James Humes was verbatim correct when he had said, “The art of communication is the language of leadership”. In present day politics, where voices are suppressed and monologues are heard more, true essence of communication is distorted. Communication is called effective when the expected feedback is received. Politicians, rather impose their views and follow one way stream of communication. When the audience won’t be feel informed and heard, how will any community or nation prosper?
A massive open online course (MOOC) provider, edX tells about three modes of communication which can be followed. Debate, Dialogue and Discussion are three modes which help in disseminating information through an effective communication. Though edX finds discussion as the best mode considering it is more solution oriented, Indian politics favours debate as the way. Debate has an underlying connotation of proving one party the tag of winner and the other loser. A person argues not just to prove the point valid but to claim his superiority and superior intellectual endowment. The aim of the argument drifts from finding a solution to claiming your victory. Parliament has on multiple occasions show the art of debate, where politicians either with their raised tones or profanely rich dialects, have tried to bring the ball in their court.
The similar phenomenon is observed in private and public spheres, where we try to project our opinions as the absolute answers, and when our views are countered, instead of accepting the difference of opinions, we resort to an enraged debate. We attach our personal egos with our stances, thus when someone dejects our viewpoint, our institution of knowledge gets disturbed. At the point of time, to prove the other person wrong, by hook or crook, is the driving force of the conversation. Roy T. Bennett sumps it up very well, “Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.” That is the exact problem with debate as a medium of conversation. When you listen to reply, you are not understanding. As the adage goes, listen and silent share the same letters.
Amartya Sen in his essay ‘Democracy as public reasoning’, stressed upon the importance of healthy communication, driven by logic and persuasion, as the way to build democracy. He enlists many historical accounts, where democracy has flourished at the dispense of public discussion. A dialogue is the mode of simple conversation, it may be backed with facts and figures, but may not always have a solution oriented path. On the contrary, discussion is considered as a medium, where difference of opinions is accepted and more importantly respected, for the better cause that is the solution.
We have beautiful speeches in our political history, where politicians, not leaders, have given hours long descriptions about our problems and challenges but very few, whom James might call leaders, have showed India the path to eliminate the persistent problems and achieve the solutions. To speak well embellished words is not wisdom, to provide practical answers, which can be implemented, to the questions is. The growth of knowledge depends upon the power of discussion.
Students, teachers, parents are the first three entities which need to adopt the system of discussion and not debates at the grassroot levels. At schools, debate competitions are held, and we proudly gasp looking at the eloquent oratory of the students but is that the way we want our future to be? Law schools shall second when I say debates have no definitive end in today’s scenario, an aftermath of the personal affiliation speakers draw towards the subject in house. A healthy discussion shall always result in an effective communication, where both the sides shall be heard and solutions shall be drawn out.
Present plight of political discussions is not at all solution oriented. Parties merely throw shades at each other and side-line the most important issue: the future of India. We need to stay silent to imbibe what the other speaker is saying and then analyse the argument and speak when you think you have something concrete to contribute to the discussion. Speaking just for the sake of it, shall never fetch us the India we dream of.
Look around, you will find people engaged in heated arguments, pedestrians fighting, politicians as usual quarreling with miles away from a solution, and then think about the dream of a developed India. It is like an unpaved road with one sided fence fading in the distant undergrowth. Seems far, doesn’t it?