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Swiss Consulting Group :: Newsletter :: The Art of Listening
October 2005

Thomas D. Zweifel

A message from Thomas D. ZweifelHappy Birthday Swiss Consulting Group (September 8, 1997)!Thomas Zweifel, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer :

I am pleased to announce the eighth anniversary of Swiss Consulting Group. Since co-founding Swiss Consulting Group in 1997, I have been privileged to work with top-notch coaches and consultants in a dozen countries; each of them has brought their extraordinary wisdom and human competences to our global network. Our people's minds and hearts make us who we are, and our clients in all sectors (business, government, UN, nonprofit, and military) have benefited from our "3 Cs" (coaching, communication, cross-cultural strategy) to achieve bold business objectives. We thank our clients and readers for everything you have done to make the company what it is today.

We are happy to mark this anniversary by establishing Swiss Consulting Group in Israel, and welcome Nathan Levy in Tel Aviv and Michalya Schonwald in Jerusalem to the team. They have been busy focusing on what difference Swiss Consulting Group's unique human approach can make in the Middle East. In this issue of Global Leader, Michalya explores the power of listening at the micro-level in her own life and work to foster cross-cultural understanding, and highlights listening techniques from Communicate or Die. Enjoy!

The Art of Listening: A Win-Win Strategy for You, Your Company, and the WorldBy Michalya Schonwald

In today's fast-paced, information-driven society, how often are we really tuning into each other? Can you recall a time when you were listening to someone and actually heard what he or she was saying? It may sound like a trick question, but how many of us really know how to listen? Not listening can have potentially disastrous consequences in our lives, communities, and business relationships. By contrast, masterful listening can cause uncommon breakthrough results. To quote our CEO, "Listening is the smartest investment I know."

Recently, while dining in a café in East Jerusalem with some West Jerusalem friends, I noticed that our waiter, Z, had a lot on his mind. His eyes smoldered and I could sense his anger. This was my first time on the "other" side of the city. And although my defenses were up and I was looking over my shoulder nervously throughout the meal, Z had sparked my curiosity, as I had never had an opportunity to have a "real" conversation with a Palestinian.

When I invited Z to join us for dessert, he smiled at the offer and accepted. It was already late and most of the other patrons had gone home for the night. Soon the other waiters wanted to join the party, and we ended up engaging in an impromptu Israeli-Palestinian roundtable discussion over fresh squeezed orange juice as Arabic music wafted in through the stereo. Jokes were exchanged and a feeling of newfound friendship was in the air. I decided at that moment to turn to Z, who had been silent up until then, and ask him how he was doing. "I am angry" he replied, "I am so angry that I feel like I want to explode."

My red flags went up immediately and my first inclination was to quickly excuse myself, gather up my friends and leave the café. But I realized that the very thing I was most afraid of was my own fear, and I had the opportunity to confront that fear. I decided to ask Z why he was angry. He answered he was angry because he did not feel free. "I don't have a passport, I cannot leave the country. I am from a part of the West Bank that I need multiple permits to enter, and I am unable to attain those permits and I cannot see my family. I cannot even travel into West Jerusalem. If I am caught without the necessary papers, I will be put in jail." We were all quiet for a few moments as Z's words hung in the air. The next moment he turned to me and tears welled up in his eyes, "Why is it that when a bus full of Israelis is blown up, I feel happy, and at the same moment I am embarrassed at my own inclination to rejoice? Where has my humanity gone?"

That evening at the café in East Jerusalem, I learned that the key to transforming the world is in listening. If I had not been able to put aside my fears, tune out all other distractions, and really listen to Z as a human being and not a potential homicide bomber, I would have not been privileged to get a glimpse into his inner world. My listening created a safe environment for Z to let go of his anger, unleash his human spirit, and reconnect to his heart. As we said our goodbyes Z pulled me aside and thanked me. "No Israeli has ever listened to me before."

Z has since left Israel and finally feels free in his new home in Spain. The other day, he emailed me a poem entitled "Peace." The power of listening can move mountains, but you must first learn how to clear the obstacles — obstacles that may well be in your own listening.

The Matterhorn of Masterful Listening:

The Matterhorn of Masterful Listening

It is rare to find any courses or how-to books on listening today. Even in communication workshops, emphasis is given on improving one's speaking. Although listening is the silent partner in communication, it should not be taken for granted. As your ability to listen moves towards the peak of mastery, it will yield powerful results for you and your team.

The graph above illustrates the eight levels of listening from Ignoring—not listening at all to what is being spoken—to Generating—complete listening that has the capacity to generate the speaker's greatness. The peak of the Matterhorn represents Mastery—the ability to listen to other people's listening while you are speaking. Try and imagine times when you thought you were listening but you were really projecting. Recall a time when someone thanked you for listening to his or her words and ideas. Go back to past conversations that left you feeling disempowered, frustrated or resigned. What worked and what did not in the way you were listening or being listened to.

Ground Zero: Ignoring. Ignoring is the absence of listening. When we ignore a person's idea or request, we contribute to that person's resignation and loss of spirit. Ignoring is rampant in organizations and can have real opportunity costs, from loss of morale to brain drain to lawsuits.

Level One: Pretending. Pretending to listen to someone is actually ignoring with the added dimension of hypocrisy. People who pretend to be listening at least realize that they should be listening, while they are visibly busy with other mental or other activities.

Level Two: Controlling. Controlling is listening that influences what the speaker has to say—through gestures, facial expressions or sounds. Authority figures such as senior executives, judges, professors and doctors often have a controlling level of listening, even if that person has no intention of controlling what the participants said.

Level Three: Projecting. Projecting means responding to your own interpretation of what is being or has been said, rather than what the speaker is actually trying to convey. Because each one of us views the world through a different filter, we all project in our listening in some way. This is not a powerful way of listening because it is selective and you are not hearing the speaker fully.

Level Four: Respecting. Respecting is simply hearing the content of the communication—nothing more, nothing less. You are not thinking about what you are going to say next and you are giving the speaker your complete and undivided attention.

Level Five: Empathizing. Empathizing requires seeing things from the speaker's point of view by standing in their shoes and hearing the intention driving the communication from underneath. When we are able to hear where a person is coming from, we can hear their intentions more clearly.

Level Six: Generating. Generating is one of the highest levels of listening as it evokes the best qualities in others. When we listen to someone as the powerful being that they are (and we are all more powerful than we realize) we can actually generate their brilliance.

Level Seven: Mastery. Mastery is the ability to shape how others listen to you. Powerful leaders who have reached this level of listening are actually able to let the audience speak through them by giving voice to the audience's unspoken thoughts and dreams.

Climbing the Matterhorn of Masterful Listening™ is hard work and requires sustained practice. Be patient with yourself and others and you can reap enormous returns. Catch yourself when you are in the middle of a conversation with a colleague and get distracted. Instead of letting your mind wander, step into the speaker's shoes and really listen to what they are saying. You may have just won your company a multi-million dollar contract or made peace in the world, by mastering one level of listening at a time.

The article above is based on Thomas D. Zweifel's book Communicate or Die. Both Communicate or Die and Culture Clash (SelectBooks 2003, Global Leader Series) have already been adopted by companies, universities and government agencies in many countries for their staff and/or clients, and Thomas was interviewed about them on ABC and CNNfn.

This season, we invite you to give the ultimate gift to yourself — and your colleagues, friends or loved ones: the gift of a new future. Give them Communicate or Die — it will transform their ability to get what they need through communication. If you work in an international or diverse team, give your colleagues Culture Clash — they will have a whole new skill-set for getting things done across borders. Both books are available at major bookstores and or

Rates:For 20 or more books: $12.70 per book.For 100 or more books: $9.95 per book.

Co-Branding Opportunities

Co-branding opportunities

Thanks to advances in print-on-demand technology, SelectBooks (the publisher of Communicate or Die and Culture Clash) is pleased to offer organizations the chance to co-brand Thomas D. Zweifel's acclaimed books for a very affordable rate. See your company logo on the cover of the books and spread their valuable knowledge throughout your team.

Rates:For 750 or more books: $8.50 per book.For 1,000 or more books: $7.50 per book.

Contact for more information.

Featured Book
Communique ou Meurs
Nous sommes heureux d'annoncer que les Editions du Tricorne publieront 'Communique ou Meurs' en français en novembre 2005. En commandant votre exemplaire avant le 31 octobre, le prix sera de 17,10 € au lieu du prix grand public, fixè à 20,00 €. Commandez-le dès aujourd'hui !Lisez un extrait
Featured Book
International Organizations and Democracy: Accountability, Politics, and Power
We are happy to announce that Lynne Rienner Publishers will release in November International Organizations and Democracy by Thomas D. Zweifel."This path-breaking book offers the first empirical analysis of the democratic processes across major international organizations. A must read for scholars, practitioners and students of world politics." — Andrew Moravcsik, Princeton UniversityRead the introduction.
communicate or die in chinese
Sales of Communicate or Die published in Chinese by CITIC & Infomedia have passed 10,000 copies. Learn more.
Hurricane Katrina
In response to Hurricane Katrina we are offering up to 5 free hours of free coaching to qualifying businesses and other organizations affected.Contact us for more information.
SwissPeaks '05
Thomas Zweifel will lead a workshop in New York on October 25th titled "America and Europe: Common Values or Culture Clash?" The event is part of Swisspeaks '05 and is cosponsored by the Swiss Society of New York and the International Center for Tolerance Education. Learn more.
Communicate or Die for Technology
Swiss Consulting Group and Total Systems Education together have developed a 2-day workshop that addresses the practical steps needed to achieve a common project understanding between the business and Information Technology teams. See a course description.
Progess in Haiti
map of Haiti
Since 2003 Swiss Consulting Group has trained community leaders in Haiti and helped them launch 123 catalytic projects, from cleaning up slums to building schools to electrification. Learn more.
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