The improvement of communication

© 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. 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 Website on Intercultural Negotiation

Intercultural Levels and the Limits of Communication

The accuracy of the information exchange can be improved by reducing the distance along the “code” dimension, which is equivalent to reducing the linguistic distance. In some cases this means learning a foreign language, a dialect or subdialect within a nation, but also learning a professional language, a non-verbal code that characterizes other cultures, proxemic gestures and modalities, cadences and paralinguistic aspects of communication.

The agreement can be improved by decreasing the degree of difference between communicators in values, myths, beliefs, attitudes and ideologies – differences that can have negative consequences in the communication process. Furthermore, as the two are highly interrelated, an increase in code understanding will increase the ability of worldview understanding, and vice versa.

The 2V model can be a useful tool for analyzing hypothetical types of communications. However, the code and worldview dimensions should not always be considered completely different or completely the same, as they vary along a continuum of differences / similarities. Intercultural levels depend on the quantity and quality of difference in the world view and in the communicative code.

On this scale of communication differences, we believe that the ends of the two continuums (the COMSITS presented) represent only hypothetical points and that no real communication event can ever be located in one of the four “pure” COMSITS. In a visual way, this concept of “gradualness” in the differences can be represented by erasing the separations between the 4 quadrants and instead inserting a rating scale.

A further relevant reflection consists in evaluating whether all the points in the table could be realistically represented by a possible communication event.

Indeed, we believe that no real communication event can be located exactly on the edges (the perimeter of the table).

The underlying hypothesis depends on four axioms of communication that we formulate below:

  • COMCOND 1) impossibility of having a completely identical communication code between two individuals;
  • COMCOND 2) impossibility of having a completely equal worldview between two individuals;
  • COMCOND 3) impossibility of having a completely different communication code between two individuals;
  • COMCOND 4) impossibility of having a completely different world view between two individuals.

Some research perspectives on communication support these hypotheses.The genetic codes that govern the biological foundations of non-verbal and paralinguistic communication are similar for every human being.Human beings, like primates, always share a certain degree of similarity and are able to encode and decode signs and signals in some circumstances (eg: physical aggression) without differences between cultures.

In general, the ability to interpret human behavior increases in situations in which cultural codes are less relevant and biological codes take over, such as situations involving survival (aggression) and other more instinctive behaviors (such as eating or sex) .

Furthermore, the research results of Eckman and Friesen (1987) revealed a high level of agreement between cultures in their interpretation of facial expressions of emotions.Saral (1972) also highlighted the transversal and cross-cultural nature of facial communication and expressions.A decrease in the relevance of the cultural code and an increase in the relevance of the instinctive code can also be observed in human-animal communication and in general in communication between species, particularly in conditions of danger.

In other words, people of different cultures or creatures belonging to different species have the ability to perceive the aggressive or non-verbal friendly behavior of a member of another culture or species, while more cultural behaviors will be less interpretable. Biological constraints also have an influence on the impossibility of having a complete difference in the world view (COMCOND 4).

Every human being shares at a basic and instinctual level the tendency to reproduce the species, the attempt not to die of hunger or cold, the protection of children, and in general the behavior of biologically evolved living beings.The evolution towards self-realization is then one of the states that most characterizes every human being, as Carl Rogers points out, and cultures and religions only establish different modalities or “variations on the theme” of this underlying tendency towards self-realization.

The pursuit of self-destruction, the deliberate pursuit of hunger and suffering for oneself and one’s children, the pursuit of non-self-realization (whatever that means for a person) are extremely anomalous and deviant characteristics of the child’s behavior. ‘human being.

Statistically these cases represent outliers, that is cases extremely out of the norm.What we have in common biologically as human beings is vastly superior to what divides us culturally. Empathy techniques (learning to understand the world view of others) and greater attention to the optimization of communication codes can make an enormous contribution to the development of intercultural communication.

The improvement of intercultural communication, in turn, generates an enormous impulse to the realization of common development projects between states, cultures and countries – projects that do not have geographical barriers and borders, but unite people towards a common tendency to personal, social self-realization. and economical.

Human behavior is determined by two types of forces: from cultural conditioning (ontogenetic, learned during growth) and from hereditary biological conditioning (phylogenetic, received from DNA), and ontogenetic (cultural) learning is always grafted onto a phylogenetic basis, which constitutes our common heritage, and no culture will ever be able to scratch, but at the most it will be able to cover, to make people forget.

At the same time, the impossibility of a completely equal code derives from the great depth and semantic variety of signs (the semantic field is the extension and range of possible meanings of a sign).The meaning attributed to the signs is not a stable or “given” element, but is the result of a symbolic agreement between individuals, that is, it is the product of socializationand interpersonal and intergroup agreements, but socialization varies continuously over time, space, and between individual and individual, group and group, and therefore the meanings of the signs also continuously vary.

The signs, and the codes, are alive, and they change. Each dyad of individuals, each group, creates its own communication code over time, attributing particular meanings to the signs used.

This happens, and often unconsciously, within companies. The error determines how much it is taken for granted that the interlocutor of the counterparty company has a shared code. This problem requires a great work of metacommunication, that communicative activity that serves to explain the meaning attributed to the signs emitted and verify the accuracy of the meaning perceived in the signs received.

As with the code, no individual, no organized group, possesses exactly the same range of values, behaviors, attitudes, worldviews, beliefs, ideological positions, over the whole range of objects and situations that become objects of communication. Recognizing diversity is the first useful tool to be able to face it.

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 in Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching and Consulting, please feel free to contact the author from the webstite www.danieletrevisani.com 

For further information see:

Negotiation Cultures, Negotiation Time Frames and Timelines (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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Today I would like to continue talking about negotiation cultures, negotiation timing and timelines, focusing on the importance for the negotiator to acquire the ability to manage and structure them, so as to overcome disagreements and misunderstandings.

The roots of disagreement are to be found: 

  1. in misunderstandings: when we do not understand the signals sent by the other interlocutor, decoding them incorrectly, or  
  1. in hidden ideological divergences. 

The roots of misunderstanding lie in the complexity of human information exchange, in the technical dimension of communication. 

People who share the same culture know how to move within their own cultural timeline; they are generally able to understand the subtle differences in the use of words, non-verbal signals, gestures, bodily expressions, while those who do not share this knowledge are often outsiders. 

Communication trainers and coaches’ work on intercultural communication therefore aims to bring out the invisible level of communication, both in the national (apparently intra-cultural) and in the international dimension. 

As we can see, there are many situations that can lead a person (A) to dialogue with another person (B) starting from different and inter-cultural bases. These different starting points, if not well understood by both interlocutors, generate a latent intercultural situation that can lead to relationship ineffectiveness (in the best cases) or to conflict (in the worst case). 

At the same time, we can find cultural similarities even at a distance of tens of thousands of kilometres – a stockbroker in Milan experiences languages and problems similar to those experienced by a colleague from Paris or Sydney. 

We must therefore wake up to reality and abandon appearances (diversity is not always related to kilometric and linguistic distances, but it is always linked to a different conception of the world). 

Ideally in any conversation or negotiation, the interlocutors must be aware of the cultural differences at stake. 

Both interlocutors must understand the intercultural dimension well (high degree of understanding). However, even if only one of them possessed a high degree of intercultural awareness, the chances of improving communication could increase. 

Furthermore, being aware of the intercultural dimension can be not only a positive factor for the relationship, but also a lever of power. The power of knowledge related to intercultural communication processes becomes a practical advantage of understanding “what is happening here and now” better than the other interlocutor, and therefore determines the power of awareness

Structuring Communication and Negotiation Time Frames 

Personal time can flow through a free fluctuation of experiences, or, conversely, within rigid and structured patterns. 

There are concrete problems deriving from: 

  1. structuring times that should be left fluctuating (e.g.: over-structuring a holiday plan that should be relaxing); 
  1. not structuring time frames that should be structured (e.g.: letting a decision-making meeting – that should produce a precise outcome within an exact deadline – take place in a chaotic communicative situation). 
The Efficient Use of Negotiation Communication Time Frames. 

Each interaction is based on inner times delimiting different frames. 

The economy of interpersonal communication can bring out dysfunctions in the communication time management. 

During a negotiation, the two interlocutors do not always share communication time frames, which creates problems with efficiency and effectiveness. 

In professional meetings and critical meetings (e.g., career negotiation, trade negotiation, etc.), it is necessary to set up an efficient and effective format, to explicitly express it and share it (you can set up and negotiate the format, or else you have to endure it). 

To conclude, effective negotiation communication requires: 

  • the ability to structure negotiation times, identifying the phases through which one intends to proceed; 
  • the ability to introduce in the negotiation time structure, a structure that is adequate to our goals and a degree of adaptation to the counterpart’s culture. 
"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:

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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: