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Trevisani's 4 Level Model of Intercultural Empathy

Intercultural Empathy and Emotional Empathy combined

Science Box:  Four Levels of Empathy

Intercultural empathy is the ability to perceive the world as it is perceived by a culture different from the subject's own. Empathy interculturally regards a variety of issues, such as the approach to time perception (deadlines, temporal precision, perspective time), how to negotiate with people from different cultures and organizations, and be able to integrate all possible difference of communication styles due to differences in culture. The literature distinguishes four levels of empathy, identified by the Italian researcher Daniele Trevisani (2005) that examines the dimensions useful for applying empathic component on the intercultural setting:

 

 

The Model is originated from Intercultural Research carried out by Dr. Daniele Trevisani with the purpose of identifying specific “layers” of empathy that go beyond the personal cultural domain. First appeared in: Trevisani, Daniele (2005) Negoziazione Interculturale. Comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali, Milan: Franco Angeli (Title translation: Intercultural Negotiation: Communication Beyond Cultural Barriers)

Every person interprets and feels one or more parts of the other involved in relationship. Strategically, the higher our level of understanding, the more effective we can be in generating a desired response (behavioral or psychological) in others.

The four levels of empathy:

·         Behavioral empathy: understanding the behavior of a different culture and its causes, the ability to understand why the behavior is adopted and the chains of related behaviors.

·         Emotional empathy: being able to feel the emotions experienced by others, even in cultures different from one's own, to understand what emotions the culturally different person feels (which emotion is flowing), of which intensity, which are the emotional lives, how emotions are associated to people, objects, events, situations, in private or public aspects of different cultures.

·         Relational empathy: understanding the map of the relations of the subject and its affective value in the culture of belonging, to understand with whom the subject relates whether voluntarily or compulsorily, who has to deal with that subject in order to decide, in work or life, what is his map of "significant others ", the referents, the interlocutors, "other relevant "and influencers affecting their decisions, who are enemies and friends, who can affects his/her professional and life decisions.

·         Cognitive empathy (understanding of different cognitive or prototypes): understanding the cognitive prototypes active in a given moment of time in a certain culture in a single person, the beliefs that generate the visible values, ideologies underlying behaviors, identifying the mental structures that the individuals own and which parts are culturally-depending" (Trevisani, 2005) [1].

 Once accomplished the task of understanding, strategic empathy becomes a tool for cultural intervention on the "memetic structure" of a different culture, in order to obtain changes (learning, or strategic changes), intercultural understanding from the counterpart, and obtain a deeper understanding on our cultural side.

Intercultural Persuasion requires a deep understanding of the four factors in Trevisani's model. If not achieved, intercultural persuasion will be based on "inward-oriented selfish cultural models" that can generate boomerang effects rather than persuasion.

It becomes also possible to build a "Reverse Engineering": understand how personal emotional states are influenced by the culture of origin and attempt to make interventions that can bring back the control to the individual remoiving the cultural chains that restrict the individual into a "cultural prison".

 

The four components model can be applied to Self-Awareness:

·         Emotional Self Awareness. How do I feel? How would I describe how I feel right now? How did I feel in a specific situation? How do I think I will feel in a specific situation? What consequences does this generate in me?

·         Relational Self Awareness. Who makes me feel happy or sad? The situation, the person or persons, the environmental setting, the social situation, that fuel my emotional states. Other people’s expectations. My willingness (high or low) to comply with social and peer pressure.

·         Cognitive Self Awareness. What conscious reasoning or unconscious mechanisms make me feel this way? What network of values, attitudes, memories, comes to my mind when I am faced with a problem, with a choice, with a person or situation?

·         Behavioral Self Awareness. What do I do when I feel this way? What would I like to do, how would I like to feel when I do it?

Self-understanding is a key ability that can be studied and learned. The same holds true for understanding the emotional world of other individuals.

Intercultural empathy is the ability to perceive the world as it is perceived by a culture different from the subject's own.

Empathy at the intercultural level regards a variety of issues, such as the approach to time perception (deadlines, temporal precision, perspective time), how to negotiate with people from different cultures and organizations, and the ability to integrate all possible difference of communication styles due to differences in culture.

The 4 Levels of Empathy model generates the following questions, useful for coaching and counseling approaches:

 

·         Emotional. How does that person feel? How do you feel?

·         Relational. Which people are involved in his feelings? Who generates or triggers them? With whom does he/she share them?

·         Cognitive. How does that person reason? What network of values, attitudes, memories, is active in him/her?

·         Behavioral. What does the person exactly do? What can I observe from clear behavioral patterns? What are the subtle behavioral moves, the nonverbal moves, verbal expressions, facial micro-expressions?

 

Exercising our understanding from verbal and non-verbal cues

Sample of offerings or requests

Reaction Score (range from +100 extremely positive, to -100 extremely negative, where 0 is neutral), Surface Reasons, Deep Reasons

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After the analysis, pick an item of your choice and try to examine the deep thoughts of your colleague or client about it.

 

Use up to 5 levels of “why” questioning.

Explore the experience the person has had with the item or related item. Explore the cultural norms that relate to the item and the emotional stats that relate to the item.

Esplore the traits of personality that seem to generate this type of reaction.

The exercise will be over only when you fee you deeply understood the reaction of your colleague or cliente and he/she will have confirmed that your perception is right.


 

[1] Trevisani, Daniele (2005), Negoziazione Interculturale. Comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali, Milan: Franco Angeli (Title translation: Intercultural Negotiation: Communication Beyond Cultural Barriers).


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