there are also great differences in the logical processes of adults.
Here are some tips on how to improve our communication skills in order to have a more productive conversation:
- Listen First
Respond, Not React
Acknowledge Opinions/Ideas & Don’t Dwell in the Past
Know Your Goal
Follow the Prophetic Example
The only way to know the mentality of a person is to really listen to them. Listening to their opinions and ideas opens a window into their mind. Sometimes a short conversation with a stranger can reveal a lot about who they are and how they think. In fact, most people form permanent opinions about a person based on just one interaction with them. Try listening to a loved one with whom you already have an established relationship and you will find that you will learn and develop greater awareness about them.
Anger is the quickest and most vocal emotion that we sometimes release when we are in the middle of discussing an issue. We allow our emotions to overtake our logic and we sometimes regret what we say later. We know that anger is greatly incited by Shaytan so we must take care and remember to seek refuge with Allah (A’uthubillah) especially in moments where our instincts and emotions are about to take over. It is much more productive and effective to respond with logic and thoughts instead of reacting with wild emotions, in this instant one has to try their hardest to control themselves. We should try our best to be in the habitual mode where we think before we act instead of allowing our anger to govern our speech and/or actions.
We sometimes find ourselves scoffing others for their ideas and actions because we feel they are senseless or unintelligent. We should repel such ill thoughts, and should not make any remarks or facial expressions that would show arrogance or condescension; it is likely that the discussion will take a negative turn if one party feels patronized. On the same note, constantly bringing up past mistakes/faults is a technique that yields poor results in a conversation; often the recipient of your words will feel hurt, betrayed, and defensive. Rather than focusing on a past problem, seeking solutions for the future is a platform for productive discourse, brainstorming and discussion.
Ask yourself, what are you trying to achieve through this conversation? Is your goal to gain the upper hand, to prove that you know more? The goal of an effective discussion should be to listen to each other and reach a productive conclusion, and sometimes that could simply be ‘agreeing to disagree’. Before choosing to participate in a discussion, try to remember to ask yourself what the purpose of the discussion is. If it doesn’t really have a point, and is going to simply be idle talk and a waste of time – there isn’t really any benefit in engaging in it.
It is important to note that we must remain patient even if our advice is to someone clearly choosing to go down the wrong path. Our Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) had relatives who did not accept Islam, yet he was the most profound example of being patient and intended for positive discourse even if the behavior of his relatives was frustrating/grieving to him. It is critical for us to always stick to our deen and to abstain from judging anyone through it – some discussions may not have one answer so we should remain humble as Shaykh Yasir Qadhi once said that ‘Allah might forgive someone for their ignorance and punish the other person for their arrogance.’ Our Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) gave his full attention in conversations, and spoke succinctly, beautifully, and gently.
Improving how we speak and communicate takes time and patience, but it is the key towards improving our interactions with others.
Reflecting on the above, what one tip can you include in your next conversation to make it a productive discussion? Share your thoughts below!
About the Author:
Sofia Ali is a freelance writer, who has a passion for film, art and creativity. She has a Bachelors degree in English and hopes to further her Islamic and general knowledge in order to spread the Deen through her writing. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and son