Communicate: It’s the lifeblood of relationships…
“(And Allah) taught him (man) the power of expression.” (55:4)
We are social beings born into an ever growing network of relationships. We interact and engage with people for the greater part of the day. Our relationships are built or broken by the manner in which we communicate. The ability to communicate is one of the most precious gifts that man enjoys – he is able to express his thoughts, emotions and feelings to those around him. Communication goes beyond speaking or writing. It is through the power of communication that we are able to build and develop relationships.
People often confuse communication with eloquence; a good speaker is not necessarily a good communicator. The ability to converse eloquently is but one part of communication. Communication includes the following: listening, speaking and non-verbally interacting through body language.
A typical study points out that many of us spend 70 to 80 percent of our waking hours in some form of communication. Of that time, we spend about 9 percent writing, 16 percent reading, 30 percent speaking, and 45 percent listening. Studies also confirm that most of us are poor and inefficient listeners.
We often confuse hearing with listening. The two are very different, even though both are done with our ears. Hearing is a natural function of the ear which involves the reception of sound. Listening is an acquired skill which involves giving due thought and consideration to what is being said. When the Qur’an speaks about the rise and fall of man, it says: “Indeed, there is a lesson in all this for him who has a heart and lends an ear, with presence of mind.” (50:37)
To simply lend an ear is hearing; to do so with presence of mind, is listening. We are taught how to speak, but rarely how to listen. Poor listeners are preoccupied in processing a reply while the other person is talking; they are busy formulating a reply instead of giving though to what is being said. We cannot multi-task; we cannot speak and listen at one and the same time. If you’re talking, you’re not listening; without listening you cannot learn. We have two ears and one mouth, which suggests that we should listen twice as much as we speak! We miss opportunities to build and strengthen relationships if we do not listen.
Speaking – Verbal Communication
“Tell my servants to say that which is best.” (17:53) ‘That which is best’ in speech includes what you say, when you say it, why you say it and how you say it. People do not only hear what you say, they also feel what you say. They often forget what you may have said, but will seldom forget how you made them feel. Never underestimate the power of words, they have the power to create or destroy. Words can wound, humiliate and also inflict pain far greater than physical violence. Words can be used to inflame passions, to arouse anger, to declare war, to bring about failure and to destroy.
Who can forget the moment when ‘Umar radhiyallahu ‘anhu first heard the words of the Qur’an? He had just been told that his sister had become Muslim. In a state of rage, he went to her house with his sword in hand. When his eyes fell on the words of Allah, it carried such beauty and persuasive power that it stopped an angry and aggressive man in his tracks. The word slowly melted his heart and aroused such deep desire within him to identify and accept the Author of those beautiful verses (Words). When he was informed that these were the revealed words of Allah, he immediately went out to find Nabi sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, and to announce his acceptance of Islam.
Research shows that the average person speaks at least 7,000 words a day, with many speaking much more than that. Think about what that means to you. Those 7,000 words you speak each day are your imprint on the world. They dictate how people perceive you – and largely, they define you. How many of those words that you spoke yesterday showed you to be a confident communicator? How many of those words that you spoke yesterday made a difference to those around you… a positive difference? How many of those words served little or no purpose at all?
Facial expressions, body posture, gestures, tone of voice and eye contact are a few ways in which a person engages in non-verbal communication. A study in human communication revealed that the impact of a message attributed to words is minimal compared to facial expressions, tone of voice and other forms of body-language. A smile is a very powerful form of non-verbal communication; a smile conveys feelings of happiness, hope and positivity to anyone who sees it. Nabi sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam said: “Your smile for your brother is charity.” (Tirmidhi) A smile has special powers – it can calm fear, insecurity, hurt and anxiety; not only in yourself, but in those that are experiencing those feelings as well. A Sahabi radhiyallahu ‘anhu narrates that: “I have not seen anyone who smiled more than the Messenger of Allah.” (Tirmidhi)
Once Nabi sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam was addressing the leaders of the Quraysh of Makkah when Ibn Umm Maktum radhiyallahu ‘anhu, a blind Sahabi, came to him for some need of his. Nabi sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam felt that it was an inopportune time for him to interrupt the discussion, so he inadvertently frowned and turned his face away. The following verse was revealed cautioning Nabi sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam: “He frowned and turned his face away because a blind man came to him…” (80:1) The blind man could not see the frown of Nabi sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, nor could he have seen Nabi sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam turning his face away, yet Nabi sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam was cautioned. We learn from this, the importance of body-language and the signals it sends. From our handshakes to our hairstyles, non-verbal details reveal who we are and impact upon how we relate to other people. Facial expressions are also among the most universal forms of body language. The Quranic verse states: “And do not turn your cheek [in contempt] towards people…” (31:18) This a clear indication that we speak not only with our tongues, but also with our faces. What we say with our faces determines how we bond or disconnect with people.
Communication is an important part of all relationships, and is an essential part of any healthy partnership. All relationships have ups and downs, but a healthy communication style can make it easier to deal with conflict, and build a stronger and healthier partnership.
May Allah grant us, the ability to develop healthy communication skills.