Book Review:
The Art of Communicating

While some of Thich Nhat Hanh’s writings have a timeless quality to them, his recent book, The Art of Communicating, includes numerous references to cell phones, texts and email messages. These references make the book very relevant to 21st century life. He does remind us that having a device does not ensure genuine communication. He writes, “But if the content of your speech is not authentic, talking or texting on a device doesn’t mean you’re communicating with another person.” In this book, Hanh present steps we can take to make our communications more genuine.

According to Hanh, if we want to communicate well with others, first we have to effectively communicate with ourselves. If we don’t know what is going on within us, “How, then, can we communicate with another person?” As might be expected, he recommends using mindfulness practices to aid in communicating with oneself. He says, “When you sit and breathe mindfully, your mind and body finally get to communicate and come together. This is a kind of miracle because usually the mind is in one place and the body in another.”

When it comes to communicating with others, Thich Nhat Hanh tells us that there are two keys: deep listening and loving speech. Deep listening helps us to understand other people. Hanh notes that “Compassion and love are born from understanding. How can you love unless you understand?” In addition to talking, loving speech includes written forms of expression. Hanh suggests that we can use writing as one way to help us practice mindful communication; any type of written communication can serve such a purpose, including letters, emails and text messages.

The Art of Communicating contains six “mantras” of loving speech. These aren’t meditation mantras—rather, they are words to say to a friend or loved one. Some of them sound a little stilted. For example: “I know you suffer, and that is why I am here for you.” However, he does encourage readers to use their own words to convey this meaning.

This book is a quick read; there are just 166 pages totally. It’s the kind of book that can be fruitfully read repeatedly. In sum, Thich Nhat Hanh effectively communicates how to communicate more effectively. 

See more features from the February 2015 issue