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:

Non-Verbal Intercultural Communication (part 2)

© Article translated from the book “Negoziazione interculturale, comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali” (Intercultural Negotiation: Communication Beyond Cultural Barriers) copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation 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 and Arab whose rights are already sold and published. If you are interested in publishing the book in English, or any other language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact the author from the webstite www.danieletrevisani.com 

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In this second part I would like to continue talking about non-verbal communication and its characteristics, this time focusing on training, sensory perception, personal look and colour, while explaining the importance of identifying assonances and dissonances between verbal and non-verbal language.

Training

Training on the use of paralinguistic elements means learning the strategic use of pauses and tones. It includes many repertoires of theatrical and actor techniques, such as the Stanislavskij method, probably the only one truly capable of transforming expressive behaviours.

Without adequate preparation the chances of being competitive on the negotiating level decrease. As the gap between our training level and the training level of the counterpart increases, the risk of an unfavourable outcome during a negotiation grows.

Sensory Perceptions

Some clichés spreading in multicultural college campuses are that whites “taste like chicken”, Asians “smell of garlic”, blacks “taste of sweat”, etc.

The olfactory differences on an ethnic and genetic level do exist, but the perceived smell is largely determined by cultural factors such as nutrition, cleanliness or the use of perfumes.

Personal olfactory emissions are a communication tool.

It is certain that the sense of smell affects perception, and that food produces essences that exude from the skin and breath. If we want to manage even the smallest details of intercultural negotiation and, more generally, of the human contact, we must take care of these aspects.

Anything that can be attributed to the subject or to the corporate environment affects perception and image. Some clothing chains have resorted to the targeted deodorization of shops to create a more relaxed and pleasant atmosphere (environmental olfactory marketing).

Smell is a remote sense of the human being, partially abandoned in favour of senses such as sight and hearing. Animal “noses” are able to pick up smells that signal sexual emotions or predispositions, while human noses seem to have lost this trait.

There are practical implications for conscious personal deodorization: avoid foods that can produce strong breath emissions, avoid excessive personal fragrances, be aware of personal odours (e.g. sweat) and consider the importance of olfactory environmental marketing.

Personal Look

We usually know nothing about people’s real history. We can only assume it by looking at the symbols they decide to show us. There are signs/symbols everywhere: on the interlocutor and in his/her communicative space. Symbolic communication concerns the meanings that people associate to and perceive from those particular “signs”. By communicative space we mean any area linked to the subject’s “system”, such as his/her car, or the background of his/her computer, and any other sign from which we derive information, meanings and interpretations.

From a semiotic point of view, every element from which a subject draws meaning becomes a “sign”, whether the bearer is aware of it or not.

Look, clothing and accessories are among the most incisive factors that build one’s personal image.

Differences or similarities in clothing, for example, can put a person inside a professional ingroup (“one like us”, an “equal”) or an outgroup (“one different from us”), depending of the meaning that the word “us” has for the interlocutor.

In a widened signification system, the symbols associated to the brands used, the type of car, and even the office furniture, can become very important.

chronemic behaviours (the string of actions over time) are also broadened signals related to how frequently we change clothes, punctuality, way of driving (calm or nervous), way of eating (slow and relaxed vs. fast and voracious), etc.

Even considering the time a person takes in answering a question can be significant: slow or overly thoughtful responses can be interpreted as insincere in Western cultures or wise in Eastern cultures.

It can be said that in the field of intercultural communication nothing escapes the observation of the interlocutor, and every “sign” contributes to its classification and evaluation.

Colours

An additional element of symbolic communication is colour. The use of colours and the symbolisms associated with colours also vary according to cultures.

It is not possible to list all possible associations for every colour in each country, but I would like to underline the importance of paying attention to the symbolisms associated with colours, because there are many problems that could arise when choosing colours and graphics, for example in packaging, in business gifts and in objects.

Even objects and symbols are not neutral: an Italian company, for example, used the symbol of an open hand to create the company logo and key rings, producing a wave of protests in Greece, where the open hand symbol is used to offend.

The basic principle to avoid macroscopic errors is the use of pre-tests: a “pilot test” on some member of the local culture, who are able to give a feedback on the appropriateness of colours, shapes and symbolisms within their cultural context.

The pre-test method also applies to the choice of gifts, presents, and any other symbolic action whose impact may vary on a cultural basis.

Consonances and Dissonances between Verbal and Non-Verbal Language

Non-verbal communication can reinforce the verbal message or be dissonant with it.

Listening carefully and nodding can express interest more than just a verbal statement. Saying “I’m interested” with words and expressing boredom or disgust with body actions produces a dissonant signal and creates suspicion or irritation.

The coherence (matching) between words and actions:

  • increases the subject’s perceived honesty;
  • denotes trustworthiness;
  • shows interest;
  • shows that we are in control of the situation;
  • produces a sense of security and solidity of content.

On the contrary, the incongruity:

  • creates a sense of mistrust;
  • generates a feeling of lack of authenticity;
  • produces doubts and suspicions, because the heard verbal content is considered false.

Each linguistic style (on an interpersonal level) is associated with a precise modulation of the non-verbal style. We can indeed have:

  • situations of communicative reinforcement (the non-verbal style reinforces the verbal style);
  • situations of dissonance or inconsistency between verbal and non-verbal communication: the non-verbal language is on a different register than the verbal one.

The dissonances concern every semiotic system, every sign that carries a meaning. A company that declares itself important and does not have a website, or has an amateur website, expresses an incongruent image of itself.

"Intercultural Negotiation" by Daniele Trevisani

© Article translated from the book “Negoziazione interculturale, comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali” (Intercultural Negotiation: Communication Beyond Cultural Barriers) copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation 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 and Arab whose rights are already sold and published. If you are interested in publishing the book in English, or any other language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact the author from the webstite www.danieletrevisani.com 

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For further information see: