Active listening techniques

Ascolto attivo ed empatia: I segreti di una comunicazione efficace di [Daniele Trevisani]
Article translated by dott. Federica Franca, CIELS Advanced Degree in Strategic Communication (“Laurea Magistrale in Comunicazione Strategica”), extracted with the author’s permission from the book “Active Listening and Empathy. The Secrets for Effective Communication” (original title: “Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace”), written by Daniele Trevisani, published by Franco Angeli, Milan.

1.8. In-depth analysis of active listening techniques and empathy

Active listening is linked to paralinguistic and non-verbal communication and it includes:

  • verbal active listening techniques;
  • paralinguistic active listening techniques;
  • non-verbal active listening techniques.

These techniques will be examined in the following paragraphs.

Let’s underline now an essential aspect of empathy:

  1. the person who is talking must be aware that they will not be judged. They also should not be ashamed of what they are feeling or saying, no matter how odd or serious things are – from their point of view; empathy is a special area in the space-time continuum – a person can say everything they want, without facing any negative consequences;
  2. the person who is talking must be aware that they can start making some progress and moving forward only when they have accepted themselves as they are, not matter what they did or what they thought, whether they like it or not.

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am,

then I can change”.

Carl Rogers

1.9. Verbal active listening techniques

Verbal listening techniques focus on the use of all those words that express attention and willingness to understand.

  • Open questions: who, where, when, how, why, with whom, how long and other questions that broaden and clarify the conversation.
  • Closed or clarifying questions: they verify parts of the speech through “yes–no questions”, or other general answers (“a lot/a little”, “before/after”). “It happened just before meeting Angela” “How long before it happened? One hour? One day?” or “Are you happy with your car?”
  • Mirror technique (reflection of content): repetition of sentences – or parts of sentences – the speaker said, without modifying or altering them. The mirror technique comes from the empathic listening methodologies used in the Rogerian1 therapeutic interview. It is a psychotherapeutic technique that allows the speakers to deepen their thoughts – and to express themselves. “So, you are telling me that…”
  • Paraphrase: use of “as if”. Trying to understand what has been said by using metaphors or examples that are useful to figure out whether we really understood the deep meaning of what the other person is saying. “You are telling me that it seems like they poured water into your jug without realising it was already full, am I right?”
  • Factual and historical overview, summary: repetition of what has been said by summarising the main points of the “story”. “If I got that right, what happened could be summed up by saying that…”
  • Verbal encouragement: e.g. “good”, “interesting”, “yes”, “okay”.

1.10. Paralinguistic active listening techniques

Use of vocalisations that show interest in the “story” and simplify expression – e.g. guttural speech sounds and whispery voice such as “Uhm”, “Oh”. Giving a written report of these expressions is not possible, but if we listened to a person that “listens well”, we would notice that they make careful and particular use of paralanguage and sounds during essential parts of the speech. Paralinguistic techniques – together with visual non-verbal techniques – aim to provide phatic signals (contact signals), so that the interlocutor understands that we are listening, we are understanding and we are focused and interested.

1.11. Non-verbal active listening techniques

Non-verbal active listening techniques use body language to express interest:

  • Open and leaning forward posture to express willingness; relaxed body posture;
  • Proxemic (approaching and moving away): reducing the distance from the interlocutor during moments of great interest, moving away in moments of loosening;
  •  Facial expression: vigilant, careful and caring – not doubtful, ironic or aggressive;
  • Vigilant and direct gaze;
  • Eyebrow movement combined with key points of the interlocutor’s speech;
  • Nods – approval or rejection;
  • Soft, slow and rolling gestures to communicate a feeling of relaxation and to encourage moving forward;
  • Non-verbal metaphors: use of body language to show comprehension of what the interlocutor is saying.

In terms of non-verbal level, it is important to consider that many cultures restrain non-verbal expression of emotions (e.g. Asian culture), but this is also a communicative stereotype – it has a probabilistic value and does not provide certainty.

In short, the main techniques for effective listening are:

  • curiosity and interest;
  • paraphrase: the listener repeats what they understood (that does not mean agreeing with what the person is saying);
  • summary and recap: rephrasing what the interlocutor said in order to gather information;
  • targeted questions (conversational refocusing) in order to clarify unclear parts of the speech;
  • avoiding personal questions until a solid relationship has been established;
  • offering the speaker the opportunity to figure out whether what they understood is correct, accurate or, on the other side, twisted and incomplete;
  • listening not only words, but also feelings and non-verbal signals in order to assess feeling and moods;
  • checking for correct understanding of both feelings and content and not ignoring the latter;
  • do not tell people how they should feel or what they should think (during the listening phase, it is essential to just draw information, without teaching or judging).

One must not judge men as we judge a painting or a statue, to a first and unique look; there is an interiority and a soul that must be deepened.

(Jean de La Bruyère)

These attitudes are essential and they determine the quality of the listening phase. Yet, regarding business listening phases, they should not be confused with the goals of a whole negotiation (that includes listening and propositional phases and statements – which sometimes are harsh or assertive).

During a negotiation, modifying what other people think (cognitive and persuasive restructuring) or how they feel (emotional action) is possible – this is one of the strategic goals –, but this goal can be pursued only once the negotiator has succeeded in actively listening, using empathy in order to understand the situation in which they are working.

Listening is not only a technique, but it is also expression and connotation of a state of attraction and love – that can also be just an idea, not necessarily a person. Stopping listening means that something between that idea and us broke and we have to choose between mending that relationship by listening again, or letting it go forever.

“Love ends when listening does.”

Enrico Maria Secci


[1] Rogers C.R. (1961), On becoming a Person, Houghton Mifflin, Boston; Id. (1951), Client-Centered Therapy: Its Current Practice, Implications, and Theory, Houghton Mifflin, Boston.

Fonte: Dott. Trevisani D., Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace, Franco Angeli Edizioni, 2016, Milano.

Other online material available in these sites:

Other available online resources

CIELS Institutional Website: https://www.ciels.it/

Empatic Listening and Communication

Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace

Article translated by dott. ssa Eleonora Brusamento Spinelli, CIELS Advanced Degree in Strategic Communication (“Laurea Magistrale in Comunicazione Strategica”), extracted with the author’s permission from the book “Active Listening and Empathy. The Secrets for Effective Communication” (original title: “Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace“, Franco Angeli Edizioni, 2019”), written by Daniele Trevisani, published by Franco Angeli, Milan.

Picture. 2 – Types of empathy in the ALM method

Copyright Model Daniele Trevisani http://www.danieletrevisani.it

1.1.             Positive and destructive elements of empathy

It is astonishing how elements that seem insoluble become soluble when someone listens, how confusions that seem irremediable turn into relatively clear flowing streams when one is heard.

Carl Rogers

Empathy is either destroyed or fostered by specific communicative behaviours and attitudes.

Fostering empathyDestroying empathy
Curiosity, passion, motivation to listenDisinterest, listening for duty; lack of motivation
Real listening participation, without fictionPretending a listening role only for professional duty
Acting as a “discoverer”, like a truffle or gemstones hunter. Let’s see what’s going to happen today!Bureaucratic plastered approach. Even today, not today, another meeting, that is so boring
Re-formulation of contents
Recap – re-capitulate “histories” and “topics”
Judgement on contents, comments Endless flow without the security to understand the topic or the sense of the conversation
Plural approaches to question (open, close, clarifying, focusing, and generalizing questions) Flexible questions related to the variation of a session or its contextMonotonous questions, statical questions, questions that are too anchored to a dogmatic scheme or school
Focus on emotional experience, emotional listeningExclusive focus on facts
Verbal or non-verbal signals of attention, “phatic” signals (contact signals) es, yeah, well, ok, I see your point…Body language expressing disinterest, apathy, boredom, or desire to be somewhere else…
Paralinguistic signals of attention, encouragement to express oneself, “phatic” signals (signals expressing participation and attention)Poor evidence of interest and concern to the flow of thought. Lack or scarcity of ‘phatic’ signals and mental contact.

“Empathy between people is like water in the desert: you rarely encounter it, but when you do, it calms you down and regenerates you.”

Emanuela Breda

1.4 “Being there” in relationship: separating listening from “expression” activities and generating the “empathic flow”.

Few delights can equal the presence of one whom we trust utterly.

 (George MacDonald)

In empathy, ‘being there’ is important. To ‘be there’, it is essential not to confuse between listening and expression. Listening communication, and the quality of listening, includes the need to perform a clear separation on a mental level, the activities of paying attention to the communication of others, understanding it (incoming communication) from the activities of expressing our messages (outgoing communication).

We are referring to a ‘flow’, an empathic one, a two-way flow between two people during an empathic communication. There is something magical about this kind of flow sometimes. To be clear, the content of this flow in terms of words, sentences, facial expressions and any other ‘communicative content’ is expressed by the speaker, but the listener expresses an equally powerful, even more powerful flow, the flow of attention and mental presence. Two opening flows of acceptance, which create a unique and special moment of human sharing. If you happen to hear yourself say “I have never felt as much understanding as in this conversation, thank you very much” you probably performed a high empathy rate.

Picture 9 – Separation of the expression flow from empathic flow

When we know how to separate these two flows properly, first on a mental level, then on a physical and behavioural level, we will know how to give presence, avoiding intruding on the empathic flow with inappropriate communications. When it is ‘our turn’, we will always be empathic, ‘connected’ and relevant.

People also leave presence in a place even when they are no longer there.

(Andy Goldsworthy)

1.5 Ten rules to quality empathic listening. Ten rules always to apply.

Most quarrels amplify a misunderstanding.

 (Andre Gide)

During the listening phases necessarily:

  1. do not interrupt while other persons are talking;
  2. do not judge them prematurely; do not express judgements that could block their expressive flow;
  3. summarize what you understood (so, if I understood well, it happened that…), re-formulate critical points (ok, he doesn’t answer to the phone, and you feel really bad, I see), to paraphrase (so, as I understood, is it…?)
  4. do not get distracted, do not think about anything else, do nothing else but listening (except for taking notes if necessary), use your thoughts to listen, do not wander;
  5. do not correct the other person while he/she is stating something, even when you disagree, keep listening;
  6. do not try to overpower her/him;
  7. do not try to dominate her/him;
  8. do not try to teach or impart truths; restrain the temptation to interfere with the expression flow and correct something assumed as incorrect;
  9. do not speak about ourselves;
  10. show interest and participation through verbal signals and body language;

Particularly interesting attitudes may be:

  • genuine interest and curiosity towards the other: the desire to know and explore another one’s mind; activating human and professional curiosity;
  • inner silence: creating a state of emotional stillness (free from negative emotions and prejudices), in order to listen and respect the other person’s rhythms;
  • mentally preparing oneself for the ‘whole’: being able to support even ‘heavy’ psychic material (fears, traumas, dramas, personal tragedies, dreams, disturbed states of mind) that the other person expresses, or when they emerge in the process, being able to explore them while keeping the ‘focus’ on mental and emotional balance and not overwhelmed by what is being heard (technique of Controlled Emotional Distancing – CED).

It is remarkable quoting Carl Rogers, psychologist, and founder of Counseling, the person that most of all has influenced the same concept of empathy:

“Our first reaction to most of the statements which we hear from other people is an immediate evaluation, or judgment, rather than an understanding of it. When someone expresses some feeling or attitude or belief, our tendency is, almost immediately, to feel “That’s right”; or “That’s stupid”; “That’s abnormal”; “That’s unreasonable”; “That’s incorrect”; “That’s not nice”. I believe this is because understanding is risky. If I let myself really understand another person, I might be changed by that understanding.”

Carl Rogers

“What the statement means to him” is the true meaning of any empathy operation, understanding the emotional connection, the motive seen from within. It is a technique. Then it matters little whether that technique is applied to a criminal to understand their next gestures and moves, or to a person suffering from anxiety, or to help a young person find his way in the future, a sportsman wins his next race, or a team in which we are trying to produce the state of ‘flow for maximum performance.

Active Listening and Empathy

Article translated by dott. ssa Eleonora Brusamento Spinelli, CIELS Advanced Degree in Strategic Communication (“Laurea Magistrale in Comunicazione Strategica”), extracted with the author’s permission from the book “Active Listening and Empathy. The Secrets for Effective Communication” (original title: “Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace, Franco Angeli Edizioni, 2019”), written by Daniele Trevisani, published by Franco Angeli, Milan.

Fonte:

-Dott. Trevisani D., Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace, Franco Angeli Edizioni, 2019

Other online material available in these sites:

Other available online resources

CIELS Institutional Website: https://www.ciels.it/

Emphatic Listening and Communication

Article translated by dott. Federica Vazquez, CIELS Advanced Degree in Strategic Communication (“Laurea Magistrale in Comunicazione Strategica”), extracted with the author’s permission from the book “Active Listening and Empathy. The Secrets for Effective Communication” (original title: “Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace”), written by Daniele Trevisani, published by Franco Angeli, Milan.

1.    Data and emotions: the two basic ingredients of empathic listening 

When a sunrise or sunset no longer gives us excitement, 

means that the soul is sick.

 (Roberto Gervaso)

Empathy is defined in a thousand different ways. 

For our purpose, it is sufficient to focus, here and now, on the fact that empathy is a “state of mind”, a state of openness to listening, of predisposition to grasp the data and emotions that come from the other person, to “feel” them, coming to understand a situation with identification, to be aware of what lives, with the eyes and the heart of the person who is telling us. We will go into this concept in more detail later. We have already said it, but empathy, however deep, is not equivalent to sympathy.

Those who practice empathic listening must be very good at “grasping” and “feeling” but they must absolutely not fall into the trap of “confusing their own self with that of the other”. So, let’s stay for now on a technical aspect: the decomposition of listening into data and emotions. It is fundamental to distinguish “active listening”, of data, from listening to emotions. Listening to data and listening to emotions are two different processes. 

Sometimes co-present, and often they become two “tasks” or tasks that travel in parallel. But conceptually they are different. 

We always have “the whole” available to us while we listen, it is up to us to be able to grasp, to be able to distinguish, to be able to “appreciate” and be sensitive to even the most subtle nuances of the soul and emotion.

The two layers of listening can be seen as two rivers traveling parallel to each other. Two streams of information, rather than water, that we need to perceive, simultaneously.

Casella di testo 54
Casella di testo 52

It is true that even an emotion is a form of “data”, but we must note, of course, that it is one thing to deal with qualitative data such as feeling pleasure, or being proud, or feeling sad or depressed, and another thing to note down information such as “London“, “Milan“, “50 km“, “10 kg”, “plane“, “train“, “100 Euro“, and other more tangible quantitative or qualitative information. We can say that scientifically we have a “data-point” (data point, certain information) every time we manage to extract a verifiable proposition. 

The statement “Before 5 p.m. David made a sale and was overjoyed” contains four data points

Listening closely resembles the process of “mining and separating” as it occurs in a deposit. Extracting material and separating it into stones on one side, and mud on the other. In listening, the materials are almost always joined, almost glued together, but we can learn to separate them. In the example written below it will be quite easy to do this.

Figure 7 – extracting data from a text passage (data-centered listening)

Davide and Lucia last night around 7:30 pm had an argument because there was some grass to remove from the garden and Paolo did it but he got tired, when he told Lucia, with pride, that he had cleaned a whole area of the lawn corresponding to the entrance, Lucia got angry because she felt inside that it was like a sort of accusation, a tone she didn’t like, as if he had said “you didn’t do it, I did it”.

Figure 8 – extraction of emotional states from the same textual passage

Paolo and Lucia last night around 7:30 p.m. had an argument because there was some grass to remove from the garden and Paolo did it but got tired of it, when he told Lucia, with pride, that he had cleaned a whole area of the lawn corresponding to the entrance, Lucia got angry because she felt inside that it was like a sort of accusation, a tone she didn’t like, as if he had said “you didn’t do it, I did it”.

When we move on to video excerpts, or real-time human interactions, we have to get even better at it, because emotions can be “hidden” behind micro-expressions, small involuntary facial cues, or can instead become very manifest and verbalized.

When we listen, we can pay attention to one, the other, or both. Being able to grasp both is surely better. Behind listening to emotions there is a vision of man as a creature that “feels” and not just as a creature that “reasons.”

When dealing with people, remember that we are not dealing with people with logic. 

We are dealing with creatures with emotions.

 (Dale Carnegie)

It may seem strange to underestimate the logical part of the human being, but we must realize that, according to neuroscience, only 2% of the mental calculation capabilities are available for conscious and rational reasoning, and the rest is divided between data necessary to run the “biological machine” heart, lungs, breathing, and millions of processes, and subconscious data, on which emotions are grafted, whether we want them to or not. Remember that even an emotion is to some extent a data, but it goes without saying that it is one thing to ask active questions starting from the sentence “I bought 4 kilos of fish” and another to do it to deepen the sentence “in this period I feel full of hope but also of remorse“.

Emotions are expressed both with words, but much more so through facial microexpressions, body signals, and voice state (paralinguistics), than through the verbal component. 

Words alone do not convey emotion if they are not accompanied by an appropriate context. The way they are said, much more so. But they are not usually “said.” They simply manifest themselves in non-verbal behavior, in facial expressions. And even if not said, they need to be “heard.”

The most important thing in communication is 

Listen to what isn’t being said.

 (Peter F. Drucker)

Listening to data or listening to emotions qualifies the difference between data-centered informational listening and psychologically oriented listening. Listening to data is not the same as picking up emotional states. In fact, we can apply psychological listening or technical-informational listening. An advanced negotiator and a high-level salesperson will be able to apply the correct level of listening, or both, depending on the situation, without entering into a predetermined, stereotypical, rigid listening state.

This is also true for a parent who wants to listen to a child about how they are doing in school, fixating on grades and data as if filling out an Excel spreadsheet, or trying to understand moods and relationships.

Learning to listen well is possible, with care, with practice, with passion and willingness, making mistakes, and always starting over.

Always be like the sea, which breaks against the rocks and always finds the strength to try again.

Jim Morrison

1. Empathy and empathic communication: the four levels of empathy in the ALM/HPM method 

…sometimes you talk to the world and the world doesn’t seem to hear… ….

other times the world is talking to us and we are somewhere else.

Daniele Trevisani

Empathy is that state of “mental presence,” where “I am here, with you,” alongside a human being we want to fully understand. 

As such, it has a possibility of limited duration, that of an interview, but its effect can last forever, as with any memory or experience. Empathy is based on the fact of strongly wanting to be present, a mental presence that takes in every nuance and detail of what is said, of the nonverbal, of the paralinguistic, trying to understand its meaning, until you get to understand the “story” of a person and his “salient episodes, positive and negative”. It can also come to a total understanding of a person’s “state of mind,” beyond any verbal etiquette, beyond any possibility of expression.

In the ALM (business development) and HPM (personal development) method, a special model of empathy is elaborated, with a typology initially exposed in the volume Intercultural Negotiation.

Fig. 1 – Types of empathy based on observation angles

  • Behavioralempathy: understanding behaviors and their causes, understanding the why of the behavior and the chains of related behaviors.
  • Emotional empathy: being able to perceive the emotions experienced by others, understand what emotions the subject feels (what emotion is in the circle), of what intensity, what emotional mix the interlocutor lives, how emotions are associated with people, objects, facts, internal or external situations that the other lives.
  • Relational empathy: understanding the map of the subject’s relationships and their affective values, understanding with whom the subject relates voluntarily or out of obligation, with whom he must relate in order to make decisions, work or live, what is his map of “significant others”, referents, interlocutors, “relevant others” and influencers that affect his decisions, with whom he gets along and who does not, who affects his professional (and in some cases personal) life.
  • Cognitive empathy (or cognitive prototypes): understanding the cognitive prototypes active at a given moment in time, the beliefs, values, ideologies, and mental structures that the subject possesses and attaches to.

Article translated by dott. Federica Vazquez, CIELS Advanced Degree in Strategic Communication (“Laurea Magistrale in Comunicazione Strategica”), extracted with the author’s permission from the book “Active Listening and Empathy. The Secrets for Effective Communication” (original title: “Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace”), written by Daniele Trevisani, published by Franco Angeli, Milan.

Other online material available in these sites:

Other available online resources

CIELS Institutional Website: https://www.ciels.it/

Riepilogo didattico Lezione 5 Prof Daniele Trevisani

www.studiotrevisani.it

Presso Campus Ciels Padova, Laurea Magistrale in Comunicazione Strategica LM-94

Corso di Negoziazione, vedi Trevisani Daniele – Campus Ciels

Parole chiave della lezione

  • Emozioni
  • Modello dei quattro livelli di empatia
  • Empatia comportamentale
  • Empatia emozionale
  • Empatia cognitiva
  • World Economic Forum
  • Problem solving
  • Pensiero critico
  • Creatività
  • People management
  • Capacità di coordinamento
  • Intelligenza emotiva
  • Capacità di giudizio e decisione
  • Orientamento al servizio
  • Capacità di negoziazione
  • Flessibilità cognitiva
  • Evocazioni semantiche
  • Topic shifting
  • Ruota delle emozioni di Plutchik
  • Leadership emozionale
  • Metacomunicazione
  • Goal setting
  • Life plan
  • Domande aperte
  • Domande chiuse

Concetti fondamentali trattati

  1. Il concetto di leadership emozionale, nell’ambito della gestione delle emozioni durante la comunicazione, è la capacità di dirigere le emozioni e portarle dove si vuole.
  2. Riconoscere le evocazioni semantiche ovvero i richiami a mondi percettivi che provengono da gesti o parole durante la comunicazione.
  3. Individuazione delle competenze più richieste nell’ambito lavorativo secondo il World Economic Forum: “problem solving“; pensiero critico che permetta di rivisitare un problema; creatività; “people management“, ovvero gestire il flusso di lavoro; capacità di coordinamento; intelligenza emotiva, cogliere quale sia il nostro stato emotivo in una data situazione; capacità di giudizio e decisione; orientamento al servizio, cioè la creazione del valore; capacità di negoziazione; flessibilità cognitiva capacità di possedere diversi punti di vista.
  4. Il modello dei quattro livelli di empatia (4LE): l’empatia cognitiva, in base a come abbiamo affrontato la comunicazione; emozionale, cosa si è provato durante lo svolgimento della comunicazione; comportamentale, comprendere gesti e atteggiamenti altri; relazionale, in base alle persone e al contesto con cui relazioniamo.
  5. La ruota delle emozioni, sviluppata dallo psicologo Robert Plutchik, è un modello che rappresenta l’evoluzione delle emozioni; il modello si propone come tentativo di etichettare le emozioni: più sono intense più si avvicineranno al centro della ruota e viceversa.
  6. La rappresentazione delle connessioni primarie, secondarie e terziarie tra emozioni mostra come ognuna derivi dalla somma di altre due emozioni correlate.
  7. Il concetto di metacomunicazione, spiegare cioè il proprio codice comunicativo nel momento in cui la persona che abbiamo di fronte non ne sia a conoscenza perché di cultura differente o abituata a comunicare diversamente.
  8. La distinzione tra domande chiuse e domande aperte: le prime prevedono una risposta finita e schematica, le seconde invece permettono risposte più ampie e personalizzate.
  9. L’importanza della redazione di un “life plan“, dove fissare gli obiettivi (goal setting) che si desidera raggiungere in un dato periodo di tempo (in questo caso cinque anni).

Sintesi del mio apprendimento:

Ho capito che è molto importante revisionare il proprio lavoro soprattutto da segretario organizzativo in quanto se il lavoro non è fatto bene dal traduttore o dallo scrittore, la responsalità è di chi non ha ben revisionato il lavoro.

Ho imparato a concludere le mie presentazioni con una domanda rivolta al pubblico per poter meglio catturarne l’attenzione.

Ho riflettuto sull’importanza del goal setting e sul metodo utilizzato per individuare i nostri principali obiettivi.

Fonti:

-Dott. Trevisani D., Negoziazione InterculturaleComunicazione oltre le barriere culturali. Dalle relazioni interne sino alle trattative internazionali, Franco Angeli Edizioni, 2016.

-Dott. Trevisani D., Parliamoci Chiaro: il modello delle quattro distanze per una comunicazione efficace e costruttiva, Gribaudo, 2019

-Dott. Trevisani D., Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace, Franco Angeli Edizioni, 2019

-Dott. ssa Brusamento Spinelli E., Appunti di Negoziazione degli ostaggi, lezione 5 di Prof. Trevisani D. 25/03/2021

Per ulteriori informazioni consultare:

Altre risolse disponibili online:

CIELS Institutional Website: https://www.ciels.it/

Empathy & Sympathy

Article translated by dott.ssa Pilli Laura, CIELS Advanced Degree in Strategic Communication (“Laurea Magistrale in Comunicazione Strategica”), extracted with the author’s permission from the book “Active Listening and Empathy. The Secrets for Effective Communication” (original title: “Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace”), written by Daniele Trevisani, published by Franco Angeli, Milan.

1.6 Empathy and listening are good for those who practice them, and for those who receive them: Some evidence from the research

Give your absence to who does not value your presence.
(Oscar Wilde)

Empathy is a value and it generates value. Therefore, it is good to see what some of the indications from the world of research have to say about this. Empathy, practising it well, requires a well-functioning mind[1]. This means for us, that the empathic communicator has to take care of himself, his health, the state of his mind, e.g. he/she must be rested, don’t abuse substances, eat and exercise – in short, we are dealing with athletes of communication and athletes of the mind.

Of course, it can be argued that some psychotherapists manage to be extremely good at active listening and empathic even at the age of 80, or with a sick body, but let us not forget how much experience is supporting them, and therefore, let us do our personal homework diligently to find our best shape and have a body-mind that supports and helps us.

Taking care of oneself helps empathy. Having personal, physical, bodily, mental, motivational energy helps empathy. If you don’t have energy, you will never really listen to anyone in depth.

Other evidence: when the subject of active and empathic listening is a distress[2], having a methodological school behind you, for example humanistic psychology, Bioenergetic Counseling, or others, is a helpful factor, because you are no longer alone in listening, you are only alone physically, but the presence of the ‘school’ helps you to proceed well. However much good will you have, having a school behind you gives structure, helps, supports morally.

The ‘school’ can also be an association, club or group of people where people meet and discuss about methods and work, cases or models, and this discussion is of enormous professional enrichment. Whether it is a circle of leaders, a circle of Counselors, a training school, moments of “unwinding and realignment” like those of supervision are fundamental, even in the non-clinical context. Indeed, think how much better it can be in a company to have interviews with employees by a leader, knowing they have a Mentor and then being able to discuss them with a supervisor, rather than leaving them in the dark.

Finally, an important reflection. Empathy is a concept that is interpreted in literature in many, sometimes incompatible ways[3].

The substantial distinction is between two extremes, an emotional type of empathy, which is primarily experience-centred, i.e. based on feeling and reflecting the feelings of the speaker, and a cognitive type of empathy, based on reflecting and understanding the reasoning of the speaker.

Our vision is that empathy is a concrete form of mental presence in communication, a conversation in which the End State (point of arrival) to understand a person in their full physical, bodily, intellectual and emotional nuances.

In our method, therefore, empathy must be both emotional and cognitive. It means being able to understand a situation or a piece of life from the point of view of the person who is experiencing it, and this requires shedding light on both emotional components (understanding emotions and their nuances) and reasoning (understanding values, beliefs, actions, structured thoughts). Only the union of the two components can lead to true empathy, at least as far as empathic listening is concerned.

The empathic ‘way of being’, which means constantly living with attention and sensitivity to the emotions of others, is a different matter, but this is outside the scope of the technique of active and empathic listening and is certainly not to be condemned, but neither is it to be forced.

I think it is right to leave it up to the free will of each person how to lead their lives. Certainly, however, when we enter into an active or empathic listening session, being able to tap into this sensitivity is needed.

1.7. Difference between empathy and sympathy

Empathy and sympathy must be distinguished. Empathy means to understand. For example in the company, to understand why a customer postpones a purchase or wants a low-priced product, why a customer arrives late for an appointment, whether it is because of strategy or real impediment, or why a customer tells us about a certain specific problem, what is behind it. Sympathy, on the other hand, means appreciating, sharing, agreeing. Selling requires the application of empathy and not necessarily sympathy. The same applies to a coaching, a counselling or a leadership interview.

Active listening and empathy should not be confused with acceptance of others’ contents or values. A decalogue of active listening is not to be confused with blind acceptance of other people’s content. These are merely methods of allowing other people’s thoughts to flow as freely as possible in order to gain openness and useful information.

The phase of inner judgement on what we hear, which is inevitable during negotiation, must be ‘relegated’ to our internal processing, held for later stages of negotiation, and must not interfere with the listening phase.

When our aim is to listen, we must listen.

To do this we will have to:

  • suspend our judgment;
  • give signals of assent and presence (contact signals, phatic signals);
  • try to stay connected to the flow of the discourse;
  • ask questions whenever an aspect seems worthy of investigation;
  • avoid ‘anticipating’ (e.g.: I am sure that you…) and avoid making statements that are ‘stances’;
  • simply rephrase the key points of what the other person said;
  • do not interrupt inappropriately.

We should reserve our judgement or make clarifications only after having listened in depth and inside an appropriate negotiation frame. The aim of empathic techniques is to encourage the flow of other people’s thoughts, and to collect as many ‘information nuggets‘ as possible that the interlocutor can give. Empathy, if well applied, produces “empathic flow“, a flow of data, factual, sentimental, experiential information, of enormous usefulness to the negotiator.

The opposite behaviour (judging, correcting, affirming, blocking) breaks the empathic flow, and risks stopping the collection of valuable information prematurely.

Few people think, but they all want to judge.
(King Frederick the Great)

There is a moment when the negotiator has to stop the flow of the other person’s discourse (turning point) but in general it is good to let it flow, until one has really understood who one is dealing with and what the real objectives are, and all other necessary information. Empathic techniques are also helpful in curbing the premature tendency towards informational self-disclosure: the giving of information, the inappropriate or premature leaking of data about ourselves. Giving the customer information and data that could be counterproductive has a boomerang effect. Any information must be given with extreme caution.

The empathic attitude is extremely useful in focusing the negotiator’s mental energies on listening to the other person and curbing our own inappropriate interference.

Let us also remember another point. Listening is a gift. Giving the gift of listening, today, in a materialistic world, is among the most precious gifts one can give, provided that the person who has to be listened interests us and we want to give this gift. Human time is precious and limited, and listening well, takes time. For this reason, dedicating a moment of life to someone full of quality listening, and doing it with passion, must be done for work, or for love.

“Loving means above all listening”


[1] Neumann D1, Zupan B. Empathic Responses to Affective Film Clips Following Brain Injury and the Association with Emotion Recognition Accuracy. In:  Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2018 Aug 21. pii: S0003-9993(18)30938-9. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2018.07.431.

[2] Guan K, Kim RE, Rodas NV, Brown TE, Gamarra JM, Krull JL, Chorpita BF,. Emergent Life Events: An In-Depth Investigation of Characteristics and Provider Responses during Youth Evidence-Based Treatment. In: J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol. 2018 Aug 24:1-16. doi: 10.1080/15374416.2018.1496441.

[3] Dohrenwend AM. Defining Empathy to Better Teach, Measure, and Understand its Impact. In: Acad Med. 2018 Aug 21. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002427.

Source:

Article translated by dott.ssa Pilli Laura, CIELS Advanced Degree in Strategic Communication (“Laurea Magistrale in Comunicazione Strategica”), extracted with the author’s permission from the book “Active Listening and Empathy. The Secrets for Effective Communication” (original title: “Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace”), written by Daniele Trevisani, published by Franco Angeli, Milan.

Other online material available in these sites:

Other available online resources

CIELS Institutional Website: https://www.ciels.it/

The Scale of Listening Levels

Ascolto attivo ed empatia: I segreti di una comunicazione efficace di [Daniele Trevisani]
Article translated by dott.ssa Federica Franca, CIELS Advanced Degree in Strategic Communication (“Laurea Magistrale in Comunicazione Strategica”), extracted with the author’s permission from the book “Active Listening and Empathy. The Secrets for Effective Communication” (original title: “Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace”), written by Daniele Trevisani, published by Franco Angeli, Milan.

2.9 Empathic listening

Listening without bias or distraction is the greatest value you can pay another person.

(Denis Waitley)

Empathy is a superior and highly advanced state of human relationships. It means learning how to put yourself in someone’s shoes in order to feel what they feel.

Empathy – per se – is neither positive nor negative: we can also use it to understand the way outlaws and killers think and to find out what their next move is going to be (strategic empathy).

 In wider terms, when referring to everyday human and professional relationships, empathy is positive and rare. As Jeremy Rifkin points out:

“empathic consciousness is based on the awareness that others – like us – are unique and mortal beings. We empathise with people because we recognise their fragile and limited nature, their vulnerability and their one and only life; we experience their existential aloneness, suffering and struggle to exist and evolve as if these feelings were ours. Our empathic embrace is our way to sympathise with the others and to celebrate their lives”.[1]

Empathy is rare because it requires the subtle ability to “tune in” emotionally and to understand the hidden, emotional and personal levels of the interlocutor’s experience – rather than the numerical or objective data they expose. Empathy also uses metacommunication (meaning “communication about communication itself ”): for instance, it fearlessly asks for the meaning of a word it does not understand or it explains useful ideas for the communication process itself – when the listener does not speak.

Empathic listening is rare. We could say last time we found it was when a person listened to us for an entire hour, without talking about themselves – only listening to what we wanted to say (both information and emotions) and asking questions for a better understanding. If this has ever happened to you, it was probably during a coaching, counselling or therapy session. It rarely happens in daily life.

Shorter periods of time – but with the same listening intensity – can be found in real friendship or with loyal partners at work, but the attention is not necessarily focused on one person – as it happens when talking about empathy. Besides, if specific courses to learn empathy are needed, it is because school, academic education and manuals tend to give information, rather than teaching how to listen.

Just as the art of narrating exists – firmly codified through thousands of attempts and mistakes – the art of listening also exists, equally ancient and noble, which, however, as far as i know, has never been validated.

(Primo Levi)

The most difficult part of empathic listening is the suspension of judgement. If anyone says, “I hit my child” or “I threw the rubbish bag out the window”, it is impossible not to judge. Yet, “suspending the judgement” means precisely that – and not to “make judgement disappear”. Suspending it is fundamental in order to understand what, where, how and why certain things happens. If we did not do it, we would miss a large part of the information we could obtain.

2.10. Sympathetic listening

Sometimes, some fondness are so powerful that, when meeting for the first time, it feels like meeting again.

 (Alfred de Musset)

Sympathetic listening expresses affinity towards the speaker; it aims to both listen and show affection and delight during the interaction. Sympathetic listening is not necessarily better than empathic listening; it is just different. Here the priority is to give to the other person the feeling of pleasantness and closeness. Making the interlocutor understand that we are interested in what they say is fundamental – not only regarding the information itself, but also for the person expressing it. The act of listening becomes part of a relational game that has a seductive component; what we are interested in is not a passive data analysis, but we strongly admire and appreciate what has been said. Listening shows human warmth, delight and appreciation, with both verbal and non-verbal communication. Let’s consider a very practical aspect: sympathetic listening brings people closer and this is an excellent psychological strategy for a deeper and more accurate listening.

“We usually consider as good listeners only those people who share our opinion.”

François de La Rochefoucauld

Sympathetic listening can be easily – and wrongly – defined “panderer listening”, but let ask ourselves whether we live in a society that is stingy with compliments. Our society is quick to judge and blame – and it is also stingy, even when we do something good. That is why sympathetic listening – whenever there is the right opportunity – is a precious gift.

When we listen to a person and we sense something good, we should feel free to experience it, without being ashamed.

“Does the song of the sea end at the shore or in the hearts of those who listen to it?”

Khalil Gibran

Throughout the manual various techniques, methods and strategies to practise active and deep listening, to reach hearts and minds, to gather information and to work effectively together will be described.

Yet, whatever our intentions and abilities, there is one thing that cannot be taught, but only recommended: to be willing to listen.

Fig. 4 – Levels of listening quality

 


[1]  Jeremy Rifkin (2011). La civiltà dell’empatia. La corsa verso la coscienza globale nel mondo in crisi. Milano, Mondadori, p. 532 [Eng: “The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis. N.d.T.]

1.1.           Other online material available in these sites:

1.2.           Other available online resources

CIELS Institutional Website: https://www.ciels.it/

The Scale of Listening Levels

Article translated by dott. Federica Vazquez, CIELS Advanced Degree in Strategic Communication (“Laurea Magistrale in Comunicazione Strategica”), extracted with the author’s permission from the book “Active Listening and Empathy. The Secrets for Effective Communication” (original title: “Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace”), written by Daniele Trevisani, published by Franco Angeli, Milan.

2.1.Negative listening modes: when and how to give the worst of yourself by getting everything wrong in listening 

What is the difference between question and accusation?

An accusation is one that is not answered; a question is answered.

from the movie “The Marauders” by Steven C. Miller

A visual tool is very useful to understand immediately that there is a real “scale” in the levels of listening and in the quality of listening. From a critical listening to an empathic listening, the difference is considerable and tangible. This scale is shown in the next figure. In it, we see a progression towards improvement in listening levels as we move up the scale.

Let’s start with the decidedly negative levels: The negative elements of listening are the ones that make you feel bad when you experience them. They generate the feeling of not being understood, or neglected, or not considered for what is said or even as a person. They go against, in practice, a basic need of every human being: to be understood. A need as strong as the need for air.

To be at your worst in listening, it is enough to interrupt, judge, not listen, get distracted, listen while watching TV or typing on a smartphone, do not look at people, distort every possible interpretation, in short, a whole baggage of errors just mentioned here, which you can explore better below.

Perhaps one did not so much wish to be loved as to be understood. 
(George Orwell)

2.2.Shielded or distorted listening 

Screened listening blocks or amputates part of the data coming from the auditory channel and distorts it, as it does for the other channels: sight, touch, taste, smell. The outcome is not understanding, not paying attention, distorting the incoming data. Literally, understanding one thing for another. It happens when you are too tired to listen, or the listener is experiencing an emotional state that is not appropriate for quality listening (e.g. anger, frustration, euphoria, passion, and many other strong emotions) and there are internal states that stand in the way of quality listening.

You will have very often been on the other side, in the role of the person speaking, and not understood at all, or even completely misunderstood. Well, you now have a definite label for this condition.

2.3. Judgmental/aggressive listening 

Being misunderstood by those we love is the worst condition for living and facing life’s commitments every day. Misunderstanding weighs like a mountain and traces deep furrows on the soul.

 (Romano Battaglia)

Judgmental/aggressive listening is characterized by the fact that the receiver does not really listen but, gathers snippets of information and then immediately makes judgments and judgements. When it affects us, we can say that we are “putting up a wall” towards the other person, such that it doesn’t even matter what they say, how they say it, it’s all wrong “regardless”. What we can call a “negative reverberation” can either touch on “what you said on topic x is nonsense”, or go straight to the heart, attacking the person themselves and not their phrase “you are an egocentric and don’t understand anything”. 

This second form of offense is much more serious than the first because it involves the person in his or her totality: “you are”, and not in a delimited action “you do x and I don’t like that x”. Judgmental listening is done with words, but not only. It can also emerge from a very subtle grimace emitted in a non-verbal way, such as “turning up one’s nose” during an affirmation that one does not approve of, and it is not to be confused with emotional participation in what the other person is saying. Aggressive listening triggers the aggression-hate spiral. It is truly an enemy of human relationships and humanity more generally.

Peace cannot be maintained by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.

 (Albert Einstein)

2.4. Apathetic or passive listening 

That there are worse things than an absence. A distracted presence.

 (manuela_reich, Twitter)

Apathetic or passive listening is characterized by our or others’ “mental absence,” and is negative. Devoid of energy, tired, “dead”, switched off, distracted. It is an empty listening of signals, practiced by a person who is disinterested, or incapable of listening, often totally absorbed by his internal processes, by his inner reasoning, in which the words heard do not make a breach. Like throwing darts at an armored safe, those darts shatter and fall. Nothing really gets in. Communication and messages only touch these people, and to say that they will understand little of what is said is to give them a gift.

Article translated by dott. Federica Vazquez, CIELS Advanced Degree in Strategic Communication (“Laurea Magistrale in Comunicazione Strategica”), extracted with the author’s permission from the book “Active Listening and Empathy. The Secrets for Effective Communication” (original title: “Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace”), written by Daniele Trevisani, published by Franco Angeli, Milan.

Other online material available in these sites:

Other available online resources

CIELS Institutional Website: https://www.ciels.it/