How to communicate

Real communication cannot take place unless we first empty our mind of ideas. When we enter a conversation, we usually bring with us a bundle of preconceived notions and opinions. Anything that we hear gets filtered through these preconceptions, much like viewing the world through coloured lenses. It is difficult for us to learn anything in a conversation, because we pay more attention to the voice in our heads, which merely regurgitates our existing beliefs, than we do to the words of the other person. Thus, the first thing to remember in communication is to let our minds be clear. We must simply listen to the other person and try to see their point of view, setting aside issues such as whether we agree or disagree, how we will respond, and so forth. We cannot listen if we are inwardly talking at the same time.

The second thing is to be open-minded. Sometimes we assume that people think the same way that we do, when in fact our contexts and mindsets can be completely opposite. This is especially important in an age where we may come from different countries, cultures, classes, and upbringings. Therefore, to really understand someone, we must be open-minded and very attentive to what they are saying.

Finally, we must be non-judgemental. We must not assume that someone thinks one way based on their background. We must stop labeling people as Christian or Buddhist, American or Chinese, Republican or Democrat, and so forth. We must also stop labeling ourselves. For real communication to take place, we must set aside all of this and simply relate to each other as human beings. We do not need to deny our beliefs or heritage, but we should observe it detachedly, and not let it interfere with our task of truly listening.

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