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News

Conflict and hierarchy in the Myanmar workplace

HANA BUI 15 MAY 2020 (in the Myanmar Times)

A survey from 68 countries indicated that 90 percent of senior executives see “cross-cultural leadership” as the biggest management challenge of this century, according The Economist. Up to 40 percent of managers sent on overseas assignments terminate early. The cost to employers of each early return is between US$250,000 – $1,250,000. In most cases, the reason is cultural issues rather than professional or technical skills.

Expats in Myanmar are not exceptions. Even the cultural challenge they face here is tougher, since Myanmar opened its economy to the world less than ten years ago, as one of the last frontier markets in the world. Like it or not, Myanmar was in isolation from the outside world for over five decades. Thus, expats working in the enchanting Myanmar have often found lots of setbacks – oddities, quirks, idiosyncrasies due to cultural differences. These cultural differences can create a dreadful barrier to communication between expats and Myanmar people, affecting expats’ ability to build connections, motivate and collaborate with local people. “What is different is dangerous”, Geert Hofstede – the leading scholar in intercultural theories states.

Dr. Geert Hofstede,a psychologist, published his “cultural dimensions” model more than forty years ago, based on a decade of research. The model has become an international standard for understanding cultural differences. He identifies six cultural dimensions that help distinguish cultures from each other, in terms of the attitudes and relationships. These dimensions can be measured, and are identified as: Power Distance, Masculinity, Uncertainty Avoidance, Long-term Orientation, and Restraint. This article will focus on the dimension of Power Distance, an important orientation to understand in the Myanmar workplace.

Power Distance – The East vs the West

Power Distance refers to the extent to which the less powerful members of organisations and institutions accepts and expects that power is distributed unequally. Power distance describes how people belonging to a specific culture view power relationships between people– superior/subordinate relations. The Power Distance Index (PDI) measures the degree to which the members of a group or society accept the hierarchy of power and authority. PDI has had a substantial influence in intercultural training.

A society with a high PDI score indicates that it accepts an unequal, hierarchical distribution of power, and that people understand “their place” in the system. On the contrary, a society with a low PDI score means that power is shared and is widely dispersed, and that society’s members do not easily accept unequal distributions of power.

For example, Asian countries normally have high PDI score, while lots of Western countries have a low PDI score. According to Hosftede’s Insights, the PDI score of China is 80 out of 100, Singapore is 74, Thailand 64, while the PDI score of America is 40, Germany at 35, The Netherlands at 38. In America an individual can criticise the president and his/her party publicly, but an individual would face a tough situation or even danger if they publicly criticised the president and government of China, for example.

Hofstede’s Power Distance Index map. The lighter green countries are generally more egalitarian, and darker green ones showing a higher degree of power distance.

How power distance can cause problems

Intercultural differences between makers of airplanes Boeing and Airbus (from small power distance countries) and pilots from South Korea (a large power distance country) caused a major accident in the late 1990s.

Airbus and Boeing produced planes which are supposed to be flown by 2 pilots without a significant power distance between them. Being on equal-par, in terms of status and power, one pilot is supposed to correct the other when necessary. With pilots having a large power distance between them, the airline increases the risk of accidents given that the co-pilot is less likely to correct the more senior colleague.

Indeed, ignorance of the power distance in the workplace would lead to dreadful consequences – for example, Korean Air flight 801’s missed approach to Antonio B Won Pat International Airport in Guam on August 6 1997, killing 229 people on board.

Myanmar Survival Rule # 1 –Hierarchy

Whether it’s at a monastery, in the classroom or at home, Myanmar is a high power distance culture. Myanmar is a hierarchical country as opposed to egalitarian Western countries. Though other religions make use of hierarchy, Myanmar Buddhism encourages people to submit to five most important entities in society: Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha (Community), Parents, and Teachers. “Don’t disrespect the Buddha” is a vital law. There is the body hierarchy too, meaning that the head is the purest part and the feet the dirtiest. Hence why people take their shoes off inside the pagoda and house, and never touch someone on their head.

High power distance is also reflected in the work place, especially in local companies or businesses. The organisations are centralised with the business owner making decisions without real delegation to subordinates. The organisational structures reflect complex hierarchies. We would also see autocratic leadership, paternalistic management style, many levels of management and large numbers of supervisory staff. Subordinates expect to be told what to do, and how to do it. In Myanmar, there is also a special respect for elders and seniors.

These values can often conflict with those in international organisations, which may have a structure. In some places, supervisors and employees are considered almost as equals and the manager may even converse with the cleaning staff. The authority at these multinational companies may be decentralised, so decision making is delegated as much as possible. There is a participative management style and a smaller proportion of supervisory staff. Thus hierarchy plays a role in many conflicts between Myanmar businesses hiring overseas managers and workers, and international companies working with Myanmar staff.

What does it mean to expats working in Myanmar?

If expats work with local business partners, or for a local organisation, it is good to acknowledge a leader’s status. Whatever you do, don’t push back explicitly. The owner normally makes all decisions – so beware. There may not be real delegation so you may need to go to the top of the organisation if you want answers.

When expat managers lead a team in an international company, be aware that many Myanmar people are used to the high power distance culture, so they may expect you to make decisions, or expect you tell them what to do. You need to provide detailed instructions, and follow-up closely. “Be less demanding, and provide more coaching” is a good mindset to have.

In many meetings, expats would feel frustrated because local colleagues do not speak up, raise opinions – preferring to keep quiet or agree with whatever their manager/supervisor says. This is because of the power distance orientation in the culture. At Myanmar universities, lecturers are also the ones to provide all knowledge about particular subjects. Students are seldom expected to question this.

Elders and seniors are highly regarded in Myanmar society. In a meeting in an organization, younger people infrequently express opposing ideas to their managers. It would be considered inappropriate. As such, a younger manager may face some difficulties managing her older subordinates.

Many foreigners say they do not understand why there is such respect given to elder colleagues, without any particular reason. There is indeed a reason – age links to wisdom and knowledge. As a local proverb puts it: “The older the person, the wiser his brain” (Shar bin o-lay a-hnit pyit-lay).

Understanding the social custom of paying respect to seniors is essential for people in an organisation in Myanmar. For example, a junior does not dare to “ask back” when in the boardroom. That would be considered challenging a senior, which violates the hierarchal relationship. In fact, a very habitual behavior of local colleagues in Myanmar is to hesitate when responding to an expat supervisor. Even if they do not understand what is being said, it would violate the hierarchy of respect for them to seek clarification and understanding by questioning the person.

It is not an issue that can be solved easily and quickly. Basically expats should create an environment that their local colleagues feel “safe” to speak out. They know and may experience that even their ideas are different from their expat supervisors, and areappreciated. In the long run, it requires that they have the ultimate “trust” on the expats so that the local colleagues can dare to raise their voice. Stephen Covey, author of The Speed of Trust, writes “Trust is the glue of life. It is the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It is the foundation principle that holds all relationships.”

Many Myanmar people may find expats interesting too, because of the differences in cultures. They may desire to break out of their cultural conditioning, but to even attempt this requires building trust.

Hana Bui is an intercultural trainer and best-selling author with the book “When Global Meets Local – How Expatriates Can Succeed in Myanmar”. It is the first-time popular guidebook for expats on how to work well with local colleagues. Hana can be contacted at hana@interculturemyanmar.com

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Empathy and Active Listening

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

© Article translated from the book “Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace“. copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available. If you are interested in publishing the book in any language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact Dr. Daniele Trevisani.

 

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. 

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) 

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

Most quarrels amplify a misunderstanding. 

 (Andre Gide) 

 

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; 
  • 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…?) 
  • 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; 
  • 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. 

© Article translated from the book “Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace“. copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available. If you are interested in publishing the book in any language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact Dr. Daniele Trevisani.

Categories
Empathy and Active Listening

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

Copyright by Dr. Daniele Trevisani. Article extracted with author’s permission from the book “Ascolto attivo ed Empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace” (translated title: “Active Listening and Empathy: The Secretes of Effective Communication”. The book’s rights are on sale in any language. Please contact Dr. Daniele Trevisani for information at the website www.danieletrevisani.com

Positive and destructive elements of empathy 

…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 

  • Behavioral empathy: 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. 

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 empathy  Destroying empathy 
Curiosity, passion, motivation to listen  Disinterest, listening for duty; lack of motivation 
Real listening participation, without fiction  Pretending 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 context 

Monotonous questions, statical questions, questions that are too anchored to a dogmatic scheme or school 
Focus on emotional experience, emotional listening  Exclusive 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 

© Article translated from the book “Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace“. copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available. If you are interested in publishing the book in any language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact Dr. Daniele Trevisani.

Categories
Empathy and Active Listening

Data and Emotions: The Two Basic Ingredients of Empathic Listening 

Copyright by Dr. Daniele Trevisani. Article extracted with author’s permission from the book “Ascolto attivo ed Empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace” (translated title: “Active Listening and Empathy: The Secretes of Effective Communication”. The book’s rights are on sale in any language. Please contact Dr. Daniele Trevisani for information at the website www.danieletrevisani.com

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. 

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. 

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 

© Article translated from the book “Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace“. copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available. If you are interested in publishing the book in any language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact Dr. Daniele Trevisani.

Categories
Empathy and Active Listening

Apathetic or passive listening  

Copyright by Dr. Daniele Trevisani. Article extracted with author’s permission from the book “Ascolto attivo ed Empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace” (translated title: “Active Listening and Empathy: The Secretes of Effective Communication”. The book’s rights are on sale in any language. Please contact Dr. Daniele Trevisani for information at the website www.danieletrevisani.com

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 armoured 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. 

 

Listening at times 

It’s not the chatter of people around us that is the most powerful distractor, but rather the chatter of our own minds. Utter concentration demands these inner voices be stilled. 

(Daniel Goleman) 

Sometimes attentive listening, sometimes distracted. It is a mechanism that creates bad listening. 

Distracted listening is extremely common, probably the most realistic state of average We listen; then something about someone else’s content ‘turns us on’ because it relates to our own interests; then we could ask a follow-up question; then someone else’s content changes, or something comes to mind, we jump from one thought to another, our head ‘goes away’, or we hear a sentence from someone else’s conversation that catches our attention; we get lost, we ‘walk away’ from the conversation, even though we are still physically there. The quickest way to apply bad listening “at times” is to listen with a media on, listen while typing on a keyboard or screen, listen with the TV on or with a monitor on, which we may consider “background” but is not background, as information comes out of it that sometimes catches us, and this is one of the worst listening ever, except for a few moments of “mental presence”.  

The effort of talking to someone who listens ‘in fits and starts’ is enormous, both physically and emotionally. After this review of bad listening, let’s move on to listening of a better nature highlighted on the scale. 

Effective listening. Selective, active, empathic and sympathetic listening 

When we think of effective listening, we think first of positive experiences, moments when we have felt heard with our hearts and not just our ears. 

But effective listening can have many nuances, which are worth exploring. It is essential to understand that listening becomes effective when it achieves its ends, and its ends are different depending on the relationship. In a phase of listening to a person who has experienced trauma, empathic listening will be important and indeed healing.  

But if we are listening to a person who is telling us about an accident in progress in which there are people still in danger, we will have to know how to switch to active and selective listening immediately, not a word more, not a word less. Fast, quick and incisive, getting what we need, to move on to action or swiftly pass the information on to others. And the information must be ‘clean’, otherwise we risk circulating ‘dirty’ and wrong information, and doing damage. 

The good listener is therefore not always “good, good, patient, nice and always says yes”, but rather, knows how to use the right listening mode for the purpose, knows how to understand the context, knows how to use multiple tools and ways, which can sometimes be quick and sharp, other times slow, soft and welcoming. 

Selective listening 

With selective listening we overcome the “red zone” of listening and enter into modes that can be really useful.  

Selective listening, although not empathic in intent, seeks very precise information, which can be both objective (things, people, times) and emotional (moods, feelings), with respect to a certain episode or theme being explored. Whoever wants to do active listening must know how to do selective listening, because in some moments it is essential to know how to “dismantle an episode”, in order to understand what to repeat or not to do again, and to know how to dismantle positive episodes, in order to understand the success factors that we managed to create, and how precisely the chains of events followed one another. 

Some listening techniques become fundamental here: 

  • Reflecting: acting as a mirror, reformulating what has been understood. It allows one to be more precise and opens up other content. 
  • Deflecting: Recognizing the input of themes that do not belong and managing to get them out of the conversation, dampening them and expelling them. 
  • Probing: Testing a piece of information with a related question, e.g. asking “since you told me he arrived late, when did he arrive?”. Useful for further investigation. 
  • Recap: Recap and re-launch. Recapitulate what has been collected so far and open “OK, we’ve reached the point where you turn up for the interview, they make you wait, you start to get nervous, you walk in and you don’t know what to say. Then what happened?” 
  • Contact: constant eye contact signals, nodding of the head, guttural and paralinguistic expressions (mmm, ah, oh), everything that is a “phatic” signal (phatic signals are those that say, in essence, “I’m here”, I am present, I am here for you). 

All these techniques will be discussed in more detail when we talk about “conversation analysis”, but it is good to know that they exist, and that active, selective or empathic listening uses precise techniques, not just the will to listen. In selective listening, we are extremely focused on understanding a specific thing, a specific question about what the other person is thinking, or a precise piece of information that we want to grasp.  

Everything else is of no interest to us.  

Our mental presence is switched on, sharp, but directed like a laser towards an information point, and not – as in empathic listening – welcoming towards whatever emerges. When material emerges that does not interest us, we bring the conversation back to the ‘focus’ we are interested in with questions (with topic shifting, or conversational refocusing). 

In terms of the efficiency and effectiveness of selective listening, our questions only become ‘diagnostic’ when they manage to cleanse the picture, leaving only what really interests us, so practicing it well requires technique and study. This also happens in daily life, and we need not worry about it. The question can be “what time will you be home?” and we can only be interested in one hour, and nothing else. Not the story of life. We have to worry instead if the intention is to listen actively and empathetically to an emotional and human experience, and only questions of clarification or monosyllabic answers come out. If we ask selective listening “where would you like to go on holiday”, the listening will focus only on the “where”, neglecting the “how”, the “subtle nature” of the type of holiday the other person would like to take. Practicing selective listening is not in itself wrong or right. It depends on the consistency between our underlying purpose and the type of questions that come up. We can assess it on the basis of the empathy factor – if our purpose is to create empathy, it can be used but it must be dosed very carefully. Empathy is a process that ‘welcomes’ rather than excludes and so selective listening is great for gathering data but very poor for really targeting emotions. 

Active listening 

A good listener is one who helps us overhear ourselves.
(Yahia Lababidi) 

When we practice active listening we are immersed in a special activity. We are giving interest, our time, our energy, to understand a person, their content, their intentions, and a piece of their story. People are generally wary of opening up and telling about themselves, their inner selves, even to themselves. Active listening offers a ‘life platform’ where the words of others and the thoughts of others can gently and progressively rest. 

Each opening is followed by a greater opening, until the ‘core’ of the person is revealed for what it is, in its splendour, in its pain, in its truth. Freed from masks and self-consciousness. 

Getting to the ‘human core’ of a person takes a long way, but it can be done. From the nothingness of empathic listening, every small step towards ‘sharing’ is always significant. 

The person who engages in listening, basically, wants to listen, considers it an important fact, to the point of putting the brakes on his or her thinking, omitting to say how he or she thinks, putting the brakes on ‘taking the turn of the conversation’ to make an argument or express opinions.  

Active listening focuses on listening. It does this with words, with questions, and also with the body. It uses bodily and para-verbal signals of participation in what is said, reformulations and recapitulations of perceived content, and other linguistic and non-verbal devices that serve to give the signal “what you say interests me, I am following you”. Active listening can be practiced for two major classes of interests, even opposite to each other. It can be done as an extreme act of love, a gift we give to a friend, or a moment of great humanity in which we take an interest in others.  

Or it can be an extremely strategic listening, a professional listening in which we need the information inside someone else’s mind. We may need it to help the other person, as in coaching or therapy, or we may need it to run an organization, or to make decisions, as in leadership. 

In any case, what we have in our minds is always enriched by listening to others. 

It is natural that more information emerges from active listening and the person can also expose emotional information, which is all the more profound the more the listener is committed to not judging, not judging, not interrupting, not ‘interpreting’. 

Active listening requires energy, commitment, a rested body, an alert and watchful mind. When we are in this mode, even a single nod of the eyebrow can give us valuable information. 

We can not be distracted for a moment that we’re screwed  

for the rest of our life!  

Micaela Ramazzotti – Anita 

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”.19  

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. 

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.  

Levels of listening quality

© Article translated from the book “Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace“. copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available. If you are interested in publishing the book in any language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact Dr. Daniele Trevisani.

Categories
Empathy and Active Listening

The scale of listening levels 

Copyright by Dr. Daniele Trevisani. Article extracted with author’s permission from the book “Ascolto attivo ed Empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace” (translated title: “Active Listening and Empathy: The Secretes of Effective Communication”. The book’s rights are on sale in any language. Please contact Dr. Daniele Trevisani for information at the website www.danieletrevisani.com

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) 

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. 

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) 

© Article translated from the book “Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace“. copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available. If you are interested in publishing the book in any language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact Dr. Daniele Trevisani.

 

Categories
Empathy and Active Listening

Ikigai. Enhanced listening through models

Copyright by Dr. Daniele Trevisani. Article extracted with author’s permission from the book “Ascolto attivo ed Empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace” (translated title: “Active Listening and Empathy: The Secretes of Effective Communication”. The book’s rights are on sale in any language. Please contact Dr. Daniele Trevisani for information at the website www.danieletrevisani.com

We can enhance listening through models that help us to ask more correct and centred questions, both  

  1. in the way(listening mode) and  
  2. in content(content of the questions). 

If we centre both, we will have made a perfect centre. For this purpose we anticipate the model, central to this book, of the “scale of listening levels”, which concerns above all the “way” of listening. The scale is shown in the figure below. 

levels of listening and levels of empathy

We will go into the details of this scale in the next chapter.  

For now, suffice it to say that the tools for making quality leaps in active listening do exist, and you can make huge strides, to the point of making it one of the strengths of your life and changing the way you are. 

Listening is part of communication, communication is part of people’s lives, and people’s lives are part of the universe.  

By listening, we are also making a contribution to understanding the part of the universe that lives in us. 

 

The effort to understand the universe is among the very few things that raise human life above the level of a farce,  

giving it some of the dignity of a tragedy. 

 (Steven Weinberg) 

 

Returning to the scale, as we can see, we start from the bottom, with imprecise, judgmental, aggressive listening, until we get to active, empathic, positive listening, going through intermediate traits. 

These are the modes of listening. If we apply these modes to a model, be it psychosocial or organisational, we obtain ‘modelled listening’. The model we focus on briefly now is the IkigaiIkigai (生き甲斐) is the Japanese equivalent of meanings such as ‘reason for living’, ‘raison d’être’, ‘purpose of life’. In Okinawa Ikigai is seen as “a reason to wake up in the morning”, and certainly, “what is your reason for waking up in the morning” is both a powerful question and a moment of powerful empathy and advanced active listening. 

Ikigai is a composite word, derived from Ikiru, meaning ‘to live’ and kai, meaning ‘shell’. Symbolically, it represents our space of expression, the place in space-time in which we feel ‘at home’, and our life mission. Indeed,  

ikigai

 

 “Everyone, according to Japanese culture, would have their own Ikigai. Finding the reason for one’s existence, however, requires an inner search that can often be long and difficult. This search is considered very important and its successful conclusion brings the person deep satisfaction.  

In addition to the positive aspects for those who follow their Ikigai, there can also be negative aspects: those who live life with extreme passion risk being consumed by it to the point of degradation”.  

The four main vectors or variables are 

  1. What you LOVE
  2. What the world NEEDS
  3. What you can be PAID FOR
  4. What you are GOOD AT.

From this come four major stimuli. 

Think about these four questions: 

  1. What do you like or love to do?
  2. What are you good at?
  3. What does the world need from you?
  4. For which of the things you can do can you be paid?

When we manage to find answers that satisfy all four propositions, we may say that we have found our Ikigai. Many studies have shown that Ikigai, or approaching this condition, prolongs and improves life17, so this concept has come to be the subject of high-level18 academic study. Ikigai represents the perfect centre, the condition that satisfies all other conditions, whereby we are able to do work that we love, work that is useful to the world, work that we are paid for, and work at which we are skilled. 

In psychology, this condition closely resembles a life or existence led in a state of Flow. 

, or Flow, “the magical moment when everything flows perfectly and time seems to vanish”, a concept introduced in 1975 by the psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi and then spread to various fields of application of psychology, including performance, sport, spirituality, education and work, the immersiveness of experience in everyday life, creativity, and meditation.  In moments of flow, everything seems to work magically and perfectly, even though the challenges are there and they are high. We can say that listening in a Flow state exists, and is made possible by our total “Mental Presence” in listening combined with the mental presence of the other and mutual availability. We notice how the imperfect intersections, those spaces where one or more of the four basic needs are not satisfied, generate different types of “state of life”, which can be examined in the figure itself. 

We will then have questions such as:  

 

What do you love to do in life? 

What do you think the planet and the world need right now? 

What are the jobs for which you can get paid? 

What are the things that make you feel good? 

 

Listening can become more and more complex, as in management coaching where we want to be able to understand what condition a person is in in relation to their work experience. So for example: 

 

  • Do you love what you are doing now? 
  • Do you think what you are doing now is useful? 
  • Are you satisfied with your remuneration? 
  • Do you get gratification at work, apart from remuneration? 
  • How do you live your working day? 
  • At which moments do you feel that you are giving your best at work with pleasure? 

We could ask many more questions, not an infinite number, but a very large number. The answers can allow us to make “hooks” on what emerges to deepen and widen the discourse, or instead we can go into detail with selective listening when we find a problem, or focus on an emotional detail of a conflict with a co-worker or a leadership problem, and apply empathic listening. In the beginning we need useful starting models to help us get off on the right foot, and then correct the course as we go along. 

Listening is one of the most sensitive human activities, using models certainly enhances it, but it never replaces the human sensitivity needed to practice quality listening. Capturing the nuances of people, whether at work or in life, requires an enormous empathic will, method and a pinch of artistry. People are universes, they are infinite worlds, looking into them can make you dizzy, but it is worth it. Because to know a person is to know a piece of the universe. 

It’s strange how your life can take a direction.  

Then you meet a person and everything changes. 

 

Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson) 

from the movie “The answer is in the stars” by George Tillman Jr. 

© Article translated from the book “Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace“. copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available. If you are interested in publishing the book in any language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact Dr. Daniele Trevisani.

This article about the Power of Listening is about

  • active listening
  • active listening skills
  • active listening skills and empathy
  • active listening skills and empathy in leadership
  • aggressive listening
  • aggressive listening effects
  • emotional resonance emotional resonance
  • empathic listening
  • scale of listening levels
  • scale of listening levels example
  • sensitive listening
Categories
Empathy and Active Listening

The power of listening 

Copyright by Dr. Daniele Trevisani. Article extracted with author’s permission from the book “Ascolto attivo ed Empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace” (translated title: “Active Listening and Empathy: The Secretes of Effective Communication”. The book’s rights are on sale in any language. Please contact Dr. Daniele Trevisani for information at the website www.danieletrevisani.com

Knowing how to grasp emotional resonances, towards “sensitive listening” 

The power of listening, we will say at once, is above all the ability to see beyond words. Seeing the other person’s cards to play better and not in the dark. Listening, the real kind, the kind that “half-opens” communication and the communicator to look inside, is an extremely powerful weapon. It unmasks lies and falsehoods, it prevents mental fog from entering conversations, because it can recognise it. 

It is so easy to tell lies to those who do not know how to listen well, to those who let themselves be carried away by rhetoric and status, and who do not get to the bottom of the message to grasp its truth. 

Attentive listening is the anti-persuasive weapon par excellence, just as distracted listening is a slave to status and roles and is the main way to get subliminal messages into your head that persuade you without you realising it. Listening takes over when negotiating with internal and external customers, with stakeholders (the various stakeholders that revolve around the life of a person or a company), it manifests itself in the family, between couples, between parents and children, between friends, with people of the same and different cultures. 

The power of listening is equal to that of playing cards by being able to see your opponent’s cards. We read people better, we read situations better. We see better. 

It can be used to cure (Carl Rogers, in his Client-Centred Therapy, makes it the central tool for psychotherapeutic healing14) or to persuade (study of a target audience and strategic empathy), to plan, as in project management, to fully understand a person’s desires and objectives and “what is in their head”, and to make wiser group decisions without anyone feeling excluded or unheard.  

Even difficult decisions and decisions in critical conditions use the power of listening. Because listening, except in an interrogation, is a state of mind of spaciousness for the words of others, for the emotions of others, for the stories of others. 

Anger and intolerance are the enemies of right understanding. 

 (Mahatma Gandhi) 

Certainly, we can say that people who can listen have a competitive advantage over others. They can grasp more information, they can perceive more, they can enter neural connections with other minds, they can have the option to listen or not, to their liking, while those who do not know how to listen have only one option: not to listen, or to listen very badly, and as Malcolm X specified, “those who listen to nothing will fall for anything.”  

In every conversation, a listening phase takes place, there is always a ‘part’ of us listening, whether we are aware of it or not, and implicit ‘manoeuvring’ takes place.  

Who speaks first? Who listens to whom? For how long? With what purposes? Implicit purposes? Explicit purposes? And what perceptions will the other have? What formats does this conversation have, beyond the individual words? Is it a ‘plea’, is it a ‘self-celebration’, is it an ‘attack on the cruel world’? 

What do we understand about a person when we have listened to them well? We understand how they think and their state of mind, right down to their personality. And having understood those, we have understood 90% of the person. 

Emotional resonances are ‘echoes of emotions’ that seem to come from afar but bring new content to a different level and enrich the listening experience. There are at least ten ways of saying “everything is fine” when faced with the question “How are you today?”, and those ten different nuances come from the emotional resonances that reverberate in the person and are associated with the words. Try it to believe it. It is possible to practice ‘hearing’ emotional resonances, to get as close as possible to the truth of things. While traditional listening focuses on words, empathic listening focuses more on capturing emotions. The other person’s emotions have a vibration, a reverberation, ours too, and a real moment of resonance is created. 

When I understand that emotions are resonating in the other person, we are in sensitive listening. When I start to take an interest, to try to understand what kind of emotions are resonating, we are entering empathic listening. 

Each of the main publications I have written15, each line, contains possible worlds of interpretation. To feel that there is a flow, to decide that you want to decode a text, a word, a sentence, a conversation, is to be able to listen with the heart and not only with the mind. 

In physics, this phenomenon is called an ‘interference pattern between two singular sources’, and what physicists call interference, to us may instead be richness and sensitivity. In the arts, the pattern is called vesica piscis or almond, a symbol of ogive shape obtained from two circles of the same radius, intersecting in such a way that the centre of each circle lies on the circumference of the other. 

The name literally means fish bladder in Latin. For us, it becomes important because it represents the “entrance” into the door of other people’s emotions, the basis of all empathic listening. Empathic listening is about: 

  • The nature of emotions (What emotion do I feel when I listen?);  
  • The multiplicity of emotions (How many emotions do I feel? Which ones are included?);  
  • the strength of the emotions (How strong are the emotions I feel in the other person: peripheral, intermediate, central?), and  
  • what moves them (What could be the reason for the emotional state I feel in the other person?).  

This is just a beginning of empathic listening, which we can call “sensitive listening”. Moving on to empathic listening then requires specific questions, specific rephrasing, and an appropriate context. But let us stick to sensitive listening. 

A family member tells us “I would like to change job”. But he does not say it with enthusiasm, we grasp an emotional resonance of sadness, melancholy. 

If we are in the empathic phase, we will ask questions, we will try to understand, for example, if this search is motivated by dissatisfaction with the current job, and if so, what causes it.  

We will also come to understand what the person is looking for in a new job, whether he/she wants to travel or not, what characteristics his/her ideal job should have, and whether the person feels mentally up to it – as a personal power (self-efficacy) – to start a real job search. We will have, basically, helped that person, starting from an emotional resonance. 

Our awareness of how quality listening works, the ability to activate active listening, and above all the full awareness of all its enormous nuances and emotional variables, will influence our lives. Listening already affects us today, in every negotiation and in our professional lives, and even in our wider existence as human beings, from birth to our last breath. Listening is with us, always. Whether we want it to be or not. We listen to our emotional resonances as we talk. We make great discoveries. 

Listening also enters companies, into consultative sales relationships. A strong helping relationship, centred on listening to the client, is the basis of any honest, authentic, sincere, and professional consultative sales methodology. It is no wonder that, in the absence of the ability to listen, many sales situations can be described as “putting on the memorized song” and talking over the client’s head, regardless of what they really need. 

At the heart of any true consultancy process, be it medical, professional, technical, or human, is listening, the ability to bring out data and situations that help to make a useful, contributory, effective proposal.  

When we hear or perceive something that resonates within us, we have listened. 

 

If what I say resonates with you, it’s merely because we’re branches of the same tree. 

 (William Butler Yeats) 

 

Seeking resonance and listening also applies to strategic professionals. In the case of sales, the listening technique is transformed into real coaching of the customer, who is helped to make progress and improvements thanks to our active listening actions. Active listening is always the “mother of all reflections”. It does not change much if we move towards examining the listening skills of a doctor towards a patient.  

How many times have you felt you were listened to fully, thoroughly, and without rushing to conclusions?  

The technical times of health care do not always make this possible, but the problem is that – even if there were time – doctors do not “know how to do it”, they are not equipped, nor have they been trained during their studies, with the ability to listen in depth that is needed. And I can say this, having taught Doctor-Patient Communication in numerous Master courses for doctors16. Their first discovery, with practical listening exercises, about not being able to listen, often shocked them. 

Companies, on the other hand, often think they are “listening” to us by making us fill in questionnaires or using automatic responders, which certainly does not help to create an empathetic bond with the customer. 

With questionnaires and online forms, so distant, so cold, it is difficult to create the emotional resonance that only active listening can create. 

Listening also comes into play in leadership, because it is one thing to give orders to people without knowing what impact and adherence we will find, and quite another to give instructions, deliveries or delegations having a noticeably clear imagine of how people think and what they may or may not accept or see as feasible. 

If listening were a river, we would have a simple listening, which is limited to looking at the water passively and distractedly, and an empathic listening “beyond words”, which goes to observe with attention also the different colours and nuances of the water flow, the banks, the inlets, the vegetation surrounding it, the subtle eddies of the water, a boat, a transported log, and the speed of the current, and all the possible flow of signals we see in the environment. 

To offer a first contribution of method, let us now examine a first visual scale of listening levels, useful to fix some points from the beginning. A scale for listening levels is necessarily a reduction, compared to the complexity of such a vast and enormous phenomenon. And yet, if this reduction helps us to make progress in training, then it is welcome. This scale can help us defend ourselves against aggressive listening or activate empathic listening. The choice is ours. 

Because the important thing is to have the option and to be able to choose. 

© Article translated from the book “Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace“. copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available. If you are interested in publishing the book in any language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact Dr. Daniele Trevisani.

This article about the Power of Listening is about

  • active listening
  • active listening skills
  • active listening skills and empathy
  • active listening skills and empathy in leadership
  • aggressive listening
  • aggressive listening effects
  • emotional resonance emotional resonance
  • empathic listening
  • scale of listening levels
  • scale of listening levels example
  • sensitive listening
Categories
intercultural communication Neuro-Associative Programming

Variables that affect communication effectiveness, well-being and performance

The Four Distances model tells us about a variegated set of variables that affect communication and make it of excellent quality, satisfying, constructive, or bad, destructive and miserable.

It is good to start the more in-depth exposition of the model with an overall picture, and then move on to the analysis of each single point and each single “Distance”.

  1. The basis of the model dates back to the simple acknowledgment that:
  2. Man uses words to express himself (or signs, or gestures).
  3. The word is the representative of an idea, of a concept. Since the person cannot transfer the direct experience of what he does or feels and experiences, he is forced to use the word, or gesture or sign, with all the limits that it entails.
  4. The concept or idea is formed following contact with some aspect of reality, external reality (things, objects) or internal reality (emotions, moods), the so-called external referents.
    Every single living person carries out this process with differences, slight or large, giving rise to an interpersonal communication that opens up to many misunderstandings and intercultural misunderstandings.

This is in summary the representation of a thought that dates back even to the famous “Essay on Human Intellect” by John Locke, a 17th century British philosopher and physician, pioneer of the studies on language and communication [1]. Locke, for example, distinguished:

Ideas of sensation, those that come from external experience, from sensations such as, for example, colors. The formation of these ideas takes place from external objects, from which data come that are imprinted on that blank slate that is our sensitivity.
Ideas of reflection concern the internal experience or reflection on the internal acts of our mind such as thinking, the birth of ideas, doubting, wanting, etc.
The overall model can be represented as follows:

Figure 9 – 4DM – 4 Distances Model – Model of the Four Distances

the four distances model of intercultural communication

 

In this model, the distinction between Hard and Soft variables does not have to do with common perception (Hard = solid, concrete, and Soft = light or less important), but with the very nature of a variable. Both hard and soft variables are absolutely important.

The difference lies in their greater or lesser tangibility. Values ​​are something intangible, but the resulting behaviors are very tangible – for example, the abstract value of ecology gives rise to the concrete behavior of recycling paper, plastic and glass, among other things, and not polluting, so don’t we confuse the fact of being intangible with an alleged minor importance of a variable.

In a person, the number of years (age) will be a hard datum, and a soft datum (but much more important) the personality type, or even the personality state with which the person is living.

In fact, at a certain moment, I can communicate with someone and find myself – as Transactional Analysis shows, in a state of Parental personality, or Adult State, or Child State, with various sub-categories and nuances. This will affect how I communicate, on every front, what I say, how I say it, what distances I place with the person I’m interacting with, and what attitudes I use.

The state of consciousness can be counted among the hard components, although it may seem intangible. In fact, the brain frequencies associated with each state of consciousness are a physical datum and are measurable, and the state of consciousness then produces behaviors and physiological states, even partially directly observable.

In the Science of Neuro-Associative Programming ™ (PNA) [2] the phenomenon of the connection between a mental state (let’s say relaxation, or the activation of positive emotions) with an external state or performance, such as communicating in public, is concretely realized , intercultural communication, negotiation, sales, training or sports performance.

The essential thing is to understand in which mental state the greatest well-being for the person and the best performance for her are produced at the same time.

In intercultural communication, returning to the Fischer scale, certainly better results are produced by associating relaxation and sensitivity to the communicative act, while at the same time avoiding the onset of anxiety or altered negative states of consciousness.

This also applies to doctor-patient communication and any professional communication, including helping relationships such as coaching, counseling, psychotherapy and training.

[1] Locke, John (1960) An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. London, The Baffet.

The keywords of this article on Neuro-Associative Programming and Intercultural Communication are:

  • Analysis
  • Anxiety
  • Activation
  • Welllness
  • Wellbeing
  • Coaching
  • Active coaching
  • Experiential coaching
  • In-depth coaching
  • Scientific coaching
  • Behaviors
  • Behavior
  • To communicate
  • Communication
  • Intercultural communication
  • Counseling
  • Creativity
  • Deep Coaching
  • Effectiveness
  • Efficiency
  • Training
  • Active training
  • Corporate training
  • Active corporate training
  • Management training
  • Brain frequencies
  • Fisher Map
  • Model of the four distances of communication
  • To negotiate
  • Public speaking
  • Neogotiation
  • Life coaching
  • sports coaching
  • Business coaching
  • Performance
  • Human potential
  • Mental programming
  • Neuro-associative programming
  • Neuroassociative programming
  • Psychotherapy
  • Relaxation
  • Performance science
  • Altered states of consciousness
  • States of mind
  • States of consciousness
  • Altered states of consciousness
  • State of mind
  • State of consciousness
  • Values
  • Intangible values

To contact Dr. Daniele Trevisani

Categories
intercultural communication Neuro-Associative Programming

Acting on the States of Consciousness


© Copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani, Studio Trevisani Consulting Training Coaching and Research, article extracted in editorial preview from the text “Neuro-Associative Programming™”, Franco Angeli publisher, Milan.

Bring out your own inner dialogue. Identity, State of Consciousness, Communication Situation (COMSIT) in Intercultural Communication

Communication implies an exchange of information and emotions. Reasoning about our identity asks us to shed light on our true nature, on our being. Transferring “who we are” to others is always difficult, as human complexity and the many roles and shades of personality that are part of us form a truly huge galaxy. We are atoms in an infinite aquarium of molecules, every now and then we try to stop and talk to each other, but we realize how difficult it is, both to stop and to talk to each other.

In intercultural communication it is very important to come to understand which part of our inner dialogue is emerging, which part we would like to share, and if “understanding deeply” is difficult, at least knowing is possible. This requires adequate exercises of focusing on the “multiple Selfs” that we carry within us. And how they communicate externally, that is, what part of us is emerging in intercultural communication. Is the “scientist” emerging, is the hero emerging, is the victim emerging, is the traveler or the researcher emerging? Which archetype guides me at a certain moment? And by which archetype is the other guided? This step is essential to know the possible D1, the role distances, and how these can impact intercultural communication.

“If understanding is impossible, knowing is necessary.” Primo Levi

Lack of communication can prevent us from making others understand what we would like to do, how we feel, what we really are, and what we could be.

A great source of incommunicability occurs when we ourselves have not made a clear picture of us, first of all about ourselves, about our being, about the boundaries of our mental space and our role in the world. I may not be able to correctly transfer information also because I myself have a blurred, uncleared representation of my Self. The communication that will come out will certainly be the bearer of doses of incommunicability, at the start.

The whole problem of life is this: how to break one’s loneliness, how to communicate with others. Cesare Pavese

Targeted Introspection has a name in psychology, it means Focusing. Focusing (both in the variant of emotional focusing – shedding light on emotions, and in informative focusing – clarifying data and facts), allows us to clarify – first of all to ourselves – what we want to convey, what we feel is important to convey, and what we want to happen as a result of our communication (communicative effect or result).

The issue of incommunicability leads us to ask ourselves what the possible “common ground” is, what “you and I” potentially have to share, what common interests we have or could have, what we could talk about.

The following principle speaks of this:

Principle 5 – Focusing on one’s identity and multiple roles, State of Consciousness and COMSIT

Intercultural communication becomes positive and effective the more:

  • people have practiced “focusing” on their own identity;
  • people have practiced focusing on their multiple life roles;
  • people understand with what role it is good to communicate and are consistent in doing so, given the COMSIT (Communication Situation) they have to face;
  • the person experiences the intercultural relationship in a positive role and within a “cognitive space” of pleasure, in a positive neurophysiological state of consciousness, connected to relaxation, and appropriate to the situation;
  • the people or a person accept each other (one accepts the other) in the specific role they have decided to put in place and represent during the interaction;
  • people play the right role in relation to the ongoing COMSIT;
  • people are looking for a “Common Ground” or common ground of role, identity and project and the possible necessary relational glue.

Intercultural communication becomes difficult or ineffective when:

  • people have not practiced “focusing” on their identity and this acts in the background but without awareness;
    people have not practiced “focusing” on their multiple life roles and therefore do not know exactly which role to play or stage the wrong role;
  • people do not understand with which role it is good to communicate and are not consistent in doing so, given the COMSIT (Communication Situation) they have to face;
  • the person experiences intercultural interaction with a negative role, within a “cognitive space” of malaise and in a negative neurophysiological state of consciousness dominated by anxiety and / or altered with respect to the situation;
  • people or a person do not accept each other (or one does not accept the other) in the specific role they have decided to put in place and represent during the interaction;
  • people play the wrong role in relation to the ongoing COMSIT;
  • people do not look for a “Common Ground” or common ground of role, identity and project, and they do not actively nourish the possible relational glue.

The map of our states of consciousness and altered states of consciousness is useful, as well as for well-being, to improve our communication

The Fisher Scale, or map of states of consciousness, highlights the position of any person, in the mental continuum between agitation and relaxation, up to the extremes of deep meditation (on the right) and hysteria (on the left), passing through states such as daily perception, anxiety, creativity and others.

It is a very important tool to understand where we are when we communicate interculturally

Figure 5 – Fisher’s map (map of states of consciousness) [1]

Varieties-of-conscious-states-mapped-on-a-perception-hallucination-continuum

Each position along the scale corresponds to a precise, scientifically measurable brain frequency.

Varieties of conscious states mapped on a perception-hallucination continuum of increasing ergotropic arousal (left) and a perception-meditation continuum of increasing trophotropic arousal (right). These levels of hyper-and hypoarousal are interpreted by man as normal, creative, psychotic, and ecstatic states (left) and Zazen and samadhi (right). The loop connecting ecstasy and samadhi represents the rebound from ecstasy to samadhi, which is observed in response to intense ergotropic excitation. The numbers 35 to 7 on the perception-hallucination continuum are Goldstein’s coefficient of variation (46), specifying the decrease in variability of the EEG amplitude with increasing ergotropic arousal. The numbers 26 to 4 on the perception-meditation continuum, on the other hand, refer to those beta, alpha, and theta EEG waves (measured in hertz) that predominate during, but are not specific to, these states. Source: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/324877864_The_Fractal_Limit_of_Human_Thought/figures?lo=1)

Anchoring the state of mind on the Fisher Scale

The work of Neuro-Associative Programming ™ consists precisely in anchoring a state of mind to a task or performance that we want to carry out in the best possible state. In this case, communicating interculturally will be more effective if done in conditions of relaxation rather than in a state of anxiety or agitation.

As I highlighted in the text “Psychology of Freedom” [2], Fisher in this pioneering work warns us: we are increasingly bombarded with information, but in some contexts, further increases risk saturation: further increases in the content of the data can not finding adequate correspondence in an adequate processing rate of these data.

In other words, when the input information is so many, so many that our ability to process them all progressively decreases, we risk slipping towards schizophrenic states [3]. This had been highlighted in the 70s, let alone now with the increase of channels and social media available.

The fact becomes even more complicated when, in addition to elaborating “normal” communication flows, intercultural differences are introduced to complicate everything.

From the scale it is clear that for daily health, every significant piece of life spent in a state of “agitation” or nervousness, should be accompanied by a state of recovery, tranquility and meditation. Definitely after, but even earlier in some cases as a moment of mental preparation (eg, preparation for a competition or an exam, or a strong intercultural negotiation).

The Fisher scale and its many possible teachings are becoming a factor of personal health. We should all know it, at least to make a daily mapping of how we are and readjust the game on the life situations in which we are.

But of this, we do not speak.

On the other hand, it is very easy to meet horoscopes of all kinds on national and public TVs.

Another indicator that our Semiosphere is full of filth and poor in meaning and knowledge that we would really need.

Our personal power lies in picking up the contents of our personal Semiosphere, working it, putting into it what is useful, throwing out the useless. It is time to fight, it is time to fight for these concepts, for us and for all the people we care about, and for a freer and cleaner humanity, and more capable of meeting different cultures without panicking.

____

[1] Roland Fischer (1971), A Cartography of the Ecstatic and Meditative States. In Science, Vol 174 Num 4012 26 November 1971.

[2] See bibliography

[3] From the original text “further increase in data content may not be matched by a corresponding increase in the rate of data processing”

© Copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani, Studio Trevisani Consulting Coach Training and Research, article extracted in editorial preview from the text “Neuro-Associative Programming ™”, Franco Angeli publisher, Milan

Keywords of the article on Neuro-Associative Programming and Communication

  • Analysis
  • Anxiety
  • Activation
  • Welfare
  • Coaching
  • Active coaching
  • Experiential coaching
  • In-depth coaching
  • Scientific coaching
  • Behaviors
  • Behavior
  • To communicate
  • Communication
  • Intercultural communication
  • Counseling
  • Creativity
  • Deep Coaching
  • Effectiveness
  • Efficiency
  • Training
  • Active training
  • Corporate training
  • Active corporate training
  • Management training
  • Brain frequencies
  • Fisher Map
  • Model of the four distances of communication
  • To negotiate
  • Performance
  • Human potential
  • Mental programming
  • Neuro-associative programming
  • Neuroassociative programming
  • Psychotherapy
  • Relaxation
  • Performance science
  • Altered states of consciousness
  • States of mind
  • States of consciousness
  • Altered states of consciousness
  • State of mind
  • State of consciousness
  • Values
  • Intangible values

 

To contact Dr. Daniele Trevisani