USA, an Interesting Melting Pot

Article written by Ginevra Bighini, www.interculturalnegotiation.wordpress.com; mentoring by Dr. Daniele Trevisani, www.studiotrevisani.com

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Today I would like to talk about USA and its incredible melting pot. Starting for US history, I will introduce the concept of melting pot, underling its pros and cons in the business field.

US Multicultural History

The United States are famous for the wide variety of cultures that live inside their borders. But how was this melting pot created? Let’s look at some interesting passages in the history of this country.

Before 1600 A.D. North America was inhabited by many indigenous peoples (Native Americans) with different identities, religions, beliefs and cultures, who lived in tribes. Thanks to the Atlantic Ocean, these people lived in their own world, apart from all other societies.

This period lasted only until the European colonization. In 1492 Christopher Columbus, financed by Spain, made the first of four voyages to the New World, landing in the Bahamas. From this point onward, European countries started a gradual colonization of North America. English, Spanish, French, Dutch, etc. moved to the new world in search of a new life of prosperity, each of them bringing his/her own personal culture. These many cultures got into contact with native Americans’ cultures, giving birth to a multicultural community.

Furthermore, many African slaves were forced to these areas, where their culture was added to the already existing cultural mix.

All these cultural differences brought improvements and conflicts, especially conflicts. Wars between Natives and Europeans, as well as fights among different European colonies, were quite frequent.

As we all well know, after years of inner and outer wars, USA became an independent nation in 1776, but being independent wasn’t enough to stop all conflicts derived from multiculturalism. In fact, from 1861 to 1865 America fought its Civil War, which began as a result of the unresolved controversy of the enslavement of black people and its disputed continuance.

Even though the loyalists of the Union won, putting an end to slavery, African American people had had to suffer abuse, violence, racism and racial laws for many years. Even now there are people, who are not able to accept other identities and cultures that refuse them without a concrete reason.

Before and after the two World Wars, the US welcomed a great number of immigrants from all the continents and what we have now, after years of cultural mixing and wars, is an incredible melting pot.

Melting Pot

In order to describe the concept of “melting pot” I’m going to use the perfectly summarised definition of Wikipedia:

The melting pot is a monocultural metaphor for a heterogeneous society becoming more homogeneous, the different elements “melting together” with a common culture; historically, it is often used to describe the cultural integration of immigrants to the United States. The exact term “melting pot” came into general usage in the United States after it was used as a metaphor describing a fusion of nationalities, cultures and ethnicities in the 1908 play of the same name by Israel Zangwill.” (1)

US melting pot is linked to cultural assimilation or Americanisation. This means that instead of maintaining cultural differences, USA politics prefer mixing them up, while creating a unique culture based on these multicultural features. This new unique culture represents the US identity.

But what are the pros and cons related to this attitude to multiculturality?

As we saw in US history, bringing culture together means generating innovative and original world views, as well as creating conflicts, misunderstandings and rejection. The same happens in business.

We live in a complex, interconnected world where diversity, shaped by globalization and technological advance, forms the fabric of modern society. In this era of globalization, diversity in the business environment is about more than gender, race and ethnicity. It now includes employees with diverse religious and political beliefs, education, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientation, cultures and even disabilities.

Diversity in the workplace is an asset for both businesses and their employees, in its capacity to foster innovation, creativity and empathy in ways that homogeneous environments seldom do. Yet it takes careful nurturing and conscious orchestration to unleash the true potential of this invaluable asset. (2)

If these differences are not rightly managed, conflict is inevitable. Cultures will clash and business performances will be affected by this tense working atmosphere. For this reason, it is important to create a business environment that minimizes intercultural disharmony (3), while giving all employees the possibility to freely express their ideas and values, without prejudices.

To conclude, looking at the US history and at its melting pot, we can understand that without cultural awareness, there is no cultural respect. So, open your mind, feel free to express your own cultural identity, but be aware that your view of the world can be different from others and you have to accept it. Do not impose your ideas and opinions, just share them and be happy if others share their own personal cultures with you, because this cultural contact will enrich you and will give birth to a person able to see the world in many different ways, thus capable of finding original solutions to every problem.

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melting_pot#Melting_pot_and_cultural_pluralism

(2) https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/04/business-case-for-diversity-in-the-workplace/

(3) https://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2013/12/09/how-cultural-conflict-undermines-workplace-creativity/

Article written by Ginevra Bighini, www.interculturalnegotiation.wordpress.com; mentoring by Dr. Daniele Trevisani, www.studiotrevisani.com

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Empathy and Active Listening (part 2)

© Article translated from the book “Parliamoci Chiaro: il modello delle quattro distanze per una comunicazione efficace e costruttiva” (Let’s Speak Clearly: the four distances model for an effective and constructive communication) copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Communication Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available for any Publisher wishing to consider it for publication in English and other languages except for Italian, whose rights are already sold and published. If you are interested in publishing the book in English, or any other language, or seek Communication Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact the author from the website www.danieletrevisani.com 

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Let’s continue explaining the advantages deriving from empathy and active listening, basic principles of the ALM business method.

Silence

Quality listening requires silence.

When you listen, in silence, even the subtlest rustle acquires meaning. By combining any sensory information, we are able to perceive more in a quiet situation, rather than in a chaotic one. If we can’t grasp information, we will never be able to interpret it, to give it meaning, to evaluate it and to understand its meanings.

Active listening and empathy should not be confused with accepting another people’s content.

The rules of active listening are methods that allow thoughts to flow as freely as possible. The so-called “unconditional acceptance” is valid in a psychotherapeutic context, but not necessarily in everyday communication.

Inner Dialogue and Authenticity

We often talk to a very close person: ourselves.

A very important topic linked to communication topic and personal growth concerns the concept of “Basic Rogersian Distance” or Self-incongruity.

With this term we intend to summarize a critical aspect presented by Carl Rogers in his work Client-Centred Therapy, dedicated to the process of individual growth and self-development.

According to Rogers, one of the most conditioning variables in personal growth is the presence of incongruity, whose critical nodes are:

  • believing things concerning us that are not true, and
  • not realizing how we really are.

The synthesis of Rogersian thought highlights these mechanisms:

  • people are often not aware of what they are doing. A manager may think to have managed a deal well, without realising that the other party si laughing just outside the door;
  • people are often unaware of their mistakes. They blame the negative results on the forces of fate and avoid conducting an introspection that could leads them to discover that they have defects and that they must improve. This prevents them from grasping their goals and their need for personal growth;
  • it is difficult to become aware of one’s real behaviours and errors, until one seeks and accepts as many honest feedbacks as possible, while facing an authentic interlocutor who can help the person open his/her eyes by highlighting inconsistencies.

For a self-perception dystonia to emerge and not degenerate further (and in some cases it really degenerates into a deep crisis), it is necessary that the person must be able to benefit from an extremely rare yet indispensable condition: having internal or external consultants, trainers, coaches or counsellors, who know how to observe a hidden reality and are willing to deal with extreme authenticity without distortions and fears.

The consultant is an increasingly important figure. As Rogers himself observes, authenticity is the basis of the effectiveness of any helping relationship. In the ALM method authenticity is essential as an engine for development, and its benefits far outweigh its costs.

Authentic relationships are extremely rare, but we can and must make every effort to actively build them, research them and create the conditions for them to occur, both in everyday life and in business life. This means speaking clearly.

In a consulting approach, authenticity is necessary to let problems of image emerge. Authenticity is part of any relationship: there is an authenticity towards us (we must stop lying to ourselves) and an authenticity towards others (we must stop hiding behind fake social masks).

To sum up, personal efficiency and effectiveness are positively correlated to:

  1. the knowledge and awareness of one’s own identity, culture and communicative behaviour;
  2. the time and energy devoted to the active construction of an ideal image of oneself and of one’s company and the willingness and concreteness in improving oneself;
  3. one’s self-knowledge, favoured by an authentic consultancy and counselling relationship capable of bringing out distortions and inconsistencies between the person’s real situation, and his/her false opinions, beliefs and self-deceptions.

The negative factors that can affect corporate and personal efficiency and effectiveness are:

  1. poor awareness of oneself;
  2. lack of analysis and active construction of an aspirational identity (ideal self, ideal image);
  3. lack of awareness of one’s own gaps;
  4. persistence of self-deceptions that have not emerged and are not treated as such;
  5. inability or unwillingness to implement a personal growth plan, hoping that “things will work out, anyway”. If you don’t do something serious and specific, they will never be fixed.
"Let's Speak Clearly" by Daniele Trevisani

© Article translated from the book “Parliamoci Chiaro: il modello delle quattro distanze per una comunicazione efficace e costruttiva” (Let’s Speak Clearly: the four distances model for an effective and constructive communication) copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Communication Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available for any Publisher wishing to consider it for publication in English and other languages except for Italian, whose rights are already sold and published. If you are interested in publishing the book in English, or any other language, or seek Communication Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact the author from the website www.danieletrevisani.com 

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For further information see:

Empathy and Active Listening (part 1)

© Article translated from the book “Parliamoci Chiaro: il modello delle quattro distanze per una comunicazione efficace e costruttiva” (Let’s Speak Clearly: the four distances model for an effective and constructive communication) copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Communication Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available for any Publisher wishing to consider it for publication in English and other languages except for Italian, whose rights are already sold and published. If you are interested in publishing the book in English, or any other language, or seek Communication Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact the author from the website www.danieletrevisani.com 

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Today we are going to introduce the concepts of empathy and active listening, fundamental elements of effective and authentic communication.

Listening well means paying attention to what the other person is saying, sometimes rephrasing the most important points of the conversation, so as to be sure you understood correctly. While listening we must also apply empathy, which means we have to try to understand our interlocutor without judging him/her prematurely and to put ourselves in his/her shoes.

Listening badly or in a confused way can cause quarrels and conflicts, because we would react based on something we couldn’t understand or that we could only partially understood.

In addition to that, when talking about “relational distances”, we must remember that we can create or remove distance both during the emission phase (when we are sending a message) and the listening phase.

Some listening techniques here become fundamental:

  • Reflecting: acting as a mirror, reformulating what has been understood. This technique allows you to open the conversation to new content.
  • Deflecting: recognizing topics that are not relevant in the conversation, while being able to expel them from it.
  • Probing: testing information with a related question. For example, you can say ” Based on what you told me, I understand that you don’t like him: is that correct?”.
  • Recap: summarize and relaunch. Make some recapitulations of all information that has been collected so far and get the conversation going with new content.
  • Contact: use non-verbal languages constantly, such as eye contact, nods, guttural and paralinguistic expressions or phatic signals (signals used to express that you are following your interlocutor, like “ok”, “understood”, “ready”, etc.).

Imagining two people expressing themselves well but incapable of listening, it’s like observing someone who tries to pour water, pure and clear, into a sealed vessel.

But what are the different types of listening we can use to improve communication?

Here below you can find a scale of listening types. The lower positions give rise to large communicative distances, while as you go up, the distances are reduced.

Screened / Distorted / Inaccurate Listening

It is a very bad listening, performed with disinterest or in a state of fatigue. There is no real willingness to listen, and the person would like to get out of the conversation as soon as possible. It produces great relational distance between people.

Judging / Aggressive Listening

It is a type of listening very often used, where one listens only partly to what the other is saying and it does so only with the aim of judging or to take his/her turn as soon as possible. He/she always tries to speak, often attacking, without actually understanding what the other person said.

Apathetic / Passive Listening

It is a type of listening that does not judge but does not even appreciate. The person seems mummified and does not give any signals. It can sometimes create distances, but it certainly won’t bring people closer. The passivity comes from the lack of use of non-verbal communication,

Listening from Time to Time

It is a very common attitude, probably the most common. At times we are there, then we are distracted by something else, like a phone call or a message, and then we go back to listening, and so on. It is a type of listening that creates distances.

Selective Listening

Selective listening is used to discover precise information on a certain topic. As such, it can be considered an “approaching” listening only if the topic is of personal interest; otherwise it resembles too much an interrogation: a conversational format that does not bring people closer.

Active / Supportive Listening

Active listening is accompanied by precise verbal formulas, such as recaps, reformulations of short sections of the conversation, attentive and participatory non-verbal languages. this is a type of listening that can reduce distances.

Empathic Listening

Empathic listening possesses both the characteristics of active listening and the attitude of wanting to deeply understand the interlocutor’s emotional experience. It is therefore a listening format that brings people closer.

Sympathetic Listening

When you use a sympathetic listening, you show sympathy and human warmth towards the person you are listening to. It is not an empathic listening, since it can also contain interruptions and sentences where one talks about himself/herself, but it is a formula that brings people closer, especially when carried out with sincerity.

To be continued…

"Let's Speak Clearly" by Daniele Trevisani

© Article translated from the book “Parliamoci Chiaro: il modello delle quattro distanze per una comunicazione efficace e costruttiva” (Let’s Speak Clearly: the four distances model for an effective and constructive communication) copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Communication Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available for any Publisher wishing to consider it for publication in English and other languages except for Italian, whose rights are already sold and published. If you are interested in publishing the book in English, or any other language, or seek Communication Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact the author from the website www.danieletrevisani.com 

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For further information see: