Riepilogo quinta lezione del Professore Dott. Daniele Trevisani (25 marzo 2021)

Dr. Daniele Trevisani – Formazione Aziendale Ricerca Coaching home

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

Corso di Negoziazione, vedi https://www.ciels.it/avada_portfolio/trevisani-daniele/?portfolioCats=74

Parole chiave

  • Empatia comportamentale
  • Empatia relazionale
  • Empatia cognitiva
  • Empatia emozionale
  • Evocazione semantica
  • Leadership emozionale
  • Metacomunicazione
  • Reframing cognitivo
  • Ghost costumer
  • Intelligenza emotiva
  • Goal setting

Concetti fondamentali trattati

  1. Evocazioni semantiche: richiami a mondi percettivi che si innescano tramite l’utilizzo di determinate parole e gesti;
  2. Metacomunicazione: parlare del linguaggio, spiegando ed illustrando il codice comunicativo che si sta utilizzando in quel momento;
  3. Intelligenza emotiva: capacità di comprendere quale stato emotivo stiamo vivendo, conoscendo e sapendo etichettare le proprie emozioni.

Sintesi del mio apprendimento

  1. Ho imparato l’importanza della leadership emozionale, ovvero il saper gestire e dirigere le proprie emozioni;
  2. Ho capito che il reframing cognitivo, ovvero spiegare ed esplicitare alla controparte i termini e il codice comunicativo che stiamo utilizzando, è fondamentale per la buona riuscita di una qualsiasi negoziazione;
  3. Ho compreso quanto sia essenziale stabilire gli obiettivi che si intendono raggiungere (goal setting).


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/

Listening, empathy, emotions, conversational leadership

Article 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.

1.2.        Howell’s climb. Steps towards fluidity

If you were born with wings, I don’t see why you should crawl

if you were born with wings, I don’t see why you shouldn’t try to use them

if you are not born with wings, but you really want them, they will grow

until you don’t even notice you’re using them.

and you will fly high in the sky, free.

As highlighted in “Il Coraggio delle Emozioni”[1], Howell’s studies[2] summarise the human being’s climb towards higher level competences, well exposed in Howell’s Staircase model.

This climb also applies to emotional and empathic listening skills. The different statuses can be extended to the field of training, Coaching or counselling. Let’s see their nature:

Picture 3 – Schematic visualisation of the Staircase of Competences

  1. unconscious incompetence: what I don’t know, elements or gaps that escape my consciousness, my self-awareness;
  2. conscious incompetence: gaps of which I have become aware; becoming aware of a previously unknown lack of skills can be emotionally painful but it’s a necessary stage for learning;
  3. conscious competences: what I know I know; execution is possible but a conscious attention must still be paid to the mechanisms, to the process at hand;
  4. unconscious competences: what I do without having to think about it. The execution takes place without having to think consciously, it uses psycho-motor and/or linguistic patterns already acquired, and this is why it requires a small or limited effort. It is based on a strong mastery of the mechanisms in action. It highlights the presence of mastery in skills, an internalised, definitively acquired ability;
  5. super-competences: the level of maximum mastery combined with an extreme technique training and personal skills that are out of the ordinary, which differentiates a key-performer, a star performer, from others, although they are good. It also includes intuition, bodily intelligence, multiple intelligences that converge to form the world’s best pilots, the world’s best musicians, the world’s best surgeons, the world’s best dancers, and any other kind of person who excels beyond the norm in his or her field.

Howell’s model was originally designed to study a ranking of states of intercultural empathy. Howell intended to study the different levels of a person’s ability to adapt them to a different cultural context (overcoming the difficulties that come with settling in a non-native country): when can I move well and smoothly within a culture, having incorporated and understood it completely?

This question was the starting point, but the model was then taken up by many as a general scheme of learning degrees in every field, sport, management, education.

William Howell and Stella Ting-Toomey also subsequently introduced a fifth category, Unconscious Super-Competence, to highlight those who, in a process of adaptation, manage to develop skills that are clearly above average, exceptional, above the limit.

The validity of this scale is wide, it concerns all kinds of learning in life. It helps us to ask where we are, or where we have stopped, and, above all, invites us to reflect on the fact that there is room for improvement everywhere and at all times. Also in learning to manage our emotions and develop empathy.

1.3.        Knowing how to ‘read’ people. A return to our ancestral sensibilities

In our DNA there is an inherent part of us that is interested in what others say. If only for personal interest.

One of our main ancestral preoccupations is to understand whether or not a person is dangerous to us, based on the communication signals we receive. Another very concrete preoccupation of a more everyday nature is to understand whether or not a person is credible, whether or not we can give them credit, based on how he/she communicates, the communication channels he/she uses, the signs and signals he/she emits[3].

Knowing how to read a person in an instant means grasping what, in that ‘frame’ of time, a second, or a few minutes, the person is ’emitting’ about him/herself. And so we will be able to capture words, but also and above all emotional states, states of mind, by reading faces, reading the body, listening to the non-voice, the timbre, the vocality, even before the words.

Even from a photo you can tell something. You can also ‘listen’ to a photo, yes. Or a painting, or a piece of music, or a landscape.

Of a person, at work, we might trust what is written on his or her business card, but we insist on looking also at his or her posture, straight or curved back, chin and sad or proud eyes, to understand if he or she is proud of that card is handing to you, or if it is a burden for him or her.

Let’s even say that we are curious by nature, because survival requires knowing things, understanding who is hostile or friendly, and knowing how to do it in a fraction of a second, like the real hunters/gatherers we were, by looking, observing eyes, movements, intentions.

Instinctively smelling situations before ‘understanding them rationally’.

This is part of that Unconscious Intelligence, a form of intelligence that in this book we are adding to the many Multiple Intelligences we have, mental and bodily resources so well exposed by Howard Gardner[4].

Freud has already spoken of unconscious intelligence (calling it ‘Unbewussten Verständnis’, or ‘unconscious understanding‘), but without highlighting it as a resource available to all of us, and the philosopher Schelling (1775-1854) speaks of it even earlier,[5] identifying it as an ‘intelligence of nature’, but once again without considering it for what it may be, our most precious resource. But we want to do it. Gardner showed how the phenomenon of ‘intelligence’ can be broken down into a varied series of distinct human abilities, therefore of different intelligences: linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, personal and Interpersonal[6], adding later, the Intra-personal one related to knowing oneself.

Close to Inter-personal Intelligence, we add in this volume the category of Unconscious Intelligence, which we consider here as a real skill, a trainable competence for active listening, deriving from a stronger connection and training in the dialogue between the Neocortex (a recent part of the brain development), and other ancient areas such as the reptilian brain and the pre-mammalian brain, areas very able to pick up subtle and instinctive information.

And here we are: on the animal side of man, on his ‘reading the gaze’, on his ‘listening also to the unspoken’.

Knowing how to read people, their purposes, requires a return to ancestral skills, when attraction was signalled with eyes to other eyes, and not with a social profile. Now, more than ever, it is time to learn how to read people again. Because, on the one hand, we are losing the ability to recognise ‘bad guys’ or enemies, and on the other hand, we are throwing the baby out with the bathwater and perhaps we say NO to someone who can do us no harm and may even bring us value.

[1] “Il coraggio delle emozioni. Energie per la vita, la comunicazione e la crescita personale“, di Daniele Trevisani, Franco Angeli editore, 2015

[2] Howell, William S. (1982). The empathic communicator. University of Minnesota: Wadsworth Publishing Company.

[3] Weigold, Michael & Trevisani, Daniele (1993). Mass Media, image and persuasion: The indirect effect of communication channels on source credibility and message acceptance. Paper presented at the Annual meeting of the Association For Education In Journalism And Mass Communication, Kansas City, MO, USA, (1993, August).

[4] Howard Gardner (1983), Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Edition Hachette UK, 2011.

[5] Friedrich Schelling, Vom Ich als Prinzip der Philosophie oder über das Unbedingte im menschlichen Wissen (The self as the principle of Philosophy or the foundation of human knowledge), 1795

Friedrich Schelling, Ideen zu einer Philosophie der Natur (Ideas for a philosophy of nature), 1797

[6] Howard Gardner (2010), Formae mentis. Saggio sulla pluralità dell’intelligenza. Feltrinelli, Milano.


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/

Riepilogo Didattico : Lezione 4

Prof Daniele Trevisani www.studiotrevisani.it

Presso Campus Ciels Padova, Laurea Magistrale in Comunicazione Strategica LM94

Corso di Negoziazione, vedi Trevisani Daniele – Campus Ciels

Parole chiave della lezione:

  • Hub informativo
  • Information operations
  • Ascolto attivo
  • Empatia
  • Point of view
  • Psicologia delle emozioni
  • Resilienza
  • Ascolto paralinguistico
  • Endstate
  • Name dropping
  • Assist Negoziale
  • 4 livelli empatia
  • Ghost customer
  • Frontline digitale
  • Frontline interpersonale
  • Topic shifting

Concetti fondamentali trattati:

  • Hub informativo o information fusion center: un concetto che fa parte della dottrina di information operations (INFOOPS), ovvero luogo fisico o virtuale dove convergono tutte le informazioni relative ad un caso per poi essere distribuite ai vari attori sociali protagonisti.
  • Ascolto paralinguistico: espressioni gutturali che accompagnano la comunicazione verbale.
  • Endstate: stato di destinazione di una negoziazione.
  • Assist negoziale: supporto che una terza parte da e non da a una negoziazione.
  • Frontline digitale: facce digitali che il cliente viene a incontrare.
  • Ghost customer: situazione nella quale si possono testare le capacità comunicative e di ascolto.
  • Impression management: immagine che si da di se stessi e della propria organizzazione.
  • Topic shifting: mossa conversazionale più importante che consiste nel cambio di argomentazione.

Sintesi del mio apprendimento:

Ho capito che l’immagine che si da di se stessi e della propria organizzazione è molto importante e dev’essere curata.

Ho imparato che la frontline digitale è la faccia digitale con la quale il cliente viene a che fare.

Ho riflettuto sui vari livelli di ascolto e di empatia e sul come applicarli.


fire fuoco Eraclito logos

The scale of listening levels

Article translated by dott. Martina GIannotti, 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.

2.5. Fragmented listening

It’s not the chatter of people around us that is the most powerful distractor, but rather the chatter of our own minds. Utter concentration demands these inner voices be stilled.
(Daniel Goleman)

Sometimes attentive listening, sometimes distracted. It is a mechanism that creates bad listening.
Distracted listening is extremely common, probably the most realistic state of average daily interactions.
We listen, then something about someone else’s content ‘turns us on’ because it relates to our own interests, then maybe we ask a follow-up question, then someone else’s content changes, or something comes to mind, we jump from one thought to another, our head ‘goes away’, or we hear a sentence from someone else’s conversation that catches our attention, we get lost, we ‘walk away’ from the conversation, even though we are still physically there. The quickest way to apply bad listening “at times” is to listen with a media on, listen while typing on a keyboard or screen, listen with the TV on or with a monitor on, which we may consider “background” but background is not, as information comes out of it that sometimes catches us, and this is one of the worst listening ever, except for a few moments of “mental presence”.
The effort of talking to someone who listens ‘in fits and starts’ is enormous, both physically and emotionally. After this review of bad listening, let’s move on to listening of a better nature highlighted on the scale.

2.6. Effective listening. Selective, active, empathic and sympathetic listening
When we think of effective listening we first think of positive experiences, moments when we felt heard with our hearts and not just our ears.
But effective listening can have many nuances, which are worth exploring. It is essential to understand that listening becomes effective when it achieves its ends, and its ends are different depending on the relationship. In a phase of listening to a person who has experienced trauma, empathic listening will be important and indeed healing.
But if we are listening to a person who is telling us about an accident in progress in which there are people still in danger, we will have to know how to switch to active and selective listening immediately, not a word more, not a word less. Fast, quick and incisive, getting what we need, to move on to action or swiftly pass the information on to others. And the information must be ‘clean’, otherwise we risk circulating ‘dirty’ and wrong information, and doing damage.
The good listener is therefore not always “good, good, patient, nice and always says yes”, but rather, knows how to use the right listening mode for the purpose, knows how to understand the context, knows how to use multiple tools and modes, which can sometimes be quick and sharp, other times slow, soft and welcoming.

2.7 Selective listening
With selective listening we overcome the “red zone” of listening and enter into modes that can be really useful.
Selective listening, although not empathic in intent, seeks very precise information, which can be both objective (things, people, times) and emotional (moods, feelings), with respect to a certain episode or theme being explored. Whoever wants to do active listening must know how to do selective listening, because in some moments it is essential to know how to “take apart an episode”, to understand what to repeat or not to do again, and to know how to take apart positive episodes, to understand the success factors that we managed to create, and how precisely the chains of events followed one another.
Some listening techniques become fundamental here:
Reflecting: acting as a mirror, reformulating what has been understood. It allows one to be more precise and opens up other content.
Deflecting: Recognising the input of themes that do not belong and managing to get them out of the conversation, dampening them and expelling them.
Probing: Testing a piece of information with a related question, e.g. asking “since you told me he arrived late, when did he arrive?”. Useful for further investigation.
Recap: Recap and relaunch. Recapitulate what has been collected so far and open “OK, we’ve reached the point where you turn up for the interview, they make you wait, you start to get nervous, you walk in and you don’t know what to say. Then what happened?”
Contact: constant eye contact signals, nodding of the head, guttural and paralinguistic expressions (uhm, ah, oh), everything that is a “Fàtic” signal (fàtic signals are those that say, in essence, “I am there”, I am present, I am here for you).
All these techniques will be discussed in more detail when we talk about “conversation analysis”, but it is good to know that they exist, and that active, selective or empathic listening uses precise techniques, and is not limited to the will to listen.

In selective listening, we are extremely focused on understanding a specific thing, a specific question about what the other person is thinking, or a precise piece of information that we want to grasp. 

Everything else is of no interest to us. 

Our mental presence is switched on, sharp, but directed like a laser towards an information point, and not – as in empathic listening – welcoming towards whatever emerges. When material emerges that does not interest us, we bring the conversation back to the ‘focus’ we are interested in with questions (with topic shifting, or conversational refocusing).

In terms of the efficiency and effectiveness of selective listening, our questions only become ‘diagnostic’ when they manage to cleanse the picture, leaving only what really interests us, so practicing it well requires technique and study. This also happens in daily life, and we need not worry about it. The question can be “what time will you be home?” and we can only be interested in one hour, and nothing else. Not the story of life. We have to worry instead if the intention is to listen actively and empathetically to an emotional and human experience, and only questions of clarification or monosyllabic answers come out. If we ask selective listening “where would you like to go on holiday”, the listening will focus only on the “where”, neglecting the “how”, the “subtle nature” of the type of holiday the other person would like to take. Practicing selective listening is not in itself wrong or right. It depends on the consistency between our underlying purpose and the type of questions that come up. We can assess it on the basis of the empathy factor – if our purpose is to create empathy, it can be used but it must be dosed very carefully. Empathy is a process that ‘welcomes’ rather than excludes and so selective listening is great for gathering data but very poor for really targeting emotions.

2.8. Active listening

A good listener is one who helps us overhear ourselves.
(Yahia Lababidi)

When we practice active listening we are immersed in a special activity. We are giving interest, our time, our energy, to understand a person, their content, their intentions, and a piece of their story. People are generally wary of opening up and telling about themselves, their inner selves, even to themselves. Active listening offers a ‘life platform’ where the words of others and the thoughts of others can gently and progressively rest.

Each opening is followed by a greater opening, until the ‘core’ of the person is revealed for what it is, in its splendor, in its pain, in its truth. Freed from masks and self-consciousness.

Getting to the ‘human core’ of a person takes a long way, but it can be done. From the nothingness of empathic listening, every small step towards ‘sharing’ is always significant.

The person who engages in listening, basically, wants to listen, considers it an important fact, to the point of putting the brakes on his or her thinking, omitting to say how he or she thinks, putting the brakes on ‘taking the turn of the conversation’ to make an argument or express opinions. 

Active listening focuses on listening. It does this with words, with questions, and also with the body. It uses bodily and paraverbal signals of participation in what is said, reformulations and recapitulations of perceived content, and other linguistic and non-verbal devices that serve to give the signal “what you say interests me, I am following you”. Active listening can be practiced for two major classes of interests, even opposite to each other. It can be done as an extreme act of love, a gift we give to a friend, or a moment of great humanity in which we take an interest in others. 

Or it can be an extremely strategic listening, a professional listening in which we need the information inside someone else’s mind. We may need it to help the other person, as in coaching or therapy, or we may need it to run an organization, or to make decisions, as in leadership.

In any case, what we have in our minds is always enriched by listening to others.

It is natural that more information emerges from active listening and the person can also expose emotional information, which is all the more profound the more the listener is committed to not judging, not judging, not interrupting, not ‘interpreting’.

Active listening requires energy, commitment, a rested body, an alert and watchful mind. When we are in this mode, even a single nod of the eyebrow can give us valuable information.

We can not be distracted for a moment that we’re screwed 

for the rest of our life! 

Micaela Ramazzotti – Anita

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