Commentary: Could we avoid wars if we just tried to communicate better?

Published: Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 11:40 AM.

She shares some of the lessons she learned:

•  To really listen.  A great deal of human communication is really a series of talking at rather than dialoguing with.  Real dialogue is a series of questions whose answers are absorbed by the person asking the question.  If done well, it usually leads to more questions and can produce the kind of understanding that can build bridges rather than bomb them.

•  To promote empathy.  America’s love of individuality and personal rights is one of our most cherished characteristics, but we must understand that our society, not to mention the world, is a cooperative of millions of people different from us. Empathy is a fundamental and necessary component for being able to live together. By putting ourselves in the shoes of another we gain insights into why they do what they do. Understanding that “why” can build positive relationships that lead to conflict resolution. 

•  Know who you’re talking to. Most people stay within a fairly closed and comfortable circle. Foreign locations, whether they are the different sections of the same country or a war-torn land like Afghanistan, can pose a real challenge. Whether the talk is between a Northern Yankee and someone from the Deep South, or an American and an Afghan, understanding something about the other person can help to make communication more effective and better communication can make so many things possible, maybe even peace.

For more information about Mary Ann Callahan or her work, visit

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