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.

Other online material available in these sites:

Other available online resources

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

The Scale of Listening Levels

Ascolto attivo ed empatia: I segreti di una comunicazione efficace di [Daniele Trevisani]
Article translated by dott.ssa 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.

2.9 Empathic listening

Listening without bias or distraction is the greatest value you can pay another person.

(Denis Waitley)

Empathy is a superior and highly advanced state of human relationships. It means learning how to put yourself in someone’s shoes in order to feel what they feel.

Empathy – per se – is neither positive nor negative: we can also use it to understand the way outlaws and killers think and to find out what their next move is going to be (strategic empathy).

 In wider terms, when referring to everyday human and professional relationships, empathy is positive and rare. As Jeremy Rifkin points out:

“empathic consciousness is based on the awareness that others – like us – are unique and mortal beings. We empathise with people because we recognise their fragile and limited nature, their vulnerability and their one and only life; we experience their existential aloneness, suffering and struggle to exist and evolve as if these feelings were ours. Our empathic embrace is our way to sympathise with the others and to celebrate their lives”.[1]

Empathy is rare because it requires the subtle ability to “tune in” emotionally and to understand the hidden, emotional and personal levels of the interlocutor’s experience – rather than the numerical or objective data they expose. Empathy also uses metacommunication (meaning “communication about communication itself ”): for instance, it fearlessly asks for the meaning of a word it does not understand or it explains useful ideas for the communication process itself – when the listener does not speak.

Empathic listening is rare. We could say last time we found it was when a person listened to us for an entire hour, without talking about themselves – only listening to what we wanted to say (both information and emotions) and asking questions for a better understanding. If this has ever happened to you, it was probably during a coaching, counselling or therapy session. It rarely happens in daily life.

Shorter periods of time – but with the same listening intensity – can be found in real friendship or with loyal partners at work, but the attention is not necessarily focused on one person – as it happens when talking about empathy. Besides, if specific courses to learn empathy are needed, it is because school, academic education and manuals tend to give information, rather than teaching how to listen.

Just as the art of narrating exists – firmly codified through thousands of attempts and mistakes – the art of listening also exists, equally ancient and noble, which, however, as far as i know, has never been validated.

(Primo Levi)

The most difficult part of empathic listening is the suspension of judgement. If anyone says, “I hit my child” or “I threw the rubbish bag out the window”, it is impossible not to judge. Yet, “suspending the judgement” means precisely that – and not to “make judgement disappear”. Suspending it is fundamental in order to understand what, where, how and why certain things happens. If we did not do it, we would miss a large part of the information we could obtain.

2.10. Sympathetic listening

Sometimes, some fondness are so powerful that, when meeting for the first time, it feels like meeting again.

 (Alfred de Musset)

Sympathetic listening expresses affinity towards the speaker; it aims to both listen and show affection and delight during the interaction. Sympathetic listening is not necessarily better than empathic listening; it is just different. Here the priority is to give to the other person the feeling of pleasantness and closeness. Making the interlocutor understand that we are interested in what they say is fundamental – not only regarding the information itself, but also for the person expressing it. The act of listening becomes part of a relational game that has a seductive component; what we are interested in is not a passive data analysis, but we strongly admire and appreciate what has been said. Listening shows human warmth, delight and appreciation, with both verbal and non-verbal communication. Let’s consider a very practical aspect: sympathetic listening brings people closer and this is an excellent psychological strategy for a deeper and more accurate listening.

“We usually consider as good listeners only those people who share our opinion.”

François de La Rochefoucauld

Sympathetic listening can be easily – and wrongly – defined “panderer listening”, but let ask ourselves whether we live in a society that is stingy with compliments. Our society is quick to judge and blame – and it is also stingy, even when we do something good. That is why sympathetic listening – whenever there is the right opportunity – is a precious gift.

When we listen to a person and we sense something good, we should feel free to experience it, without being ashamed.

“Does the song of the sea end at the shore or in the hearts of those who listen to it?”

Khalil Gibran

Throughout the manual various techniques, methods and strategies to practise active and deep listening, to reach hearts and minds, to gather information and to work effectively together will be described.

Yet, whatever our intentions and abilities, there is one thing that cannot be taught, but only recommended: to be willing to listen.

Fig. 4 – Levels of listening quality

 


[1]  Jeremy Rifkin (2011). La civiltà dell’empatia. La corsa verso la coscienza globale nel mondo in crisi. Milano, Mondadori, p. 532 [Eng: “The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis. N.d.T.]

1.1.           Other online material available in these sites:

1.2.           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/

Ascolto Attivo e Segnali

Article translated by dott. Tommaso Pasqualini, 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.

1.4.        Knowing how to pick up signals

There is an urgent need to return to our ancestral sensibilities. We urgently need to restore our ability to perceive correctly, even before logically evaluating data alone. To do this, we must know how to use listening in a special way, making it an “augmented perception” of any signal that enters our sphere:

1.            Verbal auditory signals. what did Titius just say at the other table?

2.            Paralinguistic auditory signals. Can I hear a person’s vocal stress?

3.            Tactile-tactile signals (did someone just sit in this chair? Is it warm?), or “what does this handshake tell me about you?”

4.            Kinesthetic-visual signals: how is the team today? Understand it in stride, in posture. Understand it even in the locker room. Do they seem calm or agitated? Demotivated or motivated?

5.            Olfactory Signals: What is this new smell I smell in my newly purchased car, have I ever paid attention to it? Am I aware that it is an engineered smell, or do I think it is a result of chance?

6.            Emotional Signals: how am I in the moment, how is my anxiety, my joy, my heart, my dreaming, my living in relationship with others and myself? E… How is the person in front of me? How is she breathing, what is she feeling?

7.            Body signs: what job might the second from the right on that table be doing, based on the type of muscles and how he is dressed and the marks I notice on his skin?

8.            Holistic signals: who is the most dangerous or dissonant person in this train car or bar, is there someone who might be dangerous? Based on what do I notice?

The signals are many. Signs of love, signs of hate, signs of indifference, signs of fear, signs of disgust, signs of friendship. If only we knew how to catch them all….

But as soon as we realize that the discourse does not touch our vital interests, we turn around and continue in our distracted way.

Distraction is an evil of the age.

The “rage of the times” and the rush have brought listening to absolute lows in the history of Western civilization.

Smartphones and other electronic devices have replaced people, and so we have become good at “listening” to the signals of electronic devices, recognizing a beep from a beeep, manipulating a phone or a touch screen, but less good at looking into the eyes of a person who is speaking to us live and grasping their nuances, tone of voice, gaze, head nods, and understanding what they are feeling, and whether or not they are lying.

Throughout the book there will be dozens and dozens of useful tools to re-learn the art and technique of “reading people” – which means practicing a “listening beyond words”. The important thing is that the spark is ignited in us. The spark of ancestral DNA. The spark of curiosity.

The fury of the times has accustomed students to quizzes, multiple-choice tests, computerized exams, and the oral exam is slowly disappearing from the landscape of academic training because it “takes too long”. Thus, we no longer learn to “tune in to the Prof. and his interests that we may have heard in class,” because it has become unnecessary.

Even in groups of boys and girls, sitting at a table in a pizzeria, one can notice a constant “doing” but with one’s smartphone, and an almost physical absence of where people really are, with rare, very rare conversations between participants, often superficial.

It’s never easy to listen. Sometimes it’s more comfortable to act deaf, turn on the Walkman, and isolate yourself from everyone. It is so easy to replace listening with emails, texts and chats, and in this way we deprive ourselves of faces, glances and hugs.

(Pope Francis)

1.5.        From pressing towards being persuasive to rediscovering quality listening

In our society, a sort of “pressing” towards being hyper-communicative and persuasive, quick-quick-wins, but never towards listening, remains strong and pulsating. The time to slow down in order to reason, reflect, the time needed to generate quality and not just quantity, disappears. Yet paradoxically, even in companies – where quality is rightly idolized and rewarded – despite this, people among themselves never really and thoroughly listen to each other, sometimes even in a meeting. Not to mention conversations between bosses and employees. We are all invited to “speak well,” but less so to “listen well.” Listening also includes “listening to things.” Bridges talk, ships talk, cars talk, if only you know how to listen to their languages, if only you know where and what to watch for, if only you walk by with an eye, ear, and hands trained to catch emergencies, dissonances, and problems.

And if you feel like it.

– Listen to the ship.

– What’s there to listen to?

– Just listen to it.

from the movie “Pandorum – The Parallel Universe”.

We are pushed to be incisive, for example to pass a job interview, or in a public speaking course where we study the mechanisms to get an applause, or in advertising, the strategies to communicate to targets and persuade. But it is always “one-way” communication. It is never true listening.

Listening is a holistic process. You can listen to a person, you can listen to a waterfall, you can listen to a river. And that has to do with fundamental issues like safety. Never, ever, would anyone think of “listening to a bridge,” or a ship, or an airplane.

The other side of the communication coin, knowing how to listen, how to perceive, has disappeared. Incorporated by a world that “goes too fast” to afford the luxury of stopping to listen. Yet, without listening, we die. You don’t pick up on danger signals, you don’t grasp the nature of subtle messages.

Before it dies or gives way, a structure gives many signals, the case of the 300-meter viaduct that fell in Genoa being an example.

During a period of my life of some years, when I was in charge of coaching Cruise Ship Commanders, with 5,000 people on board, and a staggering burden of responsibility on my back, I used to make the commanders and vice-commanders perform a special exercise, I used to say “Now lie down on the ground and listen to the ship”. “Close your eyes. Listen to the ship.” At first they were stunned, but then after a few minutes an enormous number of signals emerged, the perception became more acute, from the known vibrations to those they had never heard, from the noise of a pump they had never heard (yet it had always been there), to the ability to do a “holistic listening” of the ship, roll, pitch, including the men, the crews, their real conversations and emotional states in maneuver.

The “listening to the machine” part is called in my method “Structural Listening”, the “man” part is called “Listening to Emotional Climates, or “Listening to Emotional Aquariums” when applied to Team Leadership situations.

It is time to give dignity and method back to the “hidden part of communication” that is precisely listening, whether it is actively listening to a structure, or empathically to a family member, a worker, a supplier, or to better understand the data of a work project, to better connect to the emotions of others, to understand one’s own crew and team in what emotional condition they are in, to know how to intervene when necessary.

1.6.        Listening beyond words. Paths to empathic listening

It is one thing to know the right path, another to take it.

Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne)

from the movie “Matrix” by Andy Wachowski

We all know that listening is important, but few do it, and of those few, even fewer are those trained in empathy, which means “trained” to technically develop empathy and empathic listening. Sometimes it takes knowing how to do it methodically, and not just by natural aptitude.

If you happen to have a person “feeling you by the skin of their teeth,” and you “feel by the skin of your teeth” that they are understanding, you are experiencing a moment of listening beyond words. Magical moments. Listening is absolutely beyond words. Listening is everything that enters us and to which we attribute meaning. Listening then, becomes perception, and it can become “heightened perception” if we enhance it. We can even come to understand more about a person than he understands about himself, because listening, practiced from the outside, is able to grasp elements that a person constantly experiences, but of which he is not aware.

It’s like walking around all your life with a sign behind your back. Everyone sees it but you. Personality is like that sign.

Equally hidden are the deeper beliefs. For those peripheral ones, preferences, what you like or dislike, can be picked up from details, with a simple observation of the raising of your nose muscles (as when you smell something unwelcome), and are rarely verbalized in public. Yet, careful nonverbal listening will pick them up.

When we observe all of this and not just the words, we are practicing “listening beyond the words,” augmented perception.

Augmented perception means “knowing how to read people”, knowing how to pick up on signals, words, unspoken phrases, gestures, symbols, hints.

He knew how to listen, and he knew how to read.

Not books, they are all good, he knew how to read people.

 (Alessandro Baricco)

Augmented perception can even go so far as to enhance the sensory systems themselves, making a trained person able to listen for changes in vocal stress (lie or embarrassment signaling), something that typically only specific software can do.

Augmented perception can lead you to pick up on facial micro-expressions lasting less than 1/10th of a second, so brief, yet so significant, such as the raising of an eyebrow muscle, or a lip muscle, an indicator of interest, or surprise, or alarm. And there is no doubt that when we are sharper in grasping, in perceiving, in listening, we become different people, ourselves. We change within.

Listening can then be defined as “empathic” when we have really managed to “get inside a person’s head”, understand how they think, understand how they reason, grasp the nuances of their thinking, and understand why they think the way they do, “from inside” their belief system, convictions and emotions.

This concerns not only simple matters, but also something that seems very strange to us, something arcane that with empathic listening we can understand, because we have managed to grasp the internal logic that the person is using.

Listening is one of the phases of a “conversation”, of a dialogue, of a relationship. Often, it is the most important. And the most neglected. Listening is an act of gift, understanding a person is a form of gift, and it can turn into a strategic act (for example, in a negotiation) but basically and in daily life, it can be considered a great gift.

I call religious the one who understands the suffering of others.

 (Mahatma Gandhi)

Listening is absolutely not limited to wanting to understand the suffering of others (a theme that touches on psychotherapy, counseling, and helping relationships), but can also enter into increasing the performance of athletes, athletes, managers, businesses and teams, when listening is used as a primary weapon in good performance coaching.

Empathy, then, also becomes a powerful weapon for overcoming the biggest challenges in our lives, or those of a client.

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

Analisi della conversazione e mosse conversazionali

Negoziazione Interculturale. Comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali

©Articolo tradotto da: https://www.interculturalnegotiation.com/2021/02/01/conversation-analysis-and-conversational-moves/ su materiale pubblicato nel libro “Negoziazione Interculturale. Comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali” estratto e pubblicato con il permesso dell’autore, Prof. Daniele Trevisani www.studiotrevisani.it www.danieletrevisani.it www.comunicazioneaziendale.it– Articolo redatto a cura di: dott. Eleonora Brusamento Spinelli, CIELS Padova

Nel seguente articolo andremo a introdurre il concetto di analisi della conversazione, uno studio fondamentale che può aiutare a migliorare le proprie capacità all’interno di una negoziazione.

Per incominciare un’analisi di negoziazione produttiva dobbiamo distinguere 3 diverse fasi:

  • La fase di “preparazione alla negoziazione”: briefing, raccolta dati, analisi dell’interlocutore, preparazione di una lista di argomenti all’ordine del giorno, attività di role-play, sviluppo di linee d’azione e testare;
  • Fase della comunicazione o fase front-line: la fase di contatto face-to-face;
  • Fase di analisi e debriefing: risultati dell’analisi di negoziazione e preparazione a tutte le successive fasi.

La fase di preparazione necessita di uno studio del maggior numero di informazioni, per iniziare poi la fase face-to-face con consapevolezza della situazione (conoscenza dei fatti) e della cultura (conoscenza di elementi culturali di base).

La fase di negoziazione rappresenta il terreno di negoziazione, il “momento della verità”, dove le azioni più significative hanno luogo e avendo luogo durante la conversazione, sono irreversibili.

La fase di debriefing è necessaria per assorbire le informazioni e include, almeno:

  • Un debriefing comportamentale: la nostra analisi comportamentale, gli errori d’analisi, altre analisi comportamentali e
  • Un debriefing strategico: implicazioni pratiche, risultati d’analisi, preparazione a tutti gli step.

La negoziazione normalmente richiede differenti cicli di “preparazione-contatto-debriefing”. Per questa ragione possiamo assimilarlo a un processo circolare.

L’analisi della conversazione è una delle sfere di conoscenza più utili impiegate nel campo della comunicazione al fine di comprendere come le persone interagiscano durante il contatto face-to-face.

Da un punto di vista scientifico l’AC analizza come le persone gestiscano i loro turni conversazionali e come provino a interagire, ma da una prospettiva pratica le possibili applicazioni di AC sono estremamente rare. Prima di tutto l’AC era infatti diretto alle interazioni sociali e personali e molto meno ai dialoghi tra aziende.

Da un punto di vista linguistico, il modello ALM usando alcuni concetti di AC e numerose aggiunte originali, tenta di “smantellare” la conversazione analizzandola come un set di atti conversazionali, per studiare la sua struttura e applicarla al problema concreto delle aziende oppure organizzazioni che devono negoziare in modo efficace.

Da un punto di vista semiotico, potremmo chiederci (1) quali siano i significati e quali le interpretazioni del significato che ogni attore conferisce alle mosse individuali a un livello relazionale (semantica relazionale) e (2) quali siano gli effetti pratici sulla relazione stessa (pragmatica relazionale).

Grazie all’analisi delle mosse conversazionali e delle intere parti di interazione, è possibile aiutare manager e negoziatori (1) a decodificare la conversazione, e (2) ad acquisire migliori competenze conversazionali.

Inoltre, possiamo formare ed educare i negoziatori a produrre una strategia conversazionale più efficiente e consapevole, anche all’interno della loro stessa cultura.

Le mosse conversazionali possono essere definite come azioni specifiche o “emissioni” create da un interlocutore.

Alcune mosse conversazionali sono, per esempio:

  • annuire,
  • anticipare,
  • attaccare,
  • cedere un turno,
  • chiedere chiarimenti
  • conquistare il turno
  • ecc.

La negoziazione può essere vista, quindi, come un insieme di mosse. Ogni cultura fa propri alcuni di questi repertori e li espande, rifiutandone altri o relegandoli ad alcuni ambiti comunicativi.

Nella cultura giapponese, per esempio, dire un secco “no” è considerato un atto molto scortese, ma questo non significa che un manager giapponese non possa imparare a dire “No” in modo secco. Affidarsi a semplici stereotipi e prenderli come certezze è un errore.

Ogni mossa è legata alle mosse precedenti del soggetto e a quelle fatte dagli altri.

Nell’ambito intra-culturale esistono repertori specifici e regole conversazionali che generalmente vengono condivise, mentre in ambito interculturale il livello di diversità aumenta, perché in ogni cultura le mosse conversazionali vengono utilizzate in modo diverso.

Durante una negoziazione, a seconda del valore relazionale, dobbiamo prestare attenzione a:

  • mosse di avvicinamento (segni di simpatia, amicizia, affetto, disponibilità a collaborare, segni di unione, ecc.
  • mosse di allontanamento (distacco, antipatia, rifiuto, volontà di mantenere le distanze, ecc.)

Se guardiamo i contenuti della conversazione durante una negoziazione, è importante distinguere tra:

  • mosse di apertura (esplorazione di nuove informazioni, ampliamento, allargamento del campo di conversazione, ecc.
  • mosse di chiusura (tentare di concludere, concretizzare);

e anche tra:

  • mosse di ascolto (empatia, domande, raccolta di dati), e
  • mosse propositive (affermazioni, posizioni, richieste)

©Articolo tradotto da: https://www.interculturalnegotiation.com/2021/02/01/conversation-analysis-and-conversational-moves/ su materiale pubblicato nel libro “Negoziazione Interculturale. Comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali” estratto e pubblicato con il permesso dell’autore, Prof. Daniele Trevisani www.studiotrevisani.it www.danieletrevisani.it www.comunicazioneaziendale.it – Articolo redatto a cura di: dott. Eleonora Brusamento Spinelli, CIELS Padova

Fonti:

-Traduzione di Eleonora Brusamento Spinelli dell’articolo Conversation Analysis and Conversational Moves scritto da Trevisani Daniele Conversation Analysis and Conversational Moves-Intercultural Negotiation

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

Per ulteriori informazioni consultare:

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 

__________

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 

__________

For further information see:

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Negotiation Cultures, Negotiation Time Frames and Timelines (part 1)

© 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 

__________

The temporal dimension and the perception that each of us has of communicative time vary on a cultural basis. For this reason it is important to carefully analyse this issue and learn how to use negotiation timelines efficiently.

Negotiation is a sequence of communication activities, in which the participants commit themselves to achieve a result, only possible thanks to a form of agreement between the parties. Finding an agreement that satisfies them both, as well as understanding each other well, are therefore obvious factors of success, that take up communication time. 

Each negotiation can be considered intercultural when the participants come from different cultures, have different experiences or use different languages. 

Diversity introduces large margins of error and misunderstanding into the negotiation: any message that works in one’s own culture risks being misunderstood in other cultures. One of the dimensions of greatest cultural variability is the “sense of time” and the time management, two important factors that are also part of the negotiation timing

Each culture has its own “negotiation times” and latent negotiation practices. For Americans (generalizing a lot) what matters is the business, so, a company that was born recently, and therefore young, can be treated as a company that has existed for a century. But this culture also has other manifestations. Since what matters is the content and merit, in the US a trained university student can present his/her research or paper at a conference, alongside academics, if the work is worth it. His paper would initially be selected without even knowing who the author is (the “blind review” method). 

In Italy, on the other hand, it is important to first understand who you are dealing with (history analysis, contextualization research, network research), who this person’s “friends” or “enemies” are, who is his/her sponsor, where he/she comes from. A young “non-sponsored” student won’t be able to present his/her research in a conference beyond his/her value. Time has different values and structures. 

So, for an Italian negotiator it may be necessary to focus on the story of whoever is in front of him/her, evaluate his/her credibility, and test him/her. He/she would take small steps, moving gradually closer, before concluding something big. 

The US negotiator, on the other hand, will proceed with the subject’s potential examination and take into consideration how much he/she can gain from this agreement with this subject, finding an immediate conclusion. 

The Japanese interlocutor will analyse history and give a high importance to roles and to the respect for honour. 

The South American interlocutor will focus on spending time together and become friends, gaining trust, getting to know each other, entering the “family”. 

We must always keep in mind that these timelines are extremely variable even within the same culture. Nothing guarantees us that a Brazilian behaves according to the stereotypical timeline, becoming a “mask” of his/her own culture. 

During an intercultural negotiation, the different ways, in which we perceive physical contact can turn into confrontation, or into discomfort for both parties. 

The contrast between cultures is evident when a European goes to an African or an Asian country, but this work’s objective, its focus, is to highlight how the intercultural factor forcefully breaks into every negotiation, even those between husband and wife in the same house, or between companies of the same country. 

Whenever different cultural systems (values, beliefs, thoughts, convictions, ways of expression) come into contact, there is a certain degree of interculturality, and diversity is often much wider than we think. 

Contact between cultures can produce stress or a formidable growth for human beings. Diversity results can lead to creativity and excitement, but also to misunderstandings and disagreements. 

In the worst-case scenario, misunderstandings and disagreements generate conflict, preventing personal and common goals from being achieved. 

One of the most important advice for intercultural negotiators is to try to share a negotiating timeline, by seeking an agreement to collaborate effectively, avoiding disagreements and misunderstandings. 

To be continued…

"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 

__________

For further information see:

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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 

__________

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 

__________

For further information see:

Italian Stereotypes in Japan: Strength or Weakness?

Article written by Ginevra Bighini, www.interculturalnegotiation.wordpress.com; mentoring by Dr. Daniele Trevisani, www.studiotrevisani.com

__________

Being Italian in Japan is not always easy. There are many things so totally different from our own world, that we usually need time to adapt to everything, but when it is time to negotiate, time may not be enough. For this reason, knowing how Japan sees us is very useful. 

Let’s start with the image Japanese have of Italy. As you all well know, Italy is famous for mainly 3 things: 

  1. Food 
  2. Art (music included) 
  3. Fashion 

In Japan, if you ask someone on the street about Italy, the first thing he/she will talk to you about is probably food, like Pizza and Pasta. They are also interested in music, Opera Music in particular, and fashion. Some of them come to Italy to study cooking, design or opera singing and then they come back to Japan to open, for example, Italian restaurants, that are very popular all over the country. 

Another important issue that I would like to mention concerns the way in which this image was built and who helped these ideas of Italy grow in the minds of all Japanese.  

The person responsible for this is Girolamo Panzetta, a 50-year-old Italian, who decided to take advantage of the Italian stereotype in Japan to make lots of money. He is now a star in Japan, thanks to his lessons of elegance and manliness.  

We have to thankhim if Japanese see us, on one hand as carefree womanizers, and on the other hand as original and cheerful people. 

So, we can summarize Italians’ pros and cons from a Japanese perspective, as follows: 

  • happy-go-lucky 
  • friendly 
  • cheerful 
  • fashionable 
  • original 
  • disorganized 
  • unreliable 
  • careless 
  • sloppy 

Now that we have a general idea of what Japanese think of us, it is time to understand if all these adjectives can be a strength or a weakness during a negotiation. I don’t believe that being cheerful, original or fashionable can become a disadvantage in a negotiation, but maybe being considered unreliable, sloppy and careless can become a bother.  

The real strategy here is to convert a disadvantage in advantage. How? By working on first impressions. 

If we are aware that a Japanese can have some prejudices about us, because we are part of the Italian culture, then we must work very hard to demonstrate the opposite. For example, in order to destroy the image of a carefree and disorganized Italian, we can take part of all their meetings with a perfectly prepared documentation, focused and always on the ball. 

While overcoming these unfavourable stereotypes, we must strengthen the favourable ones. We must be kind, friendly, finding the most original solution to their problems, never stop smiling warmly. 

Japanese love Italy, but depending only on this love and admiration won’t work. To achieve success in an intercultural negotiation, where stereotypes and prejudices are what define us before, and sometimes also after, the first meeting, we need to be prepared. 

Being prepared means understanding that we are different, while trying to reduce the gap between our own culture and the culture of our interlocutor. In order to do so, it is necessary to highlight our positive attributes and break all negative images they could have about us. 

At the same time, it is fundamental to remember to learn more about the other culture, so as to destroy and rebuild our opinion of it. We cannot possibly think to create a cooperative dialogue if we do not start that same dialogue with an open mind. 

Cultural respect and cultural diversity awareness will always be the basis of an healthy and everlasting business relationship. 

Girolamo Panzetta

Article written by Ginevra Bighini, www.interculturalnegotiation.wordpress.com; mentoring by Dr. Daniele Trevisani, www.studiotrevisani.com

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“Locus-of-Control” and the Construction of One’s Identity

© 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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Negotiation is not based on a free conversation, like an uncontrolled flow of thoughts expressed in words, but it must be managed and conducted. Everything must be guided in a strategic way by letting the negotiation of content be preceded by a negotiation of identity. Now, let’s take a look at its various aspects.

Each company is able to actively influence the fate of its negotiations, even though it does not determine it entirely. Negotiations do not take place in an abstract world, but in the concrete one. Regaining possession of the ability to affect one’s destiny, its present and future (increasing of the internal focus of control), is a fundamental issue, which also affects the way in which we want to shape negotiations and human relationships.

In order to avoid a possible conflict, it is necessary to recognize that we are negotiating, that we are different and that this conflict could arise any time if we don’t do something to prevent it. Diversity must be expressed explicitly, so as not to have to face repercussions.

When a negotiation starts latently, in order to acquire a negotiating awareness, the negotiator must ask himself/herself a few questions:

  • Are we both aware that we are negotiating?
  • Are we negotiating details or common ground preparational topics?
  • Am I negotiating with the right person?
  • Is the setting adequate, given the topic we are discussing? Is this the right place? Is this the right time?
  • What factors can I manipulate to set up the negotiation? What are the factors under my control? How can I bring external and situational factors back into my area of control?

The Conversation analysis allows you to define which moves and communication strategies the interlocutors use to define and negotiate their own identity.

The ALM method recognizes the necessity to divide all strategic objectives of the negotiation communication, distinguishing between:

  • Identity identification and identity sale: being recognized as the right person that can solve the problem, creating a value perception in the supplier – as a subject – in the person or in the faced role;
  • Value mix creation and product/solution selling: creating a value perception of the details of an offer.

The intercultural impression management is the art and/or ability to arouse positive impressions on one’s role (it has nothing to do with boasting importance), in order to overcome negotiation filters. All negotiators must be able to practice it, so as to become aware of their own strength and identity, of the uniqueness they possess and of their real value. However, they cannot forget to mix this self-awareness with the ability to make it emerge in communication.

Likewise, no negotiation can be successful if we are not able to sort out mutual identitiy’s boundaries, roles boundaries and the way in which we can start a cooperative dialogue.

During intercultural negotiations it is necessary to use specific conversational moves to create one’s own identity, while managing to make the other interlocutor perceive the value of that same identity as a part of the cultural context. Identity is attributed according to one’s cultural frame of mind.

We cannot assume that people are able to recognize each other’s identities automatically. “Who am I” and “Who are you” are two of the most overlooked aspects/questions in intercultural negotiations.

During business negotiations between companies, right from the very first moment of the meeting, everyone enters a weak or unconscious negotiation.

Deciding to meet at “our” company, at “their” company, or at a neutral location (and where), is already part of the negotiation process.

We use the term “weak negotiation” not because we are talking about something of little importance, but because we are referring to something weakly perceived as a real moment of negotiation. Its real importance, however, is very strong, as it sets first impressions (imprinting of the personal and corporate image) and starting positions.

The real problem is that “weak” situations, such as preliminary contacts, e-mails, phone calls, logistical messages exchanges, etc., are often not recognized as real negotiations, and they risk being underestimated.

Strong or explicit negotiations, on the other hand, concern situations in which both parties have officially stated that they are undergoing a real negotiation. For this reason, formalisms, formal bargaining mechanisms, negotiation tables, trading platforms and other open and institutionalized trading tools have already been set up.

The negotiation between companies usually take the shape of a clash between identities, ways of being and values. No company really has the same culture or the same behavioural models of other companies, however similar they may be. Diversity grows even more when physical and cultural distances become wide, as in intercontinental and in interethnic contexts.

"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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