Book: The Art of Communicating

theartofcommunicating Here are my notes for”The Art of communicating” by Thich Nhat Hanh

  • “When we say something that nourishes us and uplifts the people around us, we are feeding love and compassion. When we speak and act in a way that causes tension and anger, we are nourishing violence and suffering.”
  • “The energy of mindfulness is a necessary ingredient in healthy communication. Mindfulness requires letting go of judgment, returning to an awareness of the breath and the body, and bringing your full attention to what is in you and around you. This helps you notice whether the thought you just produced is healthy or unhealthy, compassionate or unkind.”
  • “You have to protect yourself with the energy of compassion so that when you listen, instead of consuming toxins, you’re actively producing more compassion in yourself. When you listen in this way, compassion protects you and the other person suffers less.”
  • “When you produce a thought that carries suspicion, anger, fear, irritation, that thought is not nourishing to you or to the other person. If the relationship has become difficult, it’s because we’ve nourished our judgment and our anger, and we haven’t nourished our compassion.”
  • “Mindfulness is full awareness of the present moment. You don’t need an iPhone or a computer. You just need to sit down and breathe in and out. In just a few seconds, you can connect with yourself. You know what is going on in your body, your feelings, your emotions, and your perceptions.”
  • “Breathing in and breathing out is a practice of freedom. When we focus our attention on our breath, we release everything else, including worries or fears about the future and regrets or sorrows about the past. Focusing on the breath, we notice what we’re feeling in the present moment.”
  • “When we stop talking and thinking and we listen mindfully to ourselves, one thing we will notice is our greater capacity and opportunities for joy.”
  • “Mindfulness lets us listen to the pain, the sorrow, and the fear inside. When we see that some suffering or some pain is coming up, we don’t try to run away from it. In fact, we have to go back and take care of it. We’re not afraid of being overwhelmed, because we know how to breathe and how to walk so as to generate enough energy of mindfulness to recognize and take care of the suffering. If you have enough mindfulness generated by the practice of mindful breathing and walking, you’re no longer afraid to be with yourself.”
  • “When we begin breathing mindfully, feelings of loneliness, sadness, fear, and anxiety may come up. When that happens, we don’t need to do anything right away. We can just continue to follow our in-breath and our out-breath. We don’t tell our fear to go away; we recognize it. We don’t tell our anger to go away; we acknowledge it. These feelings are like a small child tugging at our sleeves. Pick them up and hold them tenderly. Acknowledging our feelings without judging them or pushing them away, embracing them with mindfulness, is an act of homecoming.”
  • “Going back to listen and understand our suffering brings about the birth of compassion and love. If we take the time to listen deeply to our own suffering, we will be able to understand it. Any suffering that has not been released and reconciled will continue. Until it has been understood and transformed, we carry with us not just our own suffering but also that of our parents and our ancestors. Getting in touch with the suffering that has been passed down to us helps us understand our own suffering. Understanding suffering gives rise to compassion. Love is born, and right away we suffer less. “
  • “Understanding suffering always brings compassion. If we don’t understand suffering, we don’t understand happiness. If we know how to take good care of suffering, we will know how to take good care of happiness. We need suffering to grow happiness. The fact is that suffering and happiness always go together. When we understand suffering, we will understand happiness. If we know how to handle suffering, we will know how to handle happiness and produce happiness.”
  • “When the energy of compassion is born, right away we suffer less. When we suffer less, when we have compassion for ourselves, we can more easily understand the suffering of another person and of the world. Then our communication with others will be based on the desire to understand rather than the desire to prove ourselves right or make ourselves feel better.”
  • “Self-understanding is crucial for understanding another person; self-love is crucial for loving others. When you’ve understood your suffering, you suffer less, and you are capable of understanding another person’s suffering much more easily. When you can recognize the suffering in the other person and see how that suffering came about, compassion arises. You no longer have the desire to punish or blame the other person. You can listen deeply, and when you speak there is compassion and understanding in your speech. The person with whom you’re speaking will feel much more comfortable, because there is understanding and love in your voice.”
  • “When we listen to someone with the intention of helping that person suffer less, this is deep listening. When we listen with compassion, we don’t get caught in judgment. A judgment may form, but we don’t hold on to it. Deep listening has the power to help us create a moment of joy, a moment of happiness, and to help us handle a painful emotion.”
  • “The other person may say things that are full of wrong perceptions, bitterness, accusation, and blaming. If we don’t practice mindfulness, their words will set off irritation, judgment, and anger in us, and we will lose our capacity to listen compassionately. When irritation or anger arises, we lose our capacity to listen. That’s why we have to practice, so that during the whole time of listening, compassion can remain in our hearts.”
  • ” As long as you are inhabited by the energy of compassion, you are safe. Even if what the other person says contains a lot of wrong perceptions, bitterness, anger, blame, and accusation, you are really safe.”
  • “When we don’t know how to handle the suffering inside us, we continue to suffer, and we make people around us suffer. When other people don’t know how to handle their suffering, they become its victim. If you imbibe their judgment, fear, and anger, you become its second victim. But if you can listen deeply, understanding that what they are saying is coming from suffering, then you are protected by your compassion.”
  • “Compassion and love are born from understanding. How can you love unless you understand? How can the father love his son if he doesn’t understand the suffering and difficulties of his son? How can someone make his beloved happy without knowing anything about that person’s suffering and difficulties?”
  • “The question “Do you think I understand you enough?” is not just for romantic relationships, but for friends, family members, and anyone you care about.”
  • “When you see that the other person has suffering inside, compassion is born in your heart.”
  • “We can train ourselves to speak the truth in such a way that, in the end, the other person can accept it.”
  • “1. Tell the truth. Don’t lie or turn the truth upside down.
    2. Don’t exaggerate.
    3. Be consistent. This means no double-talk: speaking about something in one way to one person and in an opposite way to another for selfish or manipulative reasons.
    4. Use peaceful language. Don’t use insulting or violent words, cruel speech, verbal abuse, or condemnation.”
  • “When you tell the truth, sometimes the result isn’t what you wanted. You need to look deep into the mind of the other person to see how you can tell the truth in such a way that others don’t feel threatened, so they can listen. You try to tell the truth in a loving and protective way. It’s important to remember that what you think is the truth could be your own incomplete or erroneous perception. You think it’s the truth, but your perception may be partial; it may be blocked by something.”
  • “Don’t think that if you hear or read something that inspires you, you should then repeat it word for word. Think of how to make these truths you heard resonate with your own. Similarly, you also have to know the mind and the background of the person you’re speaking to. If you were to give another person exactly the teaching you heard, it might not be the appropriate teaching for that person.”
  • “‘Why would someone do violence to innocent people?’” When you’ve looked deeply, you will see that those who do violence have a wrong perception of the situation…. But they may think that by killing others and dying themselves they are doing the work of God. They think that those on the other side are the enemies of God. You can see that is wrong thinking, and so you have great compassion for them. For whoever has such a view, life is very dark and he suffers a lot.”
  • “‘I am here for you.’ This is the best gift you can give a loved one. Nothing is more precious than your presence. No matter how expensive the things you buy for someone else, they’re not as precious as your true presence. That wonderful presence is fresh, solid, free, and calm, and you offer it to your loved ones to increase their happiness and your own happiness.”
  • “When I say to myself, ‘I am here for you,’ it also means that I am there for myself. My mind goes home to my body, and I become aware that I have a body. That is a practice of love, directed to yourself. If you are capable of being with yourself, you are capable of being with the person you love.”
  • “‘I know you are there, and I am very happy.’ You are letting your loved one know that his or her presence is important to your happiness.”
  • “I know you suffer, and that is why I am here for you.”
  • “I suffer, please help.” or “I suffer, and I want you to know it. I am doing my best. Please help.”
  • “This is a happy moment.”
  • “With mindfulness you can recognize that it is possible to be happy right here and right now.”
  • “If the other person criticizes you, you can reply, ‘Darling, you are only partly right, because I also have good things in me.’ Without judgment, you investigate so you can improve. If somebody misjudges you, you reply, ‘You have said something that is partly correct. But in me there are also positive things.’ Likewise, when someone admires you, you can thank them for appreciating you but also point out that they are seeing one part of you and that you have many challenges too. ‘You have said something that’s only partly correct, because I have many weaknesses that you perhaps haven’t seen yet.'”
  • “You don’t lie, and you don’t fall into false humility.”
  • “When anger is there, we should handle it with tenderness because our anger is us. We shouldn’t do violence to our anger. Doing violence to our anger is doing violence to ourselves.”
  • “What is the root of that anger? Anger may come from a wrong perception or a habitual way of responding to events that doesn’t reflect our deepest values.”
  • “Usually when anger manifests, we want to confront the person we think is the source of our anger. We’re more interested in setting that person straight than in taking care of the more urgent matter, which is our own anger. We are like the person whose house is on fire who goes chasing after the arsonist instead of going home to put out the fire.”
  • “Asking for help when we’re angry is very difficult, but it allows others to see your suffering instead of just your anger. They will see that suffering causes the anger, and then communication and healing can begin.”
  • “When someone has caused you a lot of pain, you may not even want to look at or be in the same room as that person, because you will suffer. With awareness, you can understand your own suffering and recognize the suffering in the other person. You may even understand that the reason that person suffers so much is because he or she doesn’t know how to handle the suffering. His suffering spills out, and you are its victim. Maybe he doesn’t want to make you suffer, but he doesn’t know another way. He can’t understand and transform his suffering, and so he makes the people around him suffer too, even when that’s not his intention. Because he suffers, you suffer. He doesn’t need punishment; he needs help.”
  • “The first step is to practice mindful breathing, mindful walking, and mindfulness in daily activities, so that you will be strong enough to go back to yourself, listen to your own suffering, and look deeply into its nature. Unless we listen to our own suffering, there’s no chance of improving the quality of our relationships. With mindfulness, compassion arises, and you can accept yourself. Then you have the chance to look at others. Even if they are not there with you, you can sit still and close your eyes and see the suffering they have gone through for so many years. When you can see the suffering in others, you begin to understand that there is a reason they suffer like that. You are no longer angry with them anymore. Compassion will arise in your heart. When compassion is born, you are more peaceful, your mind is clearer, and you will be motivated to say or do something to help others transform their difficulties. Reconciliation becomes possible.”
  • “only when you are calm, invite your partner to speak. You can say you are sorry for not having understood her or him better. Only say this when you are ready. Then listen to her deeply, even if what she says is complaining, reproachful, or not very kind. You may learn that your partner has many wrong perceptions about you and about the situation, but try not to interrupt. Let her speak. Let her have a chance to speak out everything in her so she can feel listened to and understood. As your partner speaks, continue to breathe mindfully. Later on you may find a way to undo her misunderstanding, little by little in a very skillful, loving way, and mutual understanding will grow.”
  • “The first thing is to look deeply and see that not only on your side but also on the other side there’s a lot of fear and suffering. In the beginning we think that we are the only ones who suffer and have a lot of fear. But if we get close enough to the other side and look, we see that they also have a lot of fear—fear of us—and also suffering. When we can see their suffering and fear, we suffer less already. When we’re able to produce a compassionate thought, this thought begins to heal us, heal the other, and heal the world.”
  • “Words can travel thousands of miles. May my words create mutual understanding and love. May they be as beautiful as gems, as lovely as flowers.”
  • “When you throw a rock into a river, no matter how small the rock is, it will sink to the bottom of the river. But if you have a boat, you can carry many tons of rocks, and they won’t sink. The same is true of our suffering. Our sorrow, fear, worries, and pain are like rocks that can be carried by the boat of mindfulness. If we give ourselves the time and space to embrace and recognize the suffering, we won’t sink into the ocean of anger, worries, or sorrow. We become lighter.”
  • “When you speak, allow the insight of our collective humanity to speak through you. When you walk, don’t walk for yourself alone; walk for your ancestors and your community. When you breathe, allow the larger world to breathe for you. When you’re angry, allow your anger to be released and to be embraced by the larger community. If you know how to do this for one day, you are already transformed. Be your community and let your community be you. This is true practice. Be like the river when it arrives at the ocean; be like the bees and birds that fly together. See yourself in the community and see the community in you. This is a process of transforming your way of seeing, and it will transform how, and how effectively, you communicate.”
  • The French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre said, “Man is the sum of all his actions.”
  • “Suppose in the past you said something unkind to your grandmother. Now she is no longer alive, so you can’t apologize directly to her. Many of us carry the guilt of something we have said or done that we think we can’t rectify. But it’s possible to erase that unskillfulness of the past. The past isn’t exactly gone. If we know our communication continues, then we know the past is still there, disguised in the present moment. After all, the suffering is still there; you can touch it.
    What you can do is to sit down, breathe in and out deeply, and recognize that in every cell of your body there is the presence of your grandmother. ‘Grandma, I know that you are there in every cell of my body; I am your continuation. I’m sorry I said something that made you suffer and made me suffer. Please listen, Grandma. I promise that from now on, I won’t say such a thing to anyone anymore. Grandma, please accept helping me in this practice.’ When you talk to your grandmother like that, you can see her smiling to you, and you heal the suffering of the past.”
  • “If someone does something that brings us suffering, we can say, ‘What you just said hurt me. I would like to look deeply into it, and I would like you to also look deeply into it. Let’s make an appointment for sometime later in the week to look at it together.’ One person looking at the roots of our suffering is good, two people looking is better, and two people looking together is best.”
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