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© 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.

From vocal stress to quality of pronunciation, to confidence and trustworthiness, to gait. Listening to the ‘whole’ 

Auditory listening comes through the vibrations of the vocal cords creating sounds, which we recognise as words. 

When we are stressed, e.g., by telling a lie, or dealing with a subject that is overly sensitive to us, the body unconsciously activates the attack-escape system (sympathetic nervous system) – increasing the readiness of the muscles to spring into action. The vocal cords do not escape, and their vibration goes from a state of relaxation to a more tremulous voice (micro tremors) which corresponds to a voice under stress. 

This is to say that while we are listening, not only do ‘grammatical’ words come in, but my processing of what I hear takes place, and a form of judgement or evaluation is triggered, not only of the content (ethical or moral evaluation), but also of the speaker’s skills, or his state of stress. If an Italian person quotes a word in English, e.g., Bed & Breakfast, based on how well he pronounces even single words in English, I will understand how familiar he is with that language, how much he has studied it, and even whether he has lived there for a long time. This is augmented perception. Someone who talks about sales and uses the word Sales literally, verbatim – is telling us, unintentionally, that they have extremely poor English and probably do not have the awareness to make a big impression on someone who knows the language well. 

 

People observe the colors of a day only at its beginnings and ends, but to me it’s quite clear that a day merges through a multitude of shades and intonations with each passing moment. A single hour can consist of thousands of different colours. Waxy yellows, cloud-spot blues. Murky darkness. In my line of work, I make it a point to notice them. 

 (Markus Zusak) 

 

If while the person is speaking, we hear a vocal tremor, we are practicing advanced listening, listening to the components of vocal stress is an indicator of ongoing lies or emotional difficulties, we think the person is under stress.  

Not only that, but we also listen more than words if we phone a person in the morning, and we hear a low timbre of voice, so we go as far as to ask, “oh sorry, did you just wake up?” even if the person answering the phone does not mention it at all. We pick it up from the voice, from its qualities. Our mirror neurons allow us to identify and feel what we perceive. The thought of what might be happening takes shape in our mind, based on what might have happened to us on similar occasions. This is also an advanced and active listening dynamic. 

 

“The first step to understanding reality is to become aware of how it takes shape in our mind.”  

Stefano Nasetti 

 

But back to examples of content. If I talk about white fibres and red fibres (two different types of muscle fibres) 7, I assume that the other person understands me and has studied motor sciences or medicine or physiology. 

And not only that. The quality of the exposition will tell me a lot about his cultural status, and the calmness with which he expounds will help me to understand if it is the first time or one of the many he talks about, and therefore if he is an expert in the field or not (and this without the person having either said or officially announced it). 

And always looking at the ‘unspoken’, it is enough to see a person enter a bar or walk down the street and deduce from the type of walk, posture and body size and their proportions, a lot of data with respect to age, state of health, doing or not doing sports, and a lot of other information.  

© 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.

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 quality scale

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.

ikigai model 

 “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

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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

Mental Presence: Knowing how to pick up signals, and what best coaches do

There is an urgent need to return to our ancestral sensibilities. We urgently need to restore our ability to increase our mental presence to perceive correctly, even before logically evaluating data alone. To do this, we must apply mental presence in conversations and 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 Tom 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. Kinaesthetic-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 he/she breathing, what is he/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 different beep, manipulating a phone or a touchscreen, but less good at looking into the eyes of a person who is speaking to us live and grasping their nuances, micro expressions, 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 Professor 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 restaurant, 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)

______

© 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.

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the prosperous coach

timothy gallwey

transformational coaching

Verbal auditory signals

vocal stress

weight loss coach

wellness coach

world coach