Sensitive Communication

Swami Veda Bharati holds the prestigious title of Mahamandaleshwara in the Swami order of monks. He is also the Chancellor of HIHT University, Dehradun, which was established by Master Swami Rama. He has authored approximately 18 books on Indian spirituality including a 1500 page comprehensive commentary on two of the four chapters of Patanjali's Yoga-sutras. Before taking the vows of Swamihood in 1992, Swami Veda Bharati was known as Dr. Usharbudh Arya.

Sensitive CommunicationIn the entire history of the teachings of philosophy and psychology the philosophers have admonished fellow human beings to conquer base emotions and seek to develop a personal self to be as close to the divine attributes as possible.

Certain contemporary dominant schools of psychology in the West, especially in USA, are an exception. They seek to justify human weaknesses, blocking human progress in refinement by teaching phrases like : this is the way I am; you have to accept me as I am ( that is, I am not going to refine myself and feel no need to do so). Justifying anger, harsh words and encouraging confrontational - rather than consensual - behaviour.

One of the buzzwords is 'honest communication'. Hurt others with the belief that it will save you from being hurt. Look somebody hard in the eye and say a loud NO. I, however, come from the school of YESmen (Taoist, Upanishadic) that says : the best defence is non-defence. That is why hardly anyone says NO to me.

The philosophy of making a fast draw, sending in the marines -oops, that is old now - sending in the cruise missiles at everyone you have a disagreement with does not fit into any spiritual ideal.

The ideal of sensitive communication is diametrically opposite to the above confrontational view. The sensitive communication, saving the other party's honour and yet having one's position understood is the common way of many cultures even today. Here i give an example of a conversation in Asia.
At a hotel, I speak to the reception office manager who is from another Asian country: I am coming back to the hotel in a few days; may I pay all my bills at the end of the second stay, or should I settle the bill for this stay now?
Her reply: Yes, you may choose to pay now or you may choose to pay when you come back. Well, for us it would be easier if we can keep the bill for the next visit separate.
Having been brought up in the culture of 'sensitive communication' rather than so-called 'honest communication' I understand that she prefers me to pay now, and I do so.

A very common form of communication in Asia and Africa (Hindu, Buddhist AND Muslim) goes like this :
You do not have any vegetables available today?
Answer : Yes, Sir.

Note that the answer is not "No, Sir".

May we hold a meeting at your home?
Answer: My wife is away but it would be a great pleasure for me to try to arrange the meeting at home.

The listener brought up in the culture of 'sensitive communication' understands that the other person is asking to be relieved of the burden of organising a meeting at his home in his wife's absence. Next day, you call him and tell him - so grateful for your kind offer to host us, you are always so generous. For this time, another member has asked to be given a chance. We hope it would be alright with you if we accept.

Everybody's honour is kept in this way. But it requires humility and the ability to hear the unspoken word. The Master yogis train their disciples into much subtler levels of 'sensitive hearing'.

Such communication is possible only in societies that do believe in non-violence at least to the extent they are able to practise it. It requires a sensitivity of the soul and the heart to communicate in this way.

There is enough confrontation among nations, religions, communities - all part of 'honest communication', the main cause of the failures of American diplomacy, and often the failure of Americans in working with the people where 'sensitive communication' is the norm. Those brought up in USA do not know how much they show what is perceived by others as disrespect, insensitivity and an attempt to dishonour, or to obtain results by 'barking orders'. But it is not just USA; we find the same phenomenon in many other lands and communities; USA stands out because of its uncontrollable show-off of power.

Let us constantly remember that the universe will serve to us what we pour into the universe. We wish to oppose nuclear weapons but we pour into the collective mind of the planet the confrontational thoughts and words. We choose to consider the universe an adversary instead of ourselves as partners thereof.

Be not an adversary.

One thing I have said often: If you have a problem with someone, solve the problem s/he has with you.

Do not demand rights; do loving duties selflessly.

'Sensitive communication' is a very fine art, rooted in deep spiritual philosophies. It cannot be learnt in a day. But please make start not by trying to write another chapter in the textbook of the theory of communication. This is not part of the theory of communication but of the principle of non-violence, non-anger, non-hurtfulness, humility, rejoicing at every opportunity one has to make oneself small.

"They know not that they are hurting Me who am in the ones whom they hurt" - said Krishna.

May you develop the ambition to become the smallest, most minute of God's creation and thereby become a sharer in His grandeur. Be ambitious!


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