Seeking Mutual Well-Being
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A Matter of Intent
The second dimension of common ground essential to good communication is likewise a matter of intent. As Gandhi realized in the development of his political strategy of satyagraha, he could not effectively confront his enemies if he wished them harm. His hatred toward them, his anger, any tendency he might have to want to blame them for his troubles, all led in the end to defeat. Only when he could hold firmly to his own values and at the same time, hold a space of compassion for those whose worldview he hoped to change – even as they demonstrated their brutality – could he ever hope to change them. This is a powerful insight that did indeed change the world (1):
"It is easy enough to be friendly to one's friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business."
Christ, of course, said the same thing: Love thy enemy as thyself. And turn the other cheek, which Gandhi did on more than one occasion. Such an attitude is unfortunately considered to be a sign of weakness in a world that values winning more than it values good relationships.
Business, of course, increasingly makes our world go round. But business is rife with unclear communication, and uneasy alliances, because business is largely about seeking advantage at the expense of others. If our goal instead is clear communication, then we must start by regarding others as equally deserving of happiness, good health, abundance, and wellbeing – an attitude in which our common ground serves as a springboard for mutual benefit.
In an interdependent world – where not just the economy depends upon cooperation with others, but our fragile ecology also demands greater attention to the interrelatedness of all forms of life – good relationships are more important than money in the bank. And good relationships start with clear and honest communication. Clear and honest communication becomes possible when it takes place in an atmosphere of genuine mutual respect, empathy, and good will. These may sound like old-fashioned terms in a cutthroat world, even possibly naïve, yet without them, we as a culture are consigned to continue cutting each other’s throats until there is no more blood to bleed. That is not the kind of world I want to live in. How about you?
(1) Mohandas Gandhi, Harijan, May 11, 1947, “My Religion,” p. 58.
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