Emphatic Listening and Communication

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.

1.    Data and emotions: the two basic ingredients of empathic listening 

When a sunrise or sunset no longer gives us excitement, 

means that the soul is sick.

 (Roberto Gervaso)

Empathy is defined in a thousand different ways. 

For our purpose, it is sufficient to focus, here and now, on the fact that empathy is a “state of mind”, a state of openness to listening, of predisposition to grasp the data and emotions that come from the other person, to “feel” them, coming to understand a situation with identification, to be aware of what lives, with the eyes and the heart of the person who is telling us. We will go into this concept in more detail later. We have already said it, but empathy, however deep, is not equivalent to sympathy.

Those who practice empathic listening must be very good at “grasping” and “feeling” but they must absolutely not fall into the trap of “confusing their own self with that of the other”. So, let’s stay for now on a technical aspect: the decomposition of listening into data and emotions. It is fundamental to distinguish “active listening”, of data, from listening to emotions. Listening to data and listening to emotions are two different processes. 

Sometimes co-present, and often they become two “tasks” or tasks that travel in parallel. But conceptually they are different. 

We always have “the whole” available to us while we listen, it is up to us to be able to grasp, to be able to distinguish, to be able to “appreciate” and be sensitive to even the most subtle nuances of the soul and emotion.

The two layers of listening can be seen as two rivers traveling parallel to each other. Two streams of information, rather than water, that we need to perceive, simultaneously.

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It is true that even an emotion is a form of “data”, but we must note, of course, that it is one thing to deal with qualitative data such as feeling pleasure, or being proud, or feeling sad or depressed, and another thing to note down information such as “London“, “Milan“, “50 km“, “10 kg”, “plane“, “train“, “100 Euro“, and other more tangible quantitative or qualitative information. We can say that scientifically we have a “data-point” (data point, certain information) every time we manage to extract a verifiable proposition. 

The statement “Before 5 p.m. David made a sale and was overjoyed” contains four data points

Listening closely resembles the process of “mining and separating” as it occurs in a deposit. Extracting material and separating it into stones on one side, and mud on the other. In listening, the materials are almost always joined, almost glued together, but we can learn to separate them. In the example written below it will be quite easy to do this.

Figure 7 – extracting data from a text passage (data-centered listening)

Davide and Lucia last night around 7:30 pm had an argument because there was some grass to remove from the garden and Paolo did it but he got tired, when he told Lucia, with pride, that he had cleaned a whole area of the lawn corresponding to the entrance, Lucia got angry because she felt inside that it was like a sort of accusation, a tone she didn’t like, as if he had said “you didn’t do it, I did it”.

Figure 8 – extraction of emotional states from the same textual passage

Paolo and Lucia last night around 7:30 p.m. had an argument because there was some grass to remove from the garden and Paolo did it but got tired of it, when he told Lucia, with pride, that he had cleaned a whole area of the lawn corresponding to the entrance, Lucia got angry because she felt inside that it was like a sort of accusation, a tone she didn’t like, as if he had said “you didn’t do it, I did it”.

When we move on to video excerpts, or real-time human interactions, we have to get even better at it, because emotions can be “hidden” behind micro-expressions, small involuntary facial cues, or can instead become very manifest and verbalized.

When we listen, we can pay attention to one, the other, or both. Being able to grasp both is surely better. Behind listening to emotions there is a vision of man as a creature that “feels” and not just as a creature that “reasons.”

When dealing with people, remember that we are not dealing with people with logic. 

We are dealing with creatures with emotions.

 (Dale Carnegie)

It may seem strange to underestimate the logical part of the human being, but we must realize that, according to neuroscience, only 2% of the mental calculation capabilities are available for conscious and rational reasoning, and the rest is divided between data necessary to run the “biological machine” heart, lungs, breathing, and millions of processes, and subconscious data, on which emotions are grafted, whether we want them to or not. Remember that even an emotion is to some extent a data, but it goes without saying that it is one thing to ask active questions starting from the sentence “I bought 4 kilos of fish” and another to do it to deepen the sentence “in this period I feel full of hope but also of remorse“.

Emotions are expressed both with words, but much more so through facial microexpressions, body signals, and voice state (paralinguistics), than through the verbal component. 

Words alone do not convey emotion if they are not accompanied by an appropriate context. The way they are said, much more so. But they are not usually “said.” They simply manifest themselves in non-verbal behavior, in facial expressions. And even if not said, they need to be “heard.”

The most important thing in communication is 

Listen to what isn’t being said.

 (Peter F. Drucker)

Listening to data or listening to emotions qualifies the difference between data-centered informational listening and psychologically oriented listening. Listening to data is not the same as picking up emotional states. In fact, we can apply psychological listening or technical-informational listening. An advanced negotiator and a high-level salesperson will be able to apply the correct level of listening, or both, depending on the situation, without entering into a predetermined, stereotypical, rigid listening state.

This is also true for a parent who wants to listen to a child about how they are doing in school, fixating on grades and data as if filling out an Excel spreadsheet, or trying to understand moods and relationships.

Learning to listen well is possible, with care, with practice, with passion and willingness, making mistakes, and always starting over.

Always be like the sea, which breaks against the rocks and always finds the strength to try again.

Jim Morrison

1. Empathy and empathic communication: the four levels of empathy in the ALM/HPM method 

…sometimes you talk to the world and the world doesn’t seem to hear… ….

other times the world is talking to us and we are somewhere else.

Daniele Trevisani

Empathy is that state of “mental presence,” where “I am here, with you,” alongside a human being we want to fully understand. 

As such, it has a possibility of limited duration, that of an interview, but its effect can last forever, as with any memory or experience. Empathy is based on the fact of strongly wanting to be present, a mental presence that takes in every nuance and detail of what is said, of the nonverbal, of the paralinguistic, trying to understand its meaning, until you get to understand the “story” of a person and his “salient episodes, positive and negative”. It can also come to a total understanding of a person’s “state of mind,” beyond any verbal etiquette, beyond any possibility of expression.

In the ALM (business development) and HPM (personal development) method, a special model of empathy is elaborated, with a typology initially exposed in the volume Intercultural Negotiation.

Fig. 1 – Types of empathy based on observation angles

  • Behavioralempathy: understanding behaviors and their causes, understanding the why of the behavior and the chains of related behaviors.
  • Emotional empathy: being able to perceive the emotions experienced by others, understand what emotions the subject feels (what emotion is in the circle), of what intensity, what emotional mix the interlocutor lives, how emotions are associated with people, objects, facts, internal or external situations that the other lives.
  • Relational empathy: understanding the map of the subject’s relationships and their affective values, understanding with whom the subject relates voluntarily or out of obligation, with whom he must relate in order to make decisions, work or live, what is his map of “significant others”, referents, interlocutors, “relevant others” and influencers that affect his decisions, with whom he gets along and who does not, who affects his professional (and in some cases personal) life.
  • Cognitive empathy (or cognitive prototypes): understanding the cognitive prototypes active at a given moment in time, the beliefs, values, ideologies, and mental structures that the subject possesses and attaches to.

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.

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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.

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CIELS Institutional Website: https://www.ciels.it/

Intercultural Negotiations

©Article translated by dott. ssa Vazquez Federica, CIELS Advanced Degree in Strategic Communication (“Laurea Magistrale in Comunicazione Strategica”), extracted with the author’s permission from the book “Intercultural Negotiation. Communication Beyond Cultural Barriers” (original title: “Negoziazione interculturale. Comunicare oltre le barriere culturali. Dalle relazioni interne sino alle trattative internazionali”), written by Daniele Trevisani, published by Franco Angeli, Milan.

In negotiating persuasion “in the field,” we may find different attitudes towards the same proposal. Imagine making a presentation with persuasive intent to propose a training course to a firm. Entrepreneur A might be enthusiastic about a staff training project, while entrepreneur B might consider it a waste of time.
The first step, then, is to understand how the item (the proposal) sits along the possible latitude (from unconditional acceptance to outright rejection, with all the possible nuances in between).
Every negotiator can benefit from practicing both (1) the latitude survey, and (2) the next step, consisting of analyzing the underlying motivations that place an item (a specific proposal) along a particular point on the latitude (e.g., extreme rejection, unconditional acceptance, or acceptance with reservations, and other possibilities). Having acknowledged the position along the continuum, it is appropriate to understand the reason for that placement.
Any persuasive activity will in fact have to confront the motives that determine that position.

Roles
• Analyst: has the task of bringing out the picture
• Interviewee: must contribute to the exploration that the analyst will attempt, in a spirit of openness
Steps
• The analyst must come up with a fairly long list of products, services, and buying ideas, and note how they rank along the continuum.
• Second step: bring out the reasons for this placement, especially in reference to the most extreme positions.
• Use the following survey sheet:

Acceptance Latitude Survey Sheet
Place proposed products along the continuum, based on the respondent’s reactions to the product. Question: “would you buy a ……” (follows proposal of a product or service, even a strange or unusual one). Explore the motive underlying the evaluation and related motives.
You would purchase a: ……

I proposed:And the reaction was.Assign a score from -100 (extreme disgust) to + 100 (absolute unconditional adherence)

In-depth analysis of choices: use
• probing (did I get that right? why, what motivation leads you to.?);
• associative techniques (what do you associate with…?);
• the belief/evaluation model: have the subject say, “I believe that ………..” (subject’s belief) and “I think this is ………” (subject’s evaluation of the belief);
• For the most positive and most negative points: in-depth analysis of motivations.

©Article translated by dott. ssa Vazquez Federica, CIELS Advanced Degree in Strategic Communication (“Laurea Magistrale in Comunicazione Strategica”), extracted with the author’s permission from the book “Intercultural Negotiation. Communication Beyond Cultural Barriers” (original title: “Negoziazione interculturale. Comunicare oltre le barriere culturali. Dalle relazioni interne sino alle trattative internazionali”), written by Daniele Trevisani, published by Franco Angeli, Milan.

Source:

-Dott. Trevisani D., Negoziazione Interculturale – Comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali. Dalle relazioni interne sino alle trattative internazionali, Franco Angeli Edizioni, 2016.

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CIELS Institutional Website: https://www.ciels.it/

Business training, communication, constructive communication

Intercultural Negotiation. From Incommunicability to Constructive 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 Consulting Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available for qualified Publishers wishing to consider it for publication in English and other language except for Italian and Arab. If you are interested in publishing or Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching and Consulting, please feel free to contact the author from the webstite www.danieletrevisani.com 

The role of communication

Tracing a path that leads from incommunicability to constructive communication is a titanic undertaking, difficult to complete in a single life, a visionary goal, but also an engine of inspiration. But, however difficult, it deserves a commitment. In decades of scientific research and consultancy in the field, I have been able to experience the difficulty of people in communicating their thoughts, in understanding that of others, and the consequent difficulties of companies in cooperating.

At the same time, I have been able to see (like all of you) that, when communication works, the fruits immediately emerge. On the other hand, when communication is blocked or malfunctioning, conflict is created, interpersonal relationships suffer, common projects between people or between companies do not take off. We can trace with a good degree of precision the problem of incommunicability in cultural diversity – a “by-product” of the encounter / comparison between different cultures – an encounter that is as productive and full of opportunities for growth as it is open to risks and problems.

Culture – in the common sense – includes above all the artistic manifestations of a people, but in the social and managerial sciences it means much more. Culture, in a broader sense, above all means a way of perceiving the world, of categorizing reality, giving meaning to things, relationships, and life. Each of us is a unique individual in his personal culture, in the way of categorizing the world, assessing the importance of objects and people, setting up relationships. What is important and fundamental for me can be a detail for someone else, or for others something that doesn’t even deserve attention.

Each of us has assimilated the pressures and patterns of the groups to which they belong (ethnic, national, professional, family) into their own mental processes, and assimilates part of the models they come into contact with. Culture, according to Shore, can be considered a “collection of models”. In building a new relationship, in negotiating, what are the models I use? What models does my company use, often unconsciously? What are the models of others? The negotiation, even before a meeting between “positions”, of divergences / convergences on the details, is a meeting / clash between models.

With this volume I intend to offer a contribution that lays the foundations for both scientific and operational work, aimed at increasing the ability of people and companies to communicate with each other, aware of their differences, in order to grasp the best of the encounter between cultures. different without having to suffer the dark side of incommunicability and avoidable conflict.

Communicating aware of diversity – communicating in diversity and despite diversity – is a significant step forward. Having dealt with the basic themes in this volume, we will examine advanced techniques in future publications. Moreover, towers are not built without having first laid the foundations.

The repercussions of the “fundamental” tools shown here are potentially very strong, for those who work in companies (entrepreneurs, area managers and export managers), for the managers of projects and international relations, in the management of Human Resources (HR), but also for those who work in the social sector (therapists, counselors, educators), in an increasingly multicultural society.

The Four Distances Model for approaching Intercultural Negotiation

The model is based on the concept of relational distance: how people from different cultures can interact effectively or instead generate interactions based on conflict, incommunicability and misunderstandings, is strictly dependent from the feeling of “closeness” or “distance” that emerges in the interaction patterns between intercultural communicators. The 4 Distances Model, originally developed in the area of intercultural semiotics [1] defines the four main variables that can determine relational distance. Each variable has a subset of more specific hard-type (more tangible) and soft-type (more intangible) sub-variables:

  • D1 – Distance of the Self. Defined by D1A – Hard Distances: biological differences, chronemics-timing differences between communicators emissions/decoding/feedbacks; D1B – Intangible Distances: identity/role/archetype/personality differences;
  • D2 – Communication Codes Distances (Semiolinguistic Distance). Defined by D2A: communication content (hard variables); – D2B: codes, subcodes, signs, symbols, language communication styles (soft variables)
  • D3 – Ideological and value distance: differences in: D3A core values, core beliefs, ideologies, worldviews (hard variables) and D3B peripheral attitudes and beliefs (soft variables)
  • D4 – Referential distance (personal history); D4A – experience with external world objects, physical experiences (hard variables); D4B internal sensations world, emotional past and present (soft variables)

Each of these “Distances Factor” can be determined by means of observation, psychometric measurements, nonverbal content-analysis and verbal content-analysis. The model has proven to be useful in the analysis of intercultural communication critical incidents, incidents due to intercultural communications misunderstanding, as in the International Space Station case[2] and in reducing misunderstanding in Intercultural Research & Development Engineering Teams.[3]

  1. ^ Trevisani, D. 1992. A Semiotic Models Approach to the Analysis of International/Intercultural Communication; published in “Proceedings of the International and Intercultural Communication Conference”, University of Miami, fl., USA, 19–21 May 1992
  2. ^ Stene, Trine Marie; Trevisani, Daniele; Danielsen, Brit-Eli (Dec 16, 2015). “Preparing for the unexpected.”. European Space Agency (ESA) Moon 2020-2030 Conference Proceedings. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.4260.9529
  3. ^ Vilnius University, Vilnius, Lithuania, by Gudauskas, Renaldas; Jokubauskiene, Saulė, et. al. “Intelligent Decision Support System for Leadership Analysis”, in Procedia Engineering, Volume 122, 2015, Elsevier. DOI link: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.proeng.2015.10.022 – Pages 172-180

 

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© 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 language 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 

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