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The Art of Communicating

The Art of Communicating

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by Thich Nhat Hanh

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Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, bestselling author of Peace is Every Step and one of the most respected and celebrated religious leaders in the world, delivers a powerful path to happiness through mastering life's most important skill.

How do we say what we mean in a way that the other person can really hear?

How can we listen with compassion


Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, bestselling author of Peace is Every Step and one of the most respected and celebrated religious leaders in the world, delivers a powerful path to happiness through mastering life's most important skill.

How do we say what we mean in a way that the other person can really hear?

How can we listen with compassion and understanding?

Communication fuels the ties that bind, whether in relationships, business, or everyday interactions. Most of us, however, have never been taught the fundamental skills of communication—or how to best represent our true selves. Effective communication is as important to our well-being and happiness as the food we put into our bodies. It can be either healthy (and nourishing) or toxic (and destructive).

In this precise and practical guide, Zen master and Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh reveals how to listen mindfully and express your fullest and most authentic self. With examples from his work with couples, families, and international conflicts, The Art of Communicating helps us move beyond the perils and frustrations of misrepresentation and misunderstanding to learn the listening and speaking skills that will forever change how we experience and impact the world.

Editorial Reviews

New York Times
“Among Buddhist leaders influential in the West, Thich Nhat Hanh ranks second only to the Dalai Lama.”
Dalai Lama
“Thich Nhat Hanh shows us the connection between personal, inner peace and peace on earth.”
Library Journal
Nhat Hanh is one of the most popular living writers in spirituality, acclaimed for his courageous stances during the Vietnam War, as well as for titles such as Peace Is Every Step. His latest volume, like most of his work, reflects a range of Buddhist and non-Buddhist influences but is a curiously dogmatic approach to communication, with its own "mantras," such as: "You are partly right," notions that are original to the author without seeming helpful. VERDICT Nhat Hanh's authority as a religious leader will bring this book attention from his devoted readership, but it is unlikely to be attractive to more sophisticated readers in psychology or group dynamics.

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Read an Excerpt

The Art of Communicating

By Thich Nhat Hanh

HarperCollins Publishers

Copyright © 2013 Thich Nhat Hanh
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-06-222467-5

Essential Food

Nothing can survive without food. Everything we con-
sume acts either to heal us or to poison us. We tend to
think of nourishment only as what we take in through
our mouths, but what we consume with our eyes, our
ears, our noses, our tongues, and our bodies is also
food. The conversations going on around us, and those
we participate in, are also food. Are we consuming and
creating the kind of food that is healthy for us and helps
us grow?
When we say something that nourishes us and uplifts
the people around us, we are feeding love and compas-
sion. When we speak and act in a way that causes tension
and anger, we are nourishing violence and suffering.
We often ingest toxic communication from those
around us and from what we watch and read. Are we
ingesting things that grow our understanding and com-
passion? If so, that's good food. Often, we ingest com-

Thich Nhat Hanh
munication that makes us feel bad or insecure about
ourselves or judgmental and superior to others. We can
think about our communication in terms of nourishment
and consumption. The Internet is an item of consumption,
full of nutrients that are both healing and toxic. It's so easy
to ingest a lot in just a few minutes online. This doesn't
mean you shouldn't use the Internet, but you should be
conscious of what you are reading and watching.
When you work with your computer for three or four
hours, you are totally lost. It's like eating french fries. You
shouldn't eat french fries all day, and you shouldn't be on
the computer all day. A few french fries, a few hours, are
probably all most of us need.
What you read and write can help you heal, so be
thoughtful about what you consume. When you write an
e- mail or a letter that is full of understanding and com-
passion, you are nourishing yourself during the time you
write that letter. Even if it's just a short note, everything
you're writing down can nourish you and the person to
whom you are writing.
Consuming with Mindfulness
How can you tell what communication is healthy and
what is toxic? The energy of mindfulness is a necessary

The Art of Communicating
ingredient in healthy communication. Mindfulness re-
quires letting go of judgment, returning to an awareness
of the breath and the body, and bringing your full atten-
tion 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.
Conversation is a source of nourishment. We all get
lonely and want to talk with someone. But when you have
a conversation with another person, what that person says
may be full of toxins, like hate, anger, and frustration.
When you listen to what others say, you're consuming
those toxins. You're bringing toxins into your conscious-
ness and your body. That's why mindfulness of speaking
and mindfulness of listening are very important.
Toxic conversation can be difficult to avoid, especially
at work. If it is going on around you, be aware. You need
to have enough mindful awareness not to absorb these
kinds of suffering. You have to protect yourself with the
energy of compassion so that when you listen, instead of
consuming toxins, you're actively producing more com-
passion in yourself. When you listen in this way, compas-
sion protects you and the other person suffers less.
You absorb the thoughts, speech, and actions you
produce and those contained in the communications
of those around you. That is a form of consumption. So

Thich Nhat Hanh
when you read something, when you listen to someone,
you should be careful not to allow the toxins to ruin your
health and bring suffering to you and to the other person
or group of people.
To illustrate this truth, the Buddha used the graphic
image of a cow that has a skin disease. The cow is attacked
by all kinds of insects and microorganisms coming from
the soil, coming from the trees, coming from the water.
Without skin, a cow can't protect herself. Mindfulness
is our skin. Without mindfulness, we may take in things
that are toxic to our body and mind.
Even when you simply drive your car through the city,
you consume. The advertisements hit your eyes, and you're
forced to consume them. You hear sounds; you may even
say things that are the products of too much toxic con-
sumption. We have to protect ourselves with mindful con-
sumption. Mindful communication is part of this. We can
communicate in such a way as to solidify the peace and
compassion in ourselves and bring joy to others.
Relationships Don't Survive
Without the Right Food
Many of us suffer because of difficult communication.
We feel misunderstood, especially by those we love. In

The Art of Communicating
a relationship, we are nourishment for each other. So we
have to select the kind of food we offer the other person,
the kind of food that can help our relationships thrive.
Everything— including love, hate, and suffering— needs
food to continue. If suffering continues, it's because we
keep feeding our suffering. Every time we speak without
mindful awareness, we are feeding our suffering.
With mindful awareness, we can look into the nature
of our suffering and find out what kind of food we have
been supplying to keep it alive. When we find the source
of nourishment for our suffering, we can cut off that
supply, and our suffering will fade.
Often a romantic relationship begins beautifully, but
then, because we don't know how to nourish our love,
the relationship begins to die. Communication can bring
it back to life. Every thought you produce in your head,
in your heart— in China they say, “in your belly”— feeds
that relationship. When you produce a thought that car-
ries suspicion, anger, fear,

Excerpted from The Art of Communicating by Thich Nhat Hanh. Copyright © 2013 Thich Nhat Hanh. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist Zen master, poet, scholar, and peace activist who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He is the author of many bestselling books, including the classics Peace Is Every Step, Fear, and The Art of Power. Hanh lives in Plum Village, his meditation center in France, and leads retreats worldwide.

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The Art of Communicating 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
A_Sloan More than 1 year ago
Authentic and Mindful Communication If you are looking for ways to improve your communication skills, learn from Thich Nhat Hanh how to listen! While its commonly taught how to read and write, most of us are deficient in quieting our voice and mind to truly heart others. I was blown away by the simplicity and beauty of this book. Like the Extraordinary Zen Masters, Rengetsu included, this book has taught me ways to be more mindful in my communications and how this will bring me closer to my authentic self and those that I love.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Art of Communication is a must have. This book transforms you to listen and speak with love, compassion and honesty. It uplifts all the unnecessary things from your life and you finally learn to have peace with yourself and others. You let go of the petty things and begin living the life you were meant to life by communicating effectively.