Way of Influencing the Hearts
Ayatullah al-Uzma Naser Makarem Shirazi
What we shall do for our advices to be influential on the heart of others?
One of the branches of social morality is the section that its objective or at least result is influencing on the others and attracting their confidence. This branch of social morality, which is actually very extensive and full of mental elegance, is particularly necessary for the "intellectual leaders" and "missioners". Otherwise they can never achieve their ideal educational objectives through their special reformative endeavors, and they may be defeated in their attempts.
It is frequently observed that virtuous and learned people have spent their life in seclusion for unfamiliarity with this part of social morality, and neither people have succeeded to enjoy their thoughts and sciences, nor they have achieved success in the society worthily.
In contrast, there are some people with low knowledge who have found positions higher than their real competence in the society as a result of familiarity with and observing these principles.
Not paying attention to these realities causes that sometimes they impute failure in the social attempts and endeavors to delusive factors such as chance and accidents, and in fact if we interpret chance as "familiarity with these principles", it will be closer to the reality.
Anyhow, some points are noteworthy herein:
1- Since man has an inseparable relation with the society, he should be aware of the correct principles for influencing on the others so that he can draw their attention for cooperation with himself as the final aim of social life.
Most people are the same in this part and even superior individuals of the society are not needless of it, and will face with great problems in case of not caring and observing such principles. But those who have undertaken the leadership of a small or great society in any way, feel need to this part more sensibly, and spiritual leaders and religious missioners who should penetrate into the angles and depth of spirit and soul of people, are more needy to it than the others.
Thus, we conclude that this part of social morality has completely a public aspect, not a classical one or special to a certain group.
2- The important issue, which is remarkable herein, is that if we suppose that the way of influencing on the thoughts of others is only through familiarity with strong and undeniable arguments in any subject and or analyzing advantages and disadvantages of the said affairs, we are strictly wrong. Because whatever the argument may be strong, it only deals with "conscious" part of man's spirit, while the major part of spirit is "unconscious" or "semiconscious" stage that influencing on them is not possible only through argument.(1) Even the argumentative methods will be often effective adequately if they are induced considering these principles. On the other hand, the required intimacy between a leader and individuals is never achieved through satiation of their intellect and thought. Rather, the leaders should mobilize their affections towards their own objectives to obtain necessary relation for leadership.
3- Using discussions for employing the others for our own personal interests and plundering their powers through penetration into their thought is certainly condemned as a clear sample of exploitation. But if it is performed for coordinating powers in the way of a high social objective and or reforming and educating an individual, it is appreciated as one of the primary conditions of a proper leadership.
4- First of all, for influencing the others, awareness and familiarity with the principles of psychology, psychoanalysis and entry to the angles of man's spirit in general, and the spirit of the person in question in particular are essential. Some people having particular talents are inherently familiar more or less with these principles, and some others have gradually become familiar with it due to need and experience. But a lot of people have to learn and apply these principles as a lesson.
5- It should not be misunderstood. Only familiarity with the ways of influencing and penetrating in the others is not sufficient. There are a lot of people who have sufficient awareness in this respect scientifically, but can not employ them properly and appropriately. Employing these principles needs adequate exercise and readiness. That is to say they should be turned into a "moral habit" for having a satisfactory outcome.
6- It is well induced from studying biography of great divine prophets, specially Islam's Prophet S.A. and the Imams of right guidance that they applied most of these principles for realization of their missionary and educative objectives, and they were good exemplars for this part of excellent social ethics.
Their attitude with people was so good that attracted them rapidly towards themselves and their high instructions. Some desire to assume a miraculous aspect for all of these affairs, while it is not correct. If we too follow their practice and procedure in encountering with the others, we can quickly influence on them and penetrate into the depth of their spirit.
The Holy Qur'an says about Holy Prophet of Islam (S.A.W.):
Saying, "He is an ear!" Say: "An ear of good for you". (2)
And somewhere else it says:
It was by some mercy of God that thou wast gentle to them; hadst thou been harsh and hard of heart, they would have scattered from about thee.(3)
And again it says:
Now there has come to you a Messenger from among yourselves; grievous to him is your suffering; anxious is he over you, gentle to the believers, compassionate.(4)
If God will, we will later see that being "ear" (credulous), that is respecting the speeches of others and not expressing mistrust on them unduly, and also showing mildness, amenity, kindness and sympathy to the others, and assuming their problems as one's own problems, has a profound effect in influencing on the thoughts of others.
As we read in the biography of Prophet S.A.: "He always preceded in saying Salam (hello), and if someone detained him for a work, he waited until he was given up, and when someone shook hands with him, he did not leave him until the other party took action for disparting, he called even the children with their nicknames (the best names with Arabs), and he never sat among his companions so that he would have an excellence over the others ..."(5)
The effect of each of these moral affairs in impressing upon the others will be clarified in the next discussions.
7- It goes without saying that in this discussion, like all social and objective discussions, one shall never utilize improper means and ways for achieving to the goal that is influencing on the others. Therefore, only the way which is correct by itself, and also utilized for achievement to a correct purpose should be presented.
Shall we be fact seeking or aggressive?
Why we do not succeed in our discussions:
We have frequently found following affairs when discussing with the others:
1- We have seen many times that after hours of talks, we have failed to achieve any success in the progress of negotiations, while we believe that the matter is completely clear and acceptable, but the other party refrains to accept it.
2- It is often seen that the other party has become more firm and bigoted in his belief after long discussions.
3- It is mostly seen that after a long discussion, we do not feel any more the previous sincerity and purity in our heart towards the other party and feel an unreasonable hatred and spite towards him!
4- The history of religious discussions, quarrels and political doctrines shows that abundant powers used for proving a belief or a doctrine as well as the numerous books prepared with a plenty of difficulties and costs have not been so useful.
5- It is often observed that scientific negotiations which are started in an earnest setting, have been led to quarrels and sometimes grappling and or mayhem of individuals, while apparently there is no relation between "mayhem" and "scientific discussion" and never one of them could be proved by the other.
6- We have repeatedly seen that the other party has no reply against our strong logic and has become silent. However, he has not accepted the matter and does not submit to it and or hate it!
These are the realities that most of those who are engaged in scientific, social, political and such like discussions, have more or less experienced in the experiments and events of life and are very noteworthy.
Why it is so? Because these discussions are not made with the purpose of fact seeking. Rather, they have been made for dominance and victory over the adversary, and there is a big difference between them, although they are apparently the same.
The purpose of investigation and fact seeking is granting to someone what he lacks, without excluding him from anything, that is to say teaching him, without ruining his personality. But, the purpose of seemingly logical disputes and quarrels is depriving the other party from honor, pride and personality and hurting his affections against training what in his view or actually may not be so important and interesting.
Therefore, it is not surprising if he resists against it and hates it. So the psychologists say:
1- It is possible to suppress someone through dispute and quarrel, but we will never acquire his sincere approval.
2- It is impossible to convince an ignorant with the power of logic and quarrel.
3- The best means for victory in discussion is avoiding it. Basically, the discussions, which are changed into struggle, offence or defense and in other words, "controversy", less happen to leave a considerable effect in attracting inward approval of individuals, and resistance of the other party indicates that he assumes his dignity and status in danger. Otherwise, negative resistance for teaching a matter to someone is senseless.
The discussions which agitate the other party and cause him to resist, may have been performed in one of the following ways:
1- The discussions mixed with humiliation of the other party or his beliefs, for instance when it is said your opinion is not logical at all; it is not wisely; no one agrees with it; this utterance is not expected or is strange to be expressed by you!
2- The discussions which are made in presence of a third person and the other party do not like to be defeated in his presence (most people are so).
3- When the discussion is made in a teaching mode, while the other party is not considered as his student, and or at least he does not accept this status for himself.
4- The discussion in which victory is the sign of excellence and priority of the speaker and ruins the "excellence seeking" spirit of the other party.
5- The discussion, the purpose of which is proscription of some deeds of the other party or one of his relatives and friends and or his beloved persons in the past or present.
6- The discussion which has become the substructure of his thoughts as a result of suggestion of surroundings or parents and such like.
In all of above cases, ordinary controversial methods should not be used for influencing on the mind and spirit of the other party. Rather, the applied methods should be absolutely apart from dispute.
Factors effective in influencing on the hearts
1- Seeking excellence in discussion or dispute and fussing
In the Islamic instructions, it is highly emphasized on the manner of discussion with people, especially with ignorant and low knowledge people, and the discussions which do not have any "fact seeking aspect" are prohibited under the title of "dispute and fussing". Even in some cases, discussion is absolutely forbidden.
Holy Quran says:
Dispute not with the People of the Book save in the fairer manner.(6)
And somewhere else it says:
And dispute with them in the better way.(7)
In the above two verses, the discussions lacking "fairer manner" and "better way" are prohibited. They are the same discussions having a sympathetic aspect and accompanied with kindness, courtesy, compassion, and do not leave any ill or negative effect on the other party.
Even in some cases, God officially instructs His Prophet S.A. to choose silence against the aggression of opponents, and absolutely avoid the discussions, the end of which is dispute and obstinacy.
And if they dispute with thee, do thou say, "God knows very well what you are doing."(8)
In the several traditions, discussion is prohibited through different subtle interpretations disclosing a series of mental points:
The Prophet S.A. said: Avoid dispute because its wisdom is not understood and there is no security against its sedition.(9)
And he said: No one fulfills the reality of belief, unless he leaves dispute, although he is right.(10)
Solomon, son of David, told to his son: My son! Avoid dispute because it has no profit and provokes the fire of enmity among the brothers.(11)
Prophet S.A. said: no nation strays after guidance, save it engages in dispute.(12)
Commander of the Believers (Imam Ali) A.S. said: O Kumail! Avoid fussing because in this way you impassion the ignorant against yourself, and destroy brotherhood.(13)
The ill effects of discussions mixed with dispute and aggression are precisely studied in the above traditions and it is inferred from them that:
1- Dispute in discussion is useless, and it has no result (because hurting affections of the other party causes him to resist).
2- Dispute is not compatible with belief (because it is the sign of arrogance and seeking excellence, and arrogance is never compatible with belief, the sense of which is submission and surrender to the truth).
3- Dispute results in sedition and attracting enmity and hostility (because everyone is sensitive and strict for ruining of his personality).
4- Dispute causes misguide (because it excites the sense of obstinacy, selfishness, and prejudice and thereby covers the visage of truth).
5- If dispute is made with the ignorant, it encourages them to violate the reverence of one's personality and makes them insolent to him (because when they find their reputation in risk, they will ignore the reverence, which they observed before the learned in normal conditions).
For salvation from such great dangers, Islam instructs to avoid discussions and talks having an aggressive, hostile and eristic aspect, and even do not apply this way for proving the truth.
2- Stopping selfishness
One, who wants to influence on the spirit and thoughts of others, should never insist them to accept the realities as "an idea belonging to him". Rather, in contrary, he shall try to express the realities absolutely and even as the idea of the other party. Pay attention!
As we know everybody loves his ideas like his physical children, and the reason for love and interest in both cases is the same. His ideas are considered as a part of him just like his children, and loving them forms a beam of self-love, which is the most rooted man's instinct. And in contrast, the thoughts of others are strange to man like the others' children, and naturally fail to attract his interest, and even sometimes they provoke his competition sense.
Therefore, accepting the realities the way of attainment to which is through the man's own mind, is much easier and favorable for him. Because in such cases "intellect" and "affection" are situated in one direction and in contrary, if they are entered to his soul as a strange thing, a contradiction and struggle occurs between his "intellect" and "affection", the result of which in the most individuals is victory of affection. Intellect tends to accept it as it is true, but affection finds it strange and belonging to someone else, and refrains accepting it.
It is noteworthy that if our real purpose is fact seeking and not personal victory in the discussion, it is better to pretend that the idea or its completion belongs to the other party not to us. If our aim is acceptance of an idea, why we shall insist on it being accepted as "our own idea".
Several trials being performed on the individuals have exactly proved that applying this method for penetration into the thoughts of others has been successful. Basically, for achievement to this goal following principles should be observed:
1- It should be tried to say a part of the matter, and the other party shall perceive the rest of it with guidance of the speaker. In fact, the speaker should play the role of a mental leader for manifestation of innate talents of the other party, not the role of an independent being.
2- It should be tried to propound the matters as discussions under study through mentioning questions and queries, and the other party should make the final reply as the final decision.
3- It should be strictly avoided to attribute matters to oneself, particularly with the phrases like "no one has mentioned this before me", and such like.
4- If there are clarifications or references in the utterances of the other party in respect to the matter in question, it should be explicitly remarked and mentioned as a proof. Even if it exists in the utterance of those being respected and loved by the other party, like his father, master, family, or intimate friend, it should be remarked.
Holy Quran, which is a superior symbol of influential and effective speech and its influence on people's thought, has been so wonderful that some have called it as a "magic", often applies this method in its arguments before the adversaries and self deluded persons in the phrases like:
Is there a god with God?(14)
What god other than God?(15)
Is there any creator, apart from God?(16)
And also the phrases such as:
What, have they not journeyed in the land so that they have hearts to understand with or ears to hear with?(17)
It stipulates different issues and leaves final judgement on the burden of the hearers and seeks help from their own conscience in solving the issues.
3- Provoking positive affections
As it was also referred to in the previous discussion, one shall always try to avoid confliction of intellect and affections in two opposite parts. Rather, he shall attempt to orient the affections in the same direction of intellect for supporting intellect's attraction power just like the power of moon in low and high tide, which is sometimes supported by sun's gravitation for being in the same direction, and for attainment to this purpose, following methods should be applied in a bid to provoke affections.
1- Name of everybody is the most favorable word and most harmonic song for him. So one shall call him respectfully with his name for provoking his affections, and if he has several names, the most interested and respectful name should be selected. We have read in the traditions a man should be called with his "nickname"(18). (Nickname is the most respectful name with Arabs).
It is also narrated in respect to tempers of Prophet S.A. that he called everybody with his best name and even selected an appropriate nickname for those lacking any nickname.
2- First, an opportunity should be granted to the others for saying their utterances, and one shall carefully listen to what they say. This shows that one is really seeking for the fact, and moreover, he is also sympathetic and assumes respect and reputation for the other party. Each of these aspects has an effective share in provoking one's positive affections.
On other hand, naturally everyone focuses all of his power in expression of his idea and arguments, and only intends to divulge what is in his mind, and surely in this condition, he does not have any readiness for acceptance of others. So, expressing our own matters and arguments before his complete evacuation is just like seeding in a thorny and brushy land.
It often happens that individuals have some complexes, which are opened, through expressing them, and then they are changed to normal individuals for hearing the truth. We read about Prophet S.A. and leaders of right guidance A.S. that they granted an opportunity to the other parties for speaking.
3- Expressing desire to what the other party likes, and speaking about those who have a significant share in provoking the individual's affections. We read about Prophet S.A. that sometimes when he was alone with some of his companions, he asked them about their family concerns and wife and children and whatever they liked.
4- The admirable or acceptable parts of utterance of the other party should be remarked so that his soul will become ready for accepting weak points and mistakes of the others.
5- Practical sympathy, in its real sense, is one of the most critical factors in provoking affections of others and making their mental condition ready for acceptance of fundamental matters. If they observe a real sympathy from the speaker, they may accept his arguments even if they are not completely acceptable for them, and make themselves understood that his comments are correct and any of his proposals is beneficial for them.
One of the reasons for wonderful welcome from the speeches of Prophet S.A. was this point that every body recognized him as his real sympathetic one so that non acceptance of the right way by some people appeared in the Prophet S.A. as fatal complexes:
Yet perchance, if they believe not in this tiding, thou wilt consume thyself, following after them, of grief.(19)
And we read in respect to the biography of Prophet S.A.:
Whoever came to him, either a freeman or slave and bondmaid, he accompanied him (her) and helped him in his work.(20)
6- The way of reminding mistakes should be so that if the affections of the other party are not provoked in the favor of speaker, at least they should not be hurt, and thereby the mistakes should be minded indirectly as far as possible.
The phrases like "Don't you think that this is better?", "Isn't it better to do so?", "I sometimes do so", and such like are all phrases which could be used for reminding the mistakes indirectly.
7- We shall never provoke obstinacy sense of someone unduly, and if he insists on a matter which is not the main issue of discussion or criticizes it, we shall coordinate ourselves with him correctly in the criticism or supporting and defending it instead of opposition. This makes the other party disarmed and invites him to more reflection.
For instance, if we what to invite someone to Islam, and find that he has a negative idea about the Moslems and their situation and insists on it, we shall not defend the situation of Moslems so much. Rather, we too shall coordinate ourselves with him and mention some basic criticisms (of course, without exaggeration and indulgence) and then follow our main issue. Certainly, we will be more successful.
4- Belief in one's own speech
The well-known phrase, "The utterance coming from the heart, will be accepted heartily" indicates a precise and subtle mental reality, which could be used in the ways of influencing on the others as a vital principle.
As we know tongue and speech is the interpreter of mind and idea and also the scale of speaker's own belief determines evaluation of speeches.
It is not surprising that degree of belief of a hearer to an utterance has a close relation with the degree of belief of the speaker. One may say something apparently very excellent and good, but when his tone shows that he does not believe in it so much, it causes the hearer to doubt in the correctness of that issue. In contrary, if a subject is not very acceptable, but there are the evidences of his decisive belief in it, this provokes the curiosity and precision towards it, and makes them optimistic to that speech.
This too is noteworthy that not believing in a matter could not be totally hidden with mannered utterances, especially in speech that against most deeds, is full of delicacies through which spirit of emotions and mind of speaker will be manifested willingly or not.
Observing one's own speech is one of the important factors for its influence because it is possible that the utterance does not indicate the belief, but one's action is mostly the sign of belief.
5- Effect of virtue of the speaker
It is said:
Do not consider the speaker; rather consider his (her) utterance.
But its full observance is not possible for anybody, because everybody assumes the speech as the product of speaker's being. In view of material tools, speech is the same transformation in man's energies. Chemical energy is transformed into mechanical energy in the cells and mechanical energy to acoustic energy.
And in view of spiritual contents and materials, it is the product of thoughts, education, environment, knowledge, attributes, and spiritual states.
Thus, any speech has the same color of its speaker, and carries the speaker's attributes, either his spirituality or his ugly and bad attributes, and on this account, when an utterance is issued by a virtuous individual, all windows of human spirit are opened to it, and all existence of man receives it.
And in contrast, a speech uttered by an impure and evil person faces with the unconscious negative reaction of the hearer, and the windows of his spirit are closed to it.
1- The psychologists have assumed three stages for man's mind: 1- Conscious stage: referring to a stage in mind which deals with logical and intellectual arguments and deductions as well as the result of observations and experiences, and the relations of matters therein are exactly clear for man, and in other words, consciousness is the dominion of intellect. 2- Semiconscious: it is the same area of ambiguous and irregular thoughts and information which originates from instincts, affections and complexes, and in other words, semiconscious is the scene of emotions, tendencies and thoughts appearing from the instincts like self love and such like, and ambiguity is one of the its properties. 3- Unconscious: This is the same dark and forgotten area of mind that in normal conditions man is unaware of its contents. All the tendencies, which are not fulfilled for any reason, and are rejected from conscious stage, are focused in this part. Moreover, the forgotten memories, which may sometimes be remembered and or never be remembered due to their negative relation with one of the tendencies, are all concentrated in this part.
2- Repentance sura (9), verse 61
3- The House of Imran sura (3), verse 159
4- Repentance sura (9), verse 128
5- Extracted from Ehyaol Oloum, 365/2 to 367
6- The Spider sura (29), verse 46
7- The Bee sura (16), verse 125
8- The Pilgrimage sura (22), verse 68
9- Majlessi, Beharol Anvar, 138/2
10- The same document, narration 53
11- Majlessi, Beharol Anvar, 134/14
12- Ebne Majeh, Sonan Ebne Majeh, 19/1, published in Beirut
13- Majlessi, Beharol Anvar, 270/77, narration 1
14- The Ant sura (27), verse 61
15- The Story sura (28), verse 72
16- The Angels sura (35), verse 3
17- The Pilgrimage sura (22), verse 46
18- Horre Ameli, Vassaelo Shiite, volume 8, chapter 5
19- The Cave sura (18), verse 6
20- Majlessi, Beharol Anvar, 226/16