© 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 English, or any other language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact the Website on Intercultural Negotiation.

A three-level Listening Model: Listening to Data, Listening to Emotions, Listening to Beliefs.   

Listening to people we don’t really like is one of the professional challenges we face they have to learn in many professions, such as lawyer, doctor, trainer, psychologist, but also manager and leader. It is neither mandatory nor possible to always have the ideal people in front of us. Learn to also listening to people who do not please us is something that must be learned, even if we want to limit the time and space of this contact.  

Empathy, or the art and science of understanding the moods of others, is not something that is due. Theresympathy, or the liking of others, is not something due. Instead, we may experience the “need” to interact and listen to people who do not please us, and in this the advanced active listening mechanisms become a professional resource fundamental, and a life resource. Empathy, in psychology, includes identification with moods of another person, i.e. the ability to understand their thoughts and, above all, their emotions. It differs from sympathy for intention in wanting to understand the feelings experienced from another individual, not through a rational explanation, but through a sharing affective. In psychotherapy, the term refers to the therapist’s ability to think and feel himself in the inner life of the patient, to understand him in a deeper way 1. In a different way from what has already been explained, we can distinguish different levels of listening:  

1. The non-listening, the unwillingness to listen, due to a precise decision (“I don’t want that to listen to him “) or the inability for reasons of our tiredness (” I was so tiredthat I could not hear “).  

2. Listening in conditions of mutual appreciation, or sympathetic listening.  

3. A listening aimed at understanding the person in depth, and above all the emotional states of her, o empathic listening.  

4. Listening apathetic, passive, or even distorted, in cases where there is no listening but the person to listen to is unwelcome to the skin or for ideological and cultural reasons.  

Those who travel without meeting the other do not travel, they move.  

(Alexandra David-Néel)  

Human communication is an existential state, where people take action to try to step out of one’s sphere of limited energies and experiences and connect with other entities human.  

There are as many worlds as there are living people, for which to relate and practice listening it requires a great deal of humility and commitment. The positive message is that science, and a scientific approach, can help us a great deal in understanding the reasons for communication failures and the ingredients for increase the likelihood of communication successes. We are in a world where it is possible to create exceptional, epochal projects, and if we can do it converge our best energies, every advance in the future of humanity and the planet will be possible.  

Our “spheres”, who we are, how we think, how we are made, what and how we live, are living, plastic elements. Listening is very similar to “going to see” what is inside a sphere of others, and how  

this evolves. Listening can also do you good. There is a contagious aspect of affective conditions. Self we learn to listen with greater emotional closeness, we will probably become people best. And every better person infects the others around him, positively. The same happens in the negative when we meet people with weak and sick energies. Meet these too people, it’s a professional challenge.  

As Wallon 2 points out, “Kohler has noticed that a chimpanzee’s joyous excitement does it spread with the same gestures to all the other chimpanzees. The fear of a single ram changes in panic for the whole flock. The cry of a bird is reflected in a rising wave in the aviary”.  

We are in a human aviary, in a human herd of billions of elements housed on the surface of a small blue ball called Earth, scattered in space. For this reason, when we make an intervention aimed at improving listening in a single person, up to a company group or manager, we know that we are bringing humanity, competence and happiness to the system to the entire company and even to those who interact with it, from suppliers to customers. And having happy customers, or happy families, today, is a very serious desire and goal.  

There are many things in life that catch the eye, but only a few catch yours heart: follow those.  

(Winston Churchill)  

Listening can be examined with different zoom levels.  

As with a zoom we can first notice a forest, then zoom in on a single plant and notice the large number of leaves, then focus on a single leaf and notice the veins there flow, insects walking on it, and so on. The same is true in listening. We can examine it as a general phenomenon, see it from above, or enter with different degrees of detail. The degree of detail depends on how many variables we want to use to “examine” the listening and the communicative flow. Listening to multiple tracks requires commitment, requires listening quality, but we must be convinced that this commitment to listening will be rewarded by a quality of absolutely greater understanding.  

Quality is like a wave. That quality work that you thought no one would notice he is noticed, and whoever sees him feels a little better: he will probably transfer in the others this feeling of his and in this way the Quality will continue to spread.  

(Robert M. Pirsig)  

In the next step we will see a fairly simple model, with three main variables, listening to data, listening to emotions, listening to beliefs.  

Listening in depth enters into more subtle themes than mere words. Knowing how to repeat a memory what has been heard is not an indication of true listening, but of pure memorization. A good coach, a good counselor, a good psychotherapist, a good leader, while they listen, they are actually listening to multiple tracks at the same time. Example, listen to the vocal stress that accompanies the words. The degree of vocal stress, the clear voice or the broken and shaky voice, are a fundamental indicator of the speaker’s state of mind. They could therefore say: “as you speak, while I listen to you, I notice that there is some fear in you, would you like to tell me about it? ”   

By listening to the flow of communication that emerges in the speech, we can focus on both words (the people mentioned, verbs, adjectives, each verbal element), on the tonality facial expression, which gives us information on which emotional states the person associates with various stages of his spoken, and on more general elements, unspoken background elements, which we call “beliefs” or “Beliefs” and emerge as implicit rules that the person is using in her reasoning. Eg:  

Words Emotions associated Unexpressed or latent active beliefs 
Self-Esteem I want to work in a place where things 
My father  Anger, discomfort, expectation  My father doesn’t realize when he will miss he will leave me alone with all existing problems if we don’t something  
Course  Wait, anticipation, hope  More than a course, it must be a moment strong alignment, on values, e especially about how you work in the Direction, avoiding that everyone goes to the his way and have a different view of the our future  
Passage generational  Difficulty, hope  Whether you like it or not, time goes by and I have to be ready to take the relay first or then she’ll be up to me  
Agree or less  Repressed Anger  Managers are mercenaries, not them interested in this, indeed the less power I have e the better for them  
CEO  Distance, disgust  The less you know what it does, the more free it can be to do what they like, if we align, a little less  
Distanza, disgusto  Meno si sa cosa fa, e più può essere libero 
di fare quello che gli pare, se ci allineiamo, 
un pò meno  
Other managers  Distance, disgust  There is a risk of forming a “tribe” that takes control of the company and this it doesn’t have to happen  
Respond to me Pride  The company’s command must pass through one generation to the next  
Love Company expectation, anxiety  We are a company, a group, a team, no matter what you call it, we have to work as a team  
Functioning well Desire  Everyone must be clear about who we are and what we want, we must be aligned  

So in every message, there are objects – words, people, things, object relations (thing I try towards that object) – and belief systems, often unspoken, that feed the background. From this we can derive both: 1. a summary of the data 2. a synthesis of emotional backgrounds (general) and emotional details (particular) 3. a synthesis of the belief systems (Belief System) that operate in the person. Those who are able to make a truly empathic listening will be able to rephrase both i data, that the emotions he has grasped, that the underlying beliefs. An extremely technical work, ed extremely powerful. And if you need to take notes to help yourself on the “data”, just ask for the permission, and if still needed, have the speaker repeat some passages that we want to deepen, even better. Nobody gets tired of talking when they feel that we are listening with all of ourselves, and what he says we really care.  

For further information see: 


Formatore e Coach su temi di Sviluppo del Potenziale Personale, Comunicazione Interculturale e Negoziazione Internazionale, Psicologia Umanistica. Senior Expert in HR, Human Factor, Psicologia delle Performance, Comunicazione e Management, Metodologie Attive di Formazione e Coaching.

Write A Comment