What’s the link between communication and happiness?
Before answering this question, we need to define what is communication.
Communication is a process by which we exchange with others.
It also means rapport and connection.
I’ll use both meanings in what follows.
We get our happiness from different sources. From our belongings,
Our animals, our relationships, and from God.
We communicate at these four levels and our happiness will depend on it.
The 4 levels of communication
Communication with Objects
I hear you saying: how do I communicate with objects?
Maybe you’re not exchanging words (some do!), but you definitely create a rapport and a connection with your belongings.
This is the lowest level of communication and the one that makes the least happy.
Your house, your car, your paintings, and your latest gadgets all fit into the category ‘objects’.
It’s one-way communication. An exchange between a mute and a deaf.
Whatever affection or attachment you show to your belongings, they never return them back.
Communication with Animals
Here and then, you hear quotations like:
“The more I know about people, the better I like dogs.”
It translates the disappointment of some with the human race preferring communication with animals.
This is the second level of communication.
You’ll derive more joy and happiness from communicating with animals than with objects.
Because an element added up: consciousness.
Your Nemo, turtle, bird, cat, or dog are conscious of your love and care. And you are aware of their attachment to you.
So there is a rapport of giving and receiving. The communication is limited but it’s safe.
Within animals, you can notice differences in the levels of communication.
Cats and dogs are more expressive than an aquarium fish or a bird. They show more appreciation and loyalty.
Anyhow, for Jane Goodall, we are all amateurs. She would argue that communicating with chimpanzees is at the top level.
Communication with Humans
This is the third level. It’s rewarding and risky.
You remain very limited when communicating with animals.
Even if your cat reacts to your caresses, you cannot expect it will answer the question: what’s the purpose of life!
With humans, you can communicate about shared interests.
You can communicate about religion, work, personal problems, metaphysical questions, and so on so forth.
Unfortunately, communicating with humans comes with risks.
The risk to be hurt, fooled, or misunderstood.
These can happen with random strangers or with the people that are closest to us: family, friends, colleagues.
To avoid all the adverse side effects of human communication, some will step down preferring their animals to humans.
But when trust and respect are there, interactions with humans can provide great sources of joy, whether it’s with your kids, siblings, partner, friends, colleagues, or even random strangers.
Most of us are not good communicators. But it’s something that we need to work on.
The longest study on happiness (almost 80 years!) shows that more than money or fame, it’s the quality of close relationships that determines the level of happiness.
So our happiness depends on our relationships. And we need to work on our communication skills to develop them.
Communication with God
This is the last level. It’s by far, the most perfect of communications.
The best story to illustrate to communication with God is one of Jonah (Prophet Yunus).
Yunus (a.s.) was swallowed by the whale. He was at the bottom of the sea, wrapped in darkness. Filled with despair, Yunus (a.s.) cried out and asked Allah for help.
The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said about this episode:
“The supplication of Jonah when he called upon Allah inside the belly of the whale was this, ‘There is no God but you, glory be to you, for I have been among the wrongdoers,’ (21:87). Verily, a Muslim never supplicates for anything with it but that Allah will answer him.” [Sahih Al-Tirmidhī]
This is the kind of communication we have with Allah.
We’re not limited by time or space.
There’s no risk of misunderstanding.
We can do it sitting or standing. Out loud or in ourselves. During Salat or while waiting for the bus.
For the outsider, it seems like one-way communication. That no one is listening, nor answering.
But it’s a superior type of communication.
You have the feeling to be heard and understood.
That no matter where you are, you’re not alone.
That you are guided and protected.
You feel good because you are connected to the source of everything: life and death, health and sickness, wealth and poverty…
What do you think of God?
The quality of communication will depend on the idea you have of God.
In the Hadith Qudsi, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Allah the Almighty said:
“I am as My servant thinks I am. I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself; and if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assemble better than it. And if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.” [Al-Bukhari]
The best thing we can do in life is to strive to know Allah and to better our communication with Him.
How happy we are to be able to turn to Allah anytime. To ask for a small or a big need or just to say thank you. And knowing that, unlike humans, He will never get tired of our requests.
Indeed, we are blessed.
Here you have it. The 4 levels of communication.
Some people will choose the easy road and stick with the first two levels.
Others will take the tough road. The one that requires constant work and improvement.
As usual, big rewards come from doing the hard things.
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