Article translated by dott. Tommaso Pasqualini, 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.
ACTIVE LISTENING MECHANISMS TO MAKE SURE THAT UNDERSTANDING IS CORRECT
When listening, always assume that you will not understand everything perfectly. In this way, you will already know that the techniques of enhanced understanding that we are going to explain will be useful to you. Whatever we listen to, where there is a need for clarification, we can also ask for confirmation of what we have perceived, in order to be able to adjust it. In fact, we only have the possibility of making hypotheses about what we perceive, hypotheses that it is good to verify at least on the key elements, resorting to specific mechanisms:
- Reformulation: I reformulate what I understood and let the interlocutor correct me on what diverges.
- Synthesis and recapitulation: I summarise what I understood and ask if it is correct.
- Reverberation or Echo: a broader reformulation taking in whole categories, among them:
- Reverberation of data: make the sum of all the data heard,
- Emotional reverberation: adding up all the emotions felt, and what they are associated with,
- Belief Map Reverberation or Belief System: add up all the perceived beliefs, which gives back the person’s “way of seeing things”.
Eg: Here in this project we have the following actors: you, your father, the trainer, the course, the CEO, the CFO, the managers. You feel for each one that XYZ. To me, your thought seems to be XYX. Did I understand correctly?
Among the data that we “hear”, there are also non-verbal expressions of self, clothing, a tattoo, haircut, type of shoes, and many other elements. Faced with these elements, the ‘categorisation’, the ‘stereotype’ and the summary and premature judgement may be triggered. I see a person with a floral shirt, shoes without laces, tattoos, I label him as an “alternative leftist” only to discover that he is a Management Consultant instead of the owner of a cannabis shop.
“Happiness is an open mind.
Be careful of your stereotypes and prejudices, they may trap you and make you miss out on what life has to offer.”
In listening, we need to give ourselves time to gather information, compare it with each other, and understand the bigger picture which is only buildable after listening to different aspects of the person, verbal, non-verbal, and unspoken, not just the “packaging of the person”. Listening to beliefs, listening to data, physical observation, observation of emotional states, when they converge, can give us a much broader picture of listening and perception. This is much more technical listening than empathic listening. Empathy consists of placing oneself in the other person’s state of mind to understand him or her. This multilevel listening, on the other hand, is a true mapping and dissection of the communication flow, where the validity and implications of each of the emerging elements are verified. The result can also be collected in a real database.
2.7. The value of silence
Silence, in listening, has its own meanings too. Here is an analysis taken from a video by Eckhart Tolle, to understand the deeep meanings that silence can have.
What lies between words is more important than words. It is not nothingness: it is an energy field. The very fact that you can notice the moments of silence between words means that you are bringing your mental presence to those moments, and that they are significant.
In the moment of pause between sentences, you can allow yourself not to think, and if the gap becomes too long, you will notice that you can think, or you may not even think. This coming and going of thoughts is the most important thing to notice in the whole cycle of a person’s life. The sensations of thinking, of being able to think without losing self-awareness, are rare and noble moments.
From the perspective of an ordinary mind, the silence between words seems almost nothing, nothing at all, something not even comprehensible. However, it is the fundamental moment of being, of the most important form of being, that which is in the background, the non-form that makes up most of ourselves.
The field of awareness encompasses both words and, above all, silence, its meanings, and what emerges during silence, especially what arises from silence: sensory perception, stillness, grounding.
All that matters here is to bring presence to the moments of silence, of apparent emptiness, that makes the words themselves possible. There is a special ability, the ability to stay alert outside the illusion of thought, outside the illusion that leads us to identify with the continuous flow of thoughts.
Maintaining awareness even in moments of silence means gaining self-awareness, the knowledge of existing even without the need for tangible ‘things’, the knowledge of being, no matter what.
Listening to and appreciating silence does not increase knowledge, but it does increase awareness.
Furthermore, active listening knows how to appreciate pauses, silences, how to attribute meaning to them, how to value them, without treating them as ‘lost moments’ or wasted time. They become sacred moments, behind which the deepest meanings are hidden. In my coaching and counselling sessions I often invite clients to pause for a moment of silence before giving an answer to my question. And very often, this generates completely different, and deeper, responses than the immediate answer. Very often, precious nuggets are hidden behind a silence, and sometimes silence is the ingredient that brings them out.
1.1. OTHER ONLINE MATERIAL AVAILABLE IN THESE SITES:
- Sito Studio Trevisani Formazione Coaching Consulenza (Italian & English)
- Sito Daniele Trevisani (Italian)
- Website Dr. Daniele Trevisani (English)
- Comunicazione Aziendale
- Comunicazione Interculturale
- Medialab Research
- Intercultural Negotiation (English)
- Operational Negotiation (English)
- Linkedin Profile Dr. Daniele Trevisani
1.2. OTHER AVAILABLE ONLINE RESOURCES
- Pubblicazioni e libri dott. Daniele Trevisani (Books published)
- Rivista online gratuita di Comunicazione, Potenziale Umano e Management
- Iscrizione gratuita al Blog Studiotrevisani.it tramite Email
- Canale YouTube
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