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.

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/

intercultural negotiation working communication

Role Theories and Communication of the Leadership Role

© 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 

Cooperative Dialogue (Cooperative Interaction)

Being the leader of a family means being able to act as a “guide” of the family itself, and this is expressed in group and individual conversations with family members. Being the leader of a production department means assuming the role of reference point for all technicians, managing to manage conflicts, meetings, training and motivational processes.

Being the leader of a sales force means taking on the role of mentor and coordinator of resources and strategies, and applying the role in every communication with your collaborators. Regardless of which corporate or social reference group is, leadership must be considered a meta-role that transversally invests a subject within a group of individuals.

The assumption of the role is evident in the method of communication adopted, and its lack is equally evident. As Tonfoni points out, each role is charged with expectations and role behaviors: According to the Theory of Roles, a certain sequence of planned actions, called “role”, refers to the individual actors who occupy certain positions within one or more groups, within which there is a balance determined by the fact that at each “status “separate functions are assigned.

Based on the dynamics of the role, each individual must correspond to relative expectations; the role is therefore definable as a model of social behavior appropriate in relation to the expectations and the actual way in which an individual behaves in a certain situation. Failure to respect expectations and role behaviors is evident precisely in the inter-individual and group conversation in which the subject does not act as a “private individual” but as an “interpreter of the role of leader”.

Leadership therefore requires attention to the communicative listening dynamics in which they manifest themselves:

  • attacks on the role by team members;
  • improper role assumptions by team members or other subjects;

The correlated communicative behaviors are therefore:

  • reporting of the leader’s perception of the attack on the role;
  • clarification of the facts, making it clear that it is understood what is happening.
  • defense of the role;
  • negotiation of mutual roles. Leadership move detection exercise
  • Simulate starting a project to build a new product (banking, automobile, tourism, or others of your choice) that requires joint work between engineers, marketing experts and management control and finance experts.
  • Have all the participants start the dialogue in turn, with the requirement that those who open the negotiation try to be the leader.
  • Notice how during a conversation a participant taking an agreed role implements leadership. What to do to manage the power? Participants must decode the moves implemented by the assigned role, understand how the leader implements his leadership on the field.
  • In the debriefing phase (post-simulation analysis), provide feedback to the conversation leader on the effectiveness of the moves implemented.

Cooperative Dialogue (Cooperative Interaction)

The cooperative dialogue involves a strong concentration of positive moves, of openness, a use of SIM for analysis and sharing, and the elimination of attacks on the role and identity of others. The cooperative dialogue mainly consists of:

  • listening, avoiding interruption;
  • strategic shifts between the macro-purposes of the projects and the details, with a preference for macro-purposes and the search for a shared mission; consider the differences on the details as temporary, recoverable, and go in search of a common vision and what they have in common;
  • search for a win-win approach;
  • attitudes of openness and avoidance of the judgment of others (suspension of judgment until complete understanding).
Intercultural Negotiation Arab Edition

© 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 

For further information see:

Interpersonal Motivational Systems (IMS) and Intercultural Leadership

© 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 

Conversation Analysis and Negotiation Communication Climates

In each of the different communication moments that occur in the groups, different communication systems can be activated. The exchanges of messages that we observe between people or in a group are only the tip of the iceberg of stronger relational processes, the Interpersonal Motivational Systems (SIM).

Some of the most recognized SIMs are:

  • attachment;
  • seduction;
  • competitive spirit;
  • cooperation.

The conflict and the malfunctions of the groups therefore start from the system of communication observable in the dynamics of the group. Intercultural leadership consists in taking the reins of intercultural encounters, and being able to direct them with awareness and cultural tact.

It absolutely does not mean domination over the other, but it consists in an attempt to voluntarily manage communication flows, seen from above for greater awareness. For example, it is possible to recognize which of the Motivational Systems is being generated in the negotiation, and try to modify it. The principle of cooperation acts as the main glue of the group, but other systems can also be activated to increase its dynamism.

The Qualitative Analysis of Conversational States

We can recognize the type of communication in progress within a group by carefully reading the signals. With adequate training and high natural sensitivity, it is possible to grasp in a few words which are the “conversational states” that predominate a communication. By “conversational states” we mean here a sequence of communicative moves attributable to prototypes, for example:

  • confession,
  • seduction,
  • reciprocal jabs (creeping conflict),
  • the “locker room conversation”,
  • self-celebration,
  • seeking help,
  • self-victimization,
  • the offer of help,
  • the accusation,
  • the scientific analysis of a problem,
  • “let’s try to understand”,
  • the “gossiping of the absent”,
  • the outburst,
  • the “talk of trouble”,
  • the “daydream”,
  • the quarrel,
  • the interrogation,
  • the game,
  • the joke,
  • “talking among the like”.

Conversations are constantly moving from one state to another, and we can have conversations that start in terms of “confession” and then move into seduction, and slip into self-celebration, then again into accusation.

During an intercultural negotiation, the negotiator must be aware of the fact that certain conversational formats – such as play and joke – are difficult to translate between different cultures, so it is very easy to make gaffes, be humorous or forcibly “nice”. Other conversational formats, such as the scientific analysis of a problem, or “talking among similar people” (eg: confronting “family fathers”) can bring out cultural differences but with less room for error.

Each conversation (negotiation and otherwise) proceeds along one format anyway until another and different format takes hold. The role of conversational leadership is exactly to move formats and direct them where it is most productive. In the following diagram, we can visually grasp the concept of “layout of the conversational format”, which expresses a possible course of the conversation. What is productive, for intercultural negotiation, is therefore the ability to understand how the conversation is evolving along the path, and the ability to move the lines within more productive communication spaces.

Intercultural Negotiation Arab Edition

© 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 

For further information see:

Interpersonal Motivational Systems (SIM) and Intercultural Leadership

© 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 

Conversation Analysis and Negotiation Communication Climates

In each of the different communication moments that occur in the groups, different communication systems can be activated. The exchanges of messages that we observe between people or in a group are only the tip of the iceberg of stronger relational processes, the Interpersonal Motivational Systems (SIM).

Some of the most recognized SIMs are:

  • attachment;
  • seduction;
  • competitive spirit;
  • cooperation.

The conflict and the malfunctions of the groups therefore start from the system of communication observable in the dynamics of the group. Intercultural leadership consists in taking the reins of intercultural encounters, and being able to direct them with awareness and cultural tact.

It absolutely does not mean domination over the other, but it consists in an attempt to voluntarily manage communication flows, seen from above for greater awareness. For example, it is possible to recognize which of the Motivational Systems is being generated in the negotiation, and try to modify it. The principle of cooperation acts as the main glue of the group, but other systems can also be activated to increase its dynamism.

The Qualitative Analysis of Conversational States

We can recognize the type of communication in progress within a group by carefully reading the signals. With adequate training and high natural sensitivity, it is possible to grasp in a few words which are the “conversational states” that predominate a communication. By “conversational states” we mean here a sequence of communicative moves attributable to prototypes, for example:

  • confession,
  • seduction,
  • reciprocal jabs (creeping conflict),
  • the “locker room conversation”,
  • self-celebration,
  • seeking help,
  • self-victimization,
  • the offer of help,
  • the accusation,
  • the scientific analysis of a problem,
  • “let’s try to understand”,
  • the “gossiping of the absent”,
  • the outburst,
  • the “talk of trouble”,
  • the “daydream”,
  • the quarrel,
  • the interrogation,
  • the game,
  • the joke,
  • “talking among the like”.

Conversations are constantly moving from one state to another, and we can have conversations that start in terms of “confession” and then move into seduction, and slip into self-celebration, then again into accusation.

During an intercultural negotiation, the negotiator must be aware of the fact that certain conversational formats – such as play and joke – are difficult to translate between different cultures, so it is very easy to make gaffes, be humorous or forcibly “nice”. Other conversational formats, such as the scientific analysis of a problem, or “talking among similar people” (eg: confronting “family fathers”) can bring out cultural differences but with less room for error.

Each conversation (negotiation and otherwise) proceeds along one format anyway until another and different format takes hold. The role of conversational leadership is exactly to move formats and direct them where it is most productive. In the following diagram, we can visually grasp the concept of “layout of the conversational format”, which expresses a possible course of the conversation. What is productive, for intercultural negotiation, is therefore the ability to understand how the conversation is evolving along the path, and the ability to move the lines within more productive communication spaces.

Intercultural Negotiation Arab Edition

© 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 

For further information see:

Negotiation Meetings, Conversational Leadership and Conversation Styles

© 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 

Linguistic Acts, Communicative Lines of Action and Conversational Leadership

Each “issue with meaning“, within a negotiation, constitutes a linguistic act. Linguistic acts are always inserted within lines of communicative action and help to establish the type of relationship in progress (conflictual, collaborative, and others). Collaborating, keeping low tones, or clashing, arguing, are lines of action in which specific linguistic acts (such as attacking, or collaborating) intervene. Other communicative acts also take on meaning, for example emissions using non-verbal (body movement, gestures, looks) and paralinguistic (tones, pauses, silences, intonations) systems.

Intercultural Education for a Broader Perception in Negotiation

Let’s look at the more general point first. Within the research on psycholinguistics, Linguistic Relativism has shown how each language segments the world and allows us to see particular aspects. What does it mean that a language “segments the world”? In essence, linguistic categories guide perception, focusing the human mind on specific layers of reality and taking the attention away from others.

Eskimos have over 10 specific words for as many types of snow, and this guides perception through preset categories. Where this linguistic distinction does not exist, snow becomes a unique mental object, leaving the composition of sentences with a description of different types of snow. But still, in the Navajo language there is no word equivalent to the concept “late” (the perception of time is always relative), just as in the Amazonian languages ​​there is no word “snow”; in Mandarin Chinese, a single word (qing) represents various shades of both blue and green.

Linguistic accuracy therefore also depends on the availability of specific categories and vocabularies. Thus, a first work emerges which consists in educating the interlocutor to perceive differences. If an Eskimo wants to be able to make the European understand the difference between the ten types of snow, he will have to associate the word (verbal label) used with some recognizable representation (a photograph, or practical demonstration).

At the same time, in order to be able to negotiate, it is necessary to make the other understand the diversity between his or her culture and our culture. Each of the intercultural negotiators must be available to learn, available to train thanks to the encounter with the other. Negotiation on new products or on projects never implemented before requires a phase of acculturation, which enables the counterparty to orient, understand, and consciously choose within differences that they could not perceive before.

Intercultural Negotiation Arab Edition

© 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 

For further information see:

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