Active listening techniques

Ascolto attivo ed empatia: I segreti di una comunicazione efficace di [Daniele Trevisani]
Article translated by dott. Federica Franca, CIELS Advanced Degree in Strategic Communication (“Laurea Magistrale in Comunicazione Strategica”), extracted with the author’s permission from the book “Active Listening and Empathy. The Secrets for Effective Communication” (original title: “Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace”), written by Daniele Trevisani, published by Franco Angeli, Milan.

1.8. In-depth analysis of active listening techniques and empathy

Active listening is linked to paralinguistic and non-verbal communication and it includes:

  • verbal active listening techniques;
  • paralinguistic active listening techniques;
  • non-verbal active listening techniques.

These techniques will be examined in the following paragraphs.

Let’s underline now an essential aspect of empathy:

  1. the person who is talking must be aware that they will not be judged. They also should not be ashamed of what they are feeling or saying, no matter how odd or serious things are – from their point of view; empathy is a special area in the space-time continuum – a person can say everything they want, without facing any negative consequences;
  2. the person who is talking must be aware that they can start making some progress and moving forward only when they have accepted themselves as they are, not matter what they did or what they thought, whether they like it or not.

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am,

then I can change”.

Carl Rogers

1.9. Verbal active listening techniques

Verbal listening techniques focus on the use of all those words that express attention and willingness to understand.

  • Open questions: who, where, when, how, why, with whom, how long and other questions that broaden and clarify the conversation.
  • Closed or clarifying questions: they verify parts of the speech through “yes–no questions”, or other general answers (“a lot/a little”, “before/after”). “It happened just before meeting Angela” “How long before it happened? One hour? One day?” or “Are you happy with your car?”
  • Mirror technique (reflection of content): repetition of sentences – or parts of sentences – the speaker said, without modifying or altering them. The mirror technique comes from the empathic listening methodologies used in the Rogerian1 therapeutic interview. It is a psychotherapeutic technique that allows the speakers to deepen their thoughts – and to express themselves. “So, you are telling me that…”
  • Paraphrase: use of “as if”. Trying to understand what has been said by using metaphors or examples that are useful to figure out whether we really understood the deep meaning of what the other person is saying. “You are telling me that it seems like they poured water into your jug without realising it was already full, am I right?”
  • Factual and historical overview, summary: repetition of what has been said by summarising the main points of the “story”. “If I got that right, what happened could be summed up by saying that…”
  • Verbal encouragement: e.g. “good”, “interesting”, “yes”, “okay”.

1.10. Paralinguistic active listening techniques

Use of vocalisations that show interest in the “story” and simplify expression – e.g. guttural speech sounds and whispery voice such as “Uhm”, “Oh”. Giving a written report of these expressions is not possible, but if we listened to a person that “listens well”, we would notice that they make careful and particular use of paralanguage and sounds during essential parts of the speech. Paralinguistic techniques – together with visual non-verbal techniques – aim to provide phatic signals (contact signals), so that the interlocutor understands that we are listening, we are understanding and we are focused and interested.

1.11. Non-verbal active listening techniques

Non-verbal active listening techniques use body language to express interest:

  • Open and leaning forward posture to express willingness; relaxed body posture;
  • Proxemic (approaching and moving away): reducing the distance from the interlocutor during moments of great interest, moving away in moments of loosening;
  •  Facial expression: vigilant, careful and caring – not doubtful, ironic or aggressive;
  • Vigilant and direct gaze;
  • Eyebrow movement combined with key points of the interlocutor’s speech;
  • Nods – approval or rejection;
  • Soft, slow and rolling gestures to communicate a feeling of relaxation and to encourage moving forward;
  • Non-verbal metaphors: use of body language to show comprehension of what the interlocutor is saying.

In terms of non-verbal level, it is important to consider that many cultures restrain non-verbal expression of emotions (e.g. Asian culture), but this is also a communicative stereotype – it has a probabilistic value and does not provide certainty.

In short, the main techniques for effective listening are:

  • curiosity and interest;
  • paraphrase: the listener repeats what they understood (that does not mean agreeing with what the person is saying);
  • summary and recap: rephrasing what the interlocutor said in order to gather information;
  • targeted questions (conversational refocusing) in order to clarify unclear parts of the speech;
  • avoiding personal questions until a solid relationship has been established;
  • offering the speaker the opportunity to figure out whether what they understood is correct, accurate or, on the other side, twisted and incomplete;
  • listening not only words, but also feelings and non-verbal signals in order to assess feeling and moods;
  • checking for correct understanding of both feelings and content and not ignoring the latter;
  • do not tell people how they should feel or what they should think (during the listening phase, it is essential to just draw information, without teaching or judging).

One must not judge men as we judge a painting or a statue, to a first and unique look; there is an interiority and a soul that must be deepened.

(Jean de La Bruyère)

These attitudes are essential and they determine the quality of the listening phase. Yet, regarding business listening phases, they should not be confused with the goals of a whole negotiation (that includes listening and propositional phases and statements – which sometimes are harsh or assertive).

During a negotiation, modifying what other people think (cognitive and persuasive restructuring) or how they feel (emotional action) is possible – this is one of the strategic goals –, but this goal can be pursued only once the negotiator has succeeded in actively listening, using empathy in order to understand the situation in which they are working.

Listening is not only a technique, but it is also expression and connotation of a state of attraction and love – that can also be just an idea, not necessarily a person. Stopping listening means that something between that idea and us broke and we have to choose between mending that relationship by listening again, or letting it go forever.

“Love ends when listening does.”

Enrico Maria Secci


[1] Rogers C.R. (1961), On becoming a Person, Houghton Mifflin, Boston; Id. (1951), Client-Centered Therapy: Its Current Practice, Implications, and Theory, Houghton Mifflin, Boston.

Fonte: Dott. Trevisani D., Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace, Franco Angeli Edizioni, 2016, Milano.

Other online material available in these sites:

Other available online resources

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

Empatic Listening and Communication

Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace

Article translated by dott. ssa Eleonora Brusamento Spinelli, 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“, Franco Angeli Edizioni, 2019”), written by Daniele Trevisani, published by Franco Angeli, Milan.

Picture. 2 – Types of empathy in the ALM method

Copyright Model Daniele Trevisani http://www.danieletrevisani.it

1.1.             Positive and destructive elements of empathy

It is astonishing how elements that seem insoluble become soluble when someone listens, how confusions that seem irremediable turn into relatively clear flowing streams when one is heard.

Carl Rogers

Empathy is either destroyed or fostered by specific communicative behaviours and attitudes.

Fostering empathyDestroying empathy
Curiosity, passion, motivation to listenDisinterest, listening for duty; lack of motivation
Real listening participation, without fictionPretending a listening role only for professional duty
Acting as a “discoverer”, like a truffle or gemstones hunter. Let’s see what’s going to happen today!Bureaucratic plastered approach. Even today, not today, another meeting, that is so boring
Re-formulation of contents
Recap – re-capitulate “histories” and “topics”
Judgement on contents, comments Endless flow without the security to understand the topic or the sense of the conversation
Plural approaches to question (open, close, clarifying, focusing, and generalizing questions) Flexible questions related to the variation of a session or its contextMonotonous questions, statical questions, questions that are too anchored to a dogmatic scheme or school
Focus on emotional experience, emotional listeningExclusive focus on facts
Verbal or non-verbal signals of attention, “phatic” signals (contact signals) es, yeah, well, ok, I see your point…Body language expressing disinterest, apathy, boredom, or desire to be somewhere else…
Paralinguistic signals of attention, encouragement to express oneself, “phatic” signals (signals expressing participation and attention)Poor evidence of interest and concern to the flow of thought. Lack or scarcity of ‘phatic’ signals and mental contact.

“Empathy between people is like water in the desert: you rarely encounter it, but when you do, it calms you down and regenerates you.”

Emanuela Breda

1.4 “Being there” in relationship: separating listening from “expression” activities and generating the “empathic flow”.

Few delights can equal the presence of one whom we trust utterly.

 (George MacDonald)

In empathy, ‘being there’ is important. To ‘be there’, it is essential not to confuse between listening and expression. Listening communication, and the quality of listening, includes the need to perform a clear separation on a mental level, the activities of paying attention to the communication of others, understanding it (incoming communication) from the activities of expressing our messages (outgoing communication).

We are referring to a ‘flow’, an empathic one, a two-way flow between two people during an empathic communication. There is something magical about this kind of flow sometimes. To be clear, the content of this flow in terms of words, sentences, facial expressions and any other ‘communicative content’ is expressed by the speaker, but the listener expresses an equally powerful, even more powerful flow, the flow of attention and mental presence. Two opening flows of acceptance, which create a unique and special moment of human sharing. If you happen to hear yourself say “I have never felt as much understanding as in this conversation, thank you very much” you probably performed a high empathy rate.

Picture 9 – Separation of the expression flow from empathic flow

When we know how to separate these two flows properly, first on a mental level, then on a physical and behavioural level, we will know how to give presence, avoiding intruding on the empathic flow with inappropriate communications. When it is ‘our turn’, we will always be empathic, ‘connected’ and relevant.

People also leave presence in a place even when they are no longer there.

(Andy Goldsworthy)

1.5 Ten rules to quality empathic listening. Ten rules always to apply.

Most quarrels amplify a misunderstanding.

 (Andre Gide)

During the listening phases necessarily:

  1. do not interrupt while other persons are talking;
  2. do not judge them prematurely; do not express judgements that could block their expressive flow;
  3. summarize what you understood (so, if I understood well, it happened that…), re-formulate critical points (ok, he doesn’t answer to the phone, and you feel really bad, I see), to paraphrase (so, as I understood, is it…?)
  4. do not get distracted, do not think about anything else, do nothing else but listening (except for taking notes if necessary), use your thoughts to listen, do not wander;
  5. do not correct the other person while he/she is stating something, even when you disagree, keep listening;
  6. do not try to overpower her/him;
  7. do not try to dominate her/him;
  8. do not try to teach or impart truths; restrain the temptation to interfere with the expression flow and correct something assumed as incorrect;
  9. do not speak about ourselves;
  10. show interest and participation through verbal signals and body language;

Particularly interesting attitudes may be:

  • genuine interest and curiosity towards the other: the desire to know and explore another one’s mind; activating human and professional curiosity;
  • inner silence: creating a state of emotional stillness (free from negative emotions and prejudices), in order to listen and respect the other person’s rhythms;
  • mentally preparing oneself for the ‘whole’: being able to support even ‘heavy’ psychic material (fears, traumas, dramas, personal tragedies, dreams, disturbed states of mind) that the other person expresses, or when they emerge in the process, being able to explore them while keeping the ‘focus’ on mental and emotional balance and not overwhelmed by what is being heard (technique of Controlled Emotional Distancing – CED).

It is remarkable quoting Carl Rogers, psychologist, and founder of Counseling, the person that most of all has influenced the same concept of empathy:

“Our first reaction to most of the statements which we hear from other people is an immediate evaluation, or judgment, rather than an understanding of it. When someone expresses some feeling or attitude or belief, our tendency is, almost immediately, to feel “That’s right”; or “That’s stupid”; “That’s abnormal”; “That’s unreasonable”; “That’s incorrect”; “That’s not nice”. I believe this is because understanding is risky. If I let myself really understand another person, I might be changed by that understanding.”

Carl Rogers

“What the statement means to him” is the true meaning of any empathy operation, understanding the emotional connection, the motive seen from within. It is a technique. Then it matters little whether that technique is applied to a criminal to understand their next gestures and moves, or to a person suffering from anxiety, or to help a young person find his way in the future, a sportsman wins his next race, or a team in which we are trying to produce the state of ‘flow for maximum performance.

Active Listening and Empathy

Article translated by dott. ssa Eleonora Brusamento Spinelli, 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, Franco Angeli Edizioni, 2019”), written by Daniele Trevisani, published by Franco Angeli, Milan.

Fonte:

-Dott. Trevisani D., Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace, Franco Angeli Edizioni, 2019

Other online material available in these sites:

Other available online resources

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

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.

Casella di testo 54
Casella di testo 52

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.

Other online material available in these sites:

Other available online resources

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

The Scale of Listening Levels

Article translated by dott. Federica Vazquez, CIELS Advanced Degree in Strategic Communication (“Laurea Magistrale in Comunicazione Strategica”), extracted with the author’s permission from the book “Active Listening and Empathy. The Secrets for Effective Communication” (original title: “Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace”), written by Daniele Trevisani, published by Franco Angeli, Milan.

2.1.Negative listening modes: when and how to give the worst of yourself by getting everything wrong in listening 

What is the difference between question and accusation?

An accusation is one that is not answered; a question is answered.

from the movie “The Marauders” by Steven C. Miller

A visual tool is very useful to understand immediately that there is a real “scale” in the levels of listening and in the quality of listening. From a critical listening to an empathic listening, the difference is considerable and tangible. This scale is shown in the next figure. In it, we see a progression towards improvement in listening levels as we move up the scale.

Let’s start with the decidedly negative levels: The negative elements of listening are the ones that make you feel bad when you experience them. They generate the feeling of not being understood, or neglected, or not considered for what is said or even as a person. They go against, in practice, a basic need of every human being: to be understood. A need as strong as the need for air.

To be at your worst in listening, it is enough to interrupt, judge, not listen, get distracted, listen while watching TV or typing on a smartphone, do not look at people, distort every possible interpretation, in short, a whole baggage of errors just mentioned here, which you can explore better below.

Perhaps one did not so much wish to be loved as to be understood. 
(George Orwell)

2.2.Shielded or distorted listening 

Screened listening blocks or amputates part of the data coming from the auditory channel and distorts it, as it does for the other channels: sight, touch, taste, smell. The outcome is not understanding, not paying attention, distorting the incoming data. Literally, understanding one thing for another. It happens when you are too tired to listen, or the listener is experiencing an emotional state that is not appropriate for quality listening (e.g. anger, frustration, euphoria, passion, and many other strong emotions) and there are internal states that stand in the way of quality listening.

You will have very often been on the other side, in the role of the person speaking, and not understood at all, or even completely misunderstood. Well, you now have a definite label for this condition.

2.3. Judgmental/aggressive listening 

Being misunderstood by those we love is the worst condition for living and facing life’s commitments every day. Misunderstanding weighs like a mountain and traces deep furrows on the soul.

 (Romano Battaglia)

Judgmental/aggressive listening is characterized by the fact that the receiver does not really listen but, gathers snippets of information and then immediately makes judgments and judgements. When it affects us, we can say that we are “putting up a wall” towards the other person, such that it doesn’t even matter what they say, how they say it, it’s all wrong “regardless”. What we can call a “negative reverberation” can either touch on “what you said on topic x is nonsense”, or go straight to the heart, attacking the person themselves and not their phrase “you are an egocentric and don’t understand anything”. 

This second form of offense is much more serious than the first because it involves the person in his or her totality: “you are”, and not in a delimited action “you do x and I don’t like that x”. Judgmental listening is done with words, but not only. It can also emerge from a very subtle grimace emitted in a non-verbal way, such as “turning up one’s nose” during an affirmation that one does not approve of, and it is not to be confused with emotional participation in what the other person is saying. Aggressive listening triggers the aggression-hate spiral. It is truly an enemy of human relationships and humanity more generally.

Peace cannot be maintained by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.

 (Albert Einstein)

2.4. Apathetic or passive listening 

That there are worse things than an absence. A distracted presence.

 (manuela_reich, Twitter)

Apathetic or passive listening is characterized by our or others’ “mental absence,” and is negative. Devoid of energy, tired, “dead”, switched off, distracted. It is an empty listening of signals, practiced by a person who is disinterested, or incapable of listening, often totally absorbed by his internal processes, by his inner reasoning, in which the words heard do not make a breach. Like throwing darts at an armored safe, those darts shatter and fall. Nothing really gets in. Communication and messages only touch these people, and to say that they will understand little of what is said is to give them a gift.

Article translated by dott. Federica Vazquez, CIELS Advanced Degree in Strategic Communication (“Laurea Magistrale in Comunicazione Strategica”), extracted with the author’s permission from the book “Active Listening and Empathy. The Secrets for Effective Communication” (original title: “Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace”), written by Daniele Trevisani, published by Franco Angeli, Milan.

Other online material available in these sites:

Other available online resources

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

1. Listening, empathy, emotions, conversational leadership

Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace

Article translated by dott. ssa Eleonora Brusamento Spinelli, 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.

People don’t listen, they just wait for their turn to talk.
(Chuck Palahniuk)

Effective listening essentially has two meanings: 1) when listening has been useful to gather information and better understand the state of things, facts, and people; 2) when listening has been a pleasant, welcoming moment of relationship, in which we were able to act as an emotional container for the person.

When these two situations occur, we are experiencing effective listening. It is a quite rare situation. During a lifetime, no gold is as rare and as precious as someone who understands you.

Some questions can be useful:

  • Have you ever had the feeling that a person is not listening to you?
  • That they do not want to hear you, or that they cannot hear you at all?
  • Or have you ever felt that while you are talking, the other one is saying things halfway, not saying everything, holding something back? Out of willingness, sometimes, or out of incapacity, or out of fear, who knows?
  • Have you ever felt that persons you are talking, give a false idea of themselves, practising some form of “Impressions Management[1]” (creating an artificial image of themselves)?
  • Have you ever intended to talk to someone in order to deepen a certain theme or situation, while the person continues to escape, run away, avoid?
  • Have you ever felt the presence of a ‘core’ behind a person’s talk, of content – ideas, opinions, projects – which is only observed in transparency, but does not emerge, no matter how hard the person tries to explain himself?

If you have ever experienced even one of these situations, you had been practising ‘listening beyond words’, ‘heightened perception’ and approached or approached the topics of active listening and empathy.

Moreover, if there were interests at stake, you have experienced the importance of Conversational Leadership and the ability to direct the course of a conversation.

In your own life, you have also experienced, how rare active listening is, and that being listened to is quite rare, compared to normal life where everything is rushing, and there is no time for anything.

Rather than blaming others for what they do or do not do, for whoever wants to, the main goal of this book is offering tools to improve your listening, whether at work or in everyday life, and practice quality listening, active listening, and empathic listening.

The spirit of Virgil’s words, his invitation to always seek to understand, is the foundation that runs throughout this book: the underlying value that inspires us to practice active listening.

You can be tired of everything, but not of understanding. (Virgil)

Listening is perception, and perceiving for us is normal, physiological.

You did it hundreds and thousands of times, even just observing people in how they are dressed or how they walk – inevitably. You did it whether you wanted to or not. As perception has become very superficial, so has listening. This is what matters, ashaming because acute perception is a privileged path to truth.

Conversational leadership is the ability to restore the power of listening, to direct the conversation on the issues that interest us, or on the formats that we want to strategically activate (and listening is one of them).

Why is leadership important for listening skills? Because leadership is a voluntary act, and in this volume, listening is considered a voluntary act, decided by the listener, not a random act likely to happen without paying attention.

Human beings are endowed with natural listening skills, they use their hearing ability to understand sounds and words, because this is vital for their survival. If we did not know how to listen, neither to sounds nor to intentions (e.g., aggressive, hostile, or friendly), we would already be extinct.

It is believed that it takes courage to stand up and speak out, to have one is said. Well, very often it also takes courage to put our mind there, where we are now, to listen and look inside the soul and mind of a person.

There is also courage in listening.

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
(Sir Winston Churchill)

1.1.             Listen to emotions. Emotions and communication

Emotions and communication are strongly related.

In addition to the verbal data (objects, subjects, verbs, adjectives, and other speech elements), we can always notice an emotional background in communication (the outer part of Plutchik’s wheel presented below). Sometimes this background becomes more intense, and we can almost ‘feel’ or ‘perceive’ better the emotional background than single words (area of intermediate emotions). When we enter the extreme emotions area, the intense ones are placed in the middle of the model, words become almost useless, because we are inundated by the emotion coming from the other, and this ends up overwhelming any content.

Plutchik’s Solid or Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions[2] is one of the best representations of how emotions work. We must keep in mind that we are communicators too, so this system also applies when we are the ones talking.

Picture 1 – The wheel of emotions (Plutchik)[3]

(graphic adopted from the original model, referring to bibliography, Plutchik 1980)

Inevitably, in a communicative exchange, we always have an underlying exchange of emotions.

Some people are particularly good and very quick at grasping their inner emotions, directing them, dominating them, making use of them as they wish. For example, speaking in public in front of thousands of people without feeling the slightest bit of anxiety.

On the other hand, other people fall victims of their emotions, may become victims of a love that is blind and deaf to all denials, and persevere in loving a person who does not love them, or who has never even shown any signs of love. They may be afraid even thinking about the idea of speaking in public and fear it like the worst of poisons.

Each communicative situation (COMSIT) owns specific meanings and emotional undertones. COMSITs are specific frames or communicative moments that can be distinguished from each other, such as a dialogue between friends, or an argument, or giving explanations, and a thousand other possibilities in relationships. In each COMSIT, different degrees of incommunicability and different types of emotions arise[4].

What can we do then? The way, the only real way, is “to train oneself to emotions”. This way, it sounds like ‘training to live’, something intangible. And it is precisely this training in the intangible that makes ‘training in emotions’ an exercise in great emotional intelligence. Such as a refined gym of Experiential Coaching, for those who design active training exercises on emotions.

This involves dealing with emotions in an ’emotional laboratory’ where they can be experienced and then ‘debriefed’ with the support of a trainer, coach, counsellor, or psychologist, depending on the type of intervention.

Working on corporate groups and not on clinical pathology situations, requires the Trainer and the Counsellor as main figures and reference. These “emotion workshops” must be engineered by using videos, images, letters, themed dialogues, and any kind of exercise involving emotions.

As Howell[5] said about our ‘unconscious emotional incompetence’, at first, we may find it all a bit silly or we may be ‘clumsy’, but then we will ‘climb’ this peak, step by step, until we reach a strong emotional competence.

This competence is necessary, the higher the career position is. Think of the need for emotional balance in a judge, or a surgeon, or a police officer, or in specific situations such as taking a penalty shot, or in difficult and extreme sports where emotions are everything, or almost everything.

Emotions are often mixed, a cross between different emotional states, as we see in this picture showing the primary, secondary, and tertiary links between emotion dyads in Plutchik’s model.

Picture 2 – Graph displaying the primary, secondary, and tertiary dyads on the Plutchik’s wheel of emotions[6]

Links between emotional state produce different emotions in different emotional state (Mixed Emotions) our everyday actual emotional truth.


[1] Schlenker, Barry R. (1980). Impression Management: The Self-Concept, Social Identity, and Interpersonal Relations. Monterey, California: Brooks/Cole.

[2] Plutchik , Robert (1980), Emotion: Theory, research, and experience: Vol. 1. Theories of emotion, 1, New York: Academic

Plutchik Robert (2002), Emotions and Life: Perspectives from Psychology, Biology, and Evolution, Washington, DC: American Psychological Association

Plutchik Robert; R. Conte., Hope (1997), Circumplex Models of Personality and Emotions, Washington, DC: American Psychological Association

[3] Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotion#/media/File:Plutchik-wheel.svg By Machine Elf 1735 – Own work, Public Domain, ttps://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13285286

[4] Trevisani, Daniele (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.

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

[6] Source: Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Plutchik_Dyads.svg

Picture of the book: Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace

Article translated by dott. ssa Eleonora Brusamento Spinelli, 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.

Source:

-Dott. Trevisani D., Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace, Franco Angeli Edizioni, 2016.

Other online material available in these sites:

Other available online resources

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

Riepilogo Didattico : Lezione 4

Prof Daniele Trevisani www.studiotrevisani.it

Presso Campus Ciels Padova, Laurea Magistrale in Comunicazione Strategica LM94

Corso di Negoziazione, vedi Trevisani Daniele – Campus Ciels

Parole chiave della lezione:

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

Concetti fondamentali trattati:

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

Sintesi del mio apprendimento:

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

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

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

Fonti:

Riepilogo didattico Lezione 4 Prof Daniele Trevisani

www.studiotrevisani.it

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

Corso di Negoziazione, vedi Trevisani Daniele – Campus Ciels

Parole chiave della lezione

  • Hub informativo
  • Information fusion centre
  • Information operation o InfoOps
  • Resilienza emotiva
  • Empatia strategica
  • Hot words
  • Keywords
  • End state
  • Name dropping
  • Assist negoziale
  • Frontline digitale
  • Frontline interpersonale
  • Ghost costumer
  • Impression management
  • Topic shifting
  • Decisione dissonante
  • Acquisto dissonante

Concetti fondamentali trattati

  1. Comprendere quale sia il proprio hub informativo o “information fusion center”, ovvero sia quale sia il luogo dove vanno a convergere tutte le informazioni. Queste informazioni vengono poi distribuite ai vari attori della negoziazione: questo processo viene definito “information operation (info ops).
  2. Il concetto di resilienza emotiva ovvero saper frenare le proprie emozioni in una situazione di negoziazione critica.
  3. La tattica del “name dropping” è molto utilizzata in culture ad alto contesto (come i parlanti di lingue latine o arabe) e consiste nell’ottenere il proprio scopo per mezzo di una terza persona da noi ritenuta molto autorevole o in grado di mediare, fornendo al negoziante un assist negoziale. In una cultura a basso contesto questa pratica è considerata poco professionale in quanto ritengono che sia la persona stessa a dover provvedere da sola al raggiungimento della sua mission negoziale.
  4. Il “ghost costumer” è una persona con cui noi negoziamo al buio, non conoscendo il contesto, senza alcun patrimonio negoziale precedente. Può accadere in una situazione “frontline” digitale, per esempio negoziare con qualcuno per telefono.
  5. Abbiamo assistito a una negoziazione con un “ghost costumer come negoziato in una situazione di “frontline digitale”; da parte del negoziante veniva offerta una “impression management” molto negativa, ha fornito una impressione disorganizzata della sua azienda, enfatizzando le difficoltà a essere disponibili.

Sintesi del mio apprendimento:

Ho capito che è importante durante una negoziazione offrire una propria impression management positiva anche in una situazione di difficoltà o di impossibilità nella vendita. Un’alternativa alla semplice ammissione di difficoltà può essere la proposta di un’alternativa oppure lasciare aperte delle possibilità future.

Ho imparato a realizzare un “topic shifting”, utilizzando delle mosse conversazionali quali alcune espressioni verbali come ne caso utilizzato in classe “Sai cosa invece vorrei sapere?”; tramite una mossa conversazionale simile è possibile cambiare l’argomento di negoziazione.

Ho riflettuto sull’importanza di rendere più efficace la presentazione dei miei contenuti corredando la mia spiegazione di esempi pratici, immagini, citazioni scientifiche attendibili e video dal forte impatto illustrativo; scegliere con attenzione i video che accompagnano la mia presentazione, precisando qualora ci siano parti non inerenti o non coincidenti con il pensiero che sto sostenendo.

Fonti:

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

-Dott. Trevisani D., Parliamoci Chiaro: il modello delle quattro distanze per una comunicazione efficace e costruttiva, Gribaudo, 2019

-Dott. Trevisani D., Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace, Franco Angeli Edizioni, 2019

-Dott. ssa Brusamento Spinelli E., Appunti di Negoziazione degli ostaggi, lezione 4 di Prof. Trevisani D. 25/02/2021

Altro materiale online è disponibile su questi siti:

Altre risorse disponibili

CIELS Sito Web Istituzionale: https://www.ciels.it/

Positive and destructive elements of empathy

Negoziazione interculturale. Comunicare oltre le barriere culturali. Dalle relazioni interne sino alle trattative internazionali

©Article translated by dott. ssa Eleonora Brusamento Spinelli, 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.

Empathy is either destroyed or fostered by specific communicative behaviours and attitudes.

Fostering empathyDestroying empathy
CuriosityDisinterest
Real listening participation, without fictionPretending a listening role only for professional duty
Re-formulation of contentsJudgement on contents, comments
Plural approaches to question (open, close, clarifying, focusing, and generalizing questions)Monotonous questions
Focus on emotional experienceExclusive focus on facts
Non-verbal signals of attentionBody language expressing disinterest or boredom
Paralinguistic signals of attention, encouragement to express oneself, “phatic” signals (signals expressing participation and attention)Poor evidence of interest and concern to the flow of thought. Lack or scarcity of ‘phatic’ signals and mental contact

Listening communication, and quality of listening, require a clear separation between comprehension activities (input communication) and direct expression activities (output communication).

During the listening phases necessarily:

  • do not interrupt while other persons are talking;
  • do not judge them prematurely;
  • do not express judgements that could block their expressive flow;
  • do not get distracted, do not think about anything else, do nothing else but listening (except for taking notes if necessary), use your thoughts to listen, do not wander;
  • do not correct the other person while he/she is stating something, even when you disagree, keep listening;
  • do not try to overpower her/him;
  • do not try to dominate her/him;
  • do not try to teach or impart truths; restrain the temptation to interfere with the expression flow and correct something assumed as incorrect;
  • do not speak about ourselves;
  • show interest and participation through verbal signals and body language;

Particularly interesting attitudes may be:

  • genuine interest and curiosity towards the other: the desire to know and explore another one’s mind; activating human and professional curiosity;
  • inner silence: creating a state of emotional stillness (free from negative emotions and prejudices), in order to listen and respect the other person’s rhythms.

©Article translated by dott. ssa Eleonora Brusamento Spinelli, 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 InterculturaleComunicazione oltre le barriere culturali. Dalle relazioni interne sino alle trattative internazionali, Franco Angeli Edizioni, 2016.

Other online material available in these sites:

Other available online resources

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

Negoziazione interculturale: riepilogo didattico (Lezione 2)

Riepilogo didattico Lezione 2 Prof. Daniele Trevisani

www.studiotrevisani.it
Presso Campus Ciels Padova, Laurea Magistrale in Traduzione per la Gestione delle Crisi, delle Emergenze e delle Catastrofi.
Corso di Tecniche di negoziazione degli ostaggi, vedi Trevisani Daniele – Campus Ciels

Parole chiave della lezione:

  • Incomunicabilità
  • Comunicazione costruttiva
  • Semantica
  • Common ground
  • Terreni comunicazionali difficili
  • Patto d’aula
  • Nucleo emotivo
  • Escalation
  • De-escalation
  • Setting
  • Team leadership
  • Mission negoziale
  • Empowerment
  • Tentativo empatico
  • Entropia dell’informazione
  • Entropia comunicativa

I concetti fondamentali trattati durante la lezione sono i seguenti:

  1. Incomunicabilità: stati di difficoltà comunicativa che possono toccare qualsiasi tipo di relazione, sia personale che professionale. Il suo opposto è la comunicazione costruttiva. Nell’incomunicabilità, spesso emergono problemi di semantica: la scienza dei significati.
  2. Escalation negoziale: salita progressiva del tono di voce che porta ad un conflitto. Un negoziatore professionale è in grado di gestire la conversazione tramite una de-escalation negoziale, la quale permette di ridurre la portata delle emozioni negative che potrebbero entrare nel setting (contesto negoziale).
  3. Trigger o grilletto emotivo: un’affermazione che va a toccare emozioni profonde e delicate.
  4. Regola del 75/25: in una buona negoziazione, il negoziatore dovrebbe parlare per il 25% del tempo, mentre l’altra parte dovrebbe parlare per il 75% del tempo.
  5. Entropia dell’informazione: il grado di confusione o caos informatico.
  6. Entropia comunicativa: una conversazione negativa e densa di fraintendimenti, di stati emotivi pessimi, di grigiore. Presenta confusione sui significati e scopi del comunicare e produce il drenaggio delle nostre forze e delle nostre risorse più preziose: le energie personali, le emozioni, il tempo.
  7. Scala dei livelli di ascolto:
  • Ascolto schermato: c’è una distorsione nel dato percettivo.
  • Ascolto giudicante: il negoziatore ascolta ciò che dice l’altro e utilizza le informazioni che acquisisce per contrariarlo.
  • Ascolto apatico o passivo: non c’è energia di ascolto.
  • Ascolto a tratti: il negoziatore viene spesso distratto e non comprende a pieno ciò che dice il proprio interlocutore.
  • Ascolto attivo o supportivo: prevede l’incoraggiamento a proseguire e vi è una forte partecipazione del body language, attraverso il quale il negoziatore dimostra all’altro di capire e ascoltare ciò che dice.
  • Ascolto empatico: il negoziatore riesce a connettersi agli sfondi emotivi che emergono durante la negoziazione e riformula le emozioni.
  • Ascolto simpatetico: il negoziatore dimostra al proprio interlocutore di essere molto interessato a ciò che egli dice; si tratta dell’ascolto che produce più risultati per il negoziatore.

Sintesi del mio apprendimento:

  • Ho appreso che, per ottenere una comunicazione costruttiva durante una negoziazione, l’aspetto culturale è fondamentale.
  • Ho capito che esercitarsi in terreni comunicazionali difficili è fondamentale per imparare a gestire le emozioni in tali situazioni.
  • Ho imparato che è importante ridurre il grado di entropia dell’informazione, in modo tale che l’interlocutore apprenda esattamente le intenzioni del negoziatore.

Fonti:

  • dott. Daniele Trevisani, Parliamoci Chiaro, Gribaudo, 2019.
  • dott.ssa Pilli Laura, appunti di Tecniche di negoziazione degli ostaggi, Lezione 1 di prof. Trevisani D., Padova, 25/02/2021.

Riepilogo Didattico: Lezione 2

Prof Daniele Trevisani www.studiotrevisani.it

Presso Campus Ciels Padova, Laurea Magistrale in Comunicazione Strategica LM94

Corso di Negoziazione, vedi Trevisani Daniele – Campus Ciels

Parole chiave della lezione:

  • Incomunicabilità
  • Common ground
  • Cultura
  • Terreni comunicazioni difficili
  • Gestione delle Emozioni
  • Patto d’aula
  • Role playing
  • Identità
  • Autorizzazione consensuale
  • Nucleo emotivo
  • Escalation
  • De-escalation
  • Trigger emotivo
  • Tecniche di desensibilizzazione sistematica
  • Ascolto attivo
  • Empatia
  • Entropia dell’informazione
  • Disentropizzare

Concetti fondamentali trattati:

  1. Il concetto di cultura dipende da vari fattori (il modo di percepire il mondo, il modo di categorizzare la realtà, il modo di dare un senso alle cose, il modo di dare un senso alle relazioni) e quando c’è una differenza culturale tra le due parti si può creare un’incomunicabilità nella negoziazione.
  2. Ci sono vari terreni di comunicazione difficili (politica, religione, famiglia, denaro) e tramite attività di role-playing si può imparare a gestire le emozioni in queste situazioni ad alto livello di stress (offese, attacchi personali, conflitti).
  3. Affinché il role-playing avvenga con successo c’è bisogno del patto d’aula, ovvero autorizzazione ad utilizzare certi formati conversazionale con certi scopi.
  4. Escalation vs de-escalation, la prima è una salita progressiva del tono fino ad arrivare a un possibile conflitto mentre la seconda è la riduzione delle portate emotive tramite tecniche di desensibilizzazione sistematica.
  5. È stata individuata una scala dei livelli di ascolto, che si divide in ascolto simpatetico, ascolto ematico, ascolto attivo/supportivo, ascolto a tratti, ascolto apatico/passivo, ascolto giudicante/aggressivo e ascolto schermato/distorsivo/impreciso.
  6. Entropia della conversazione, ovvero come ridurre il caos o il grado di confusione generato dalle informazioni durante una negoziazione

Sintesi del mio apprendimento:

  • Ho capito che in una negoziazione è importante la gestione delle emozioni nelle situazioni di comunicazioni difficili.
  • Ho imparato a riconoscere i miei trigger emotivi e a simulare situazioni di escalation e de-escalation dove poi applicare tecniche di desensibilizzazione sistematica.
  • Ho riflettuto sulla regola del 75% 25% e su come applicarla nella vita di tutti i giorni e a individuare e applicare il grado corretto della scala di ascolto in base alla situazione in cui mi ritrovo.

Fonti: