Below article adapted from - –AFS Intercultural Link Newsletter Volume 3, Issue 3 http://www.afs.org/blog/icl/?tag=icl-link-newsletter

This is an adaptation of 'Dr. Marianella Sclavis article “Why humour matters in Active Listening?” (2005). Marianella Sclavi is an Italian sociologist and professor of Ethnography and Art of Listening at the Politecnico University in Milan. She received a bachelor's degree in Intercultural Communication from Johns Hopkins University, USA, and a master's degree in Sociology from Trent University, Italy.

Active Listening is the very foundation for Creative Conflict Management. To explain this, the parable of the wise judge is useful: two citizens bring their case before a judge who listens to the first man with all his attention before responding: “You are right.” Then, the judge listens to the second man with the same amount of attention and says: “You are right.” Someone from the crowd is confused: “Your honor, how can they both be right?” The judge pauses for a minute before responding, “And you too are right.”


To be an Active Listener, you must always be thinking that the other person is right and that it is you who is not able to understand them. This causes you to 1) respect the other person and 2) assume they are intelligent. It is important to keep in mind that one thing can have two completely opposite meanings when in different cultural contexts. You must keep in mind that misunderstandings, frustration, and especially awkwardness and vulnerability are natural feelings to experience during intercultural communication and Creative Conflict Management.

Sigmund Freud describes a set of steps experienced by Active Listeners:

Phase 1: Bewilderment (and annoyance) at something that at first appears to make no sense.
Phase 2: First Illumination, suddenly we understand the hidden meaning.
Phase 3: Second Illumination, when we realize that something has been able to fool us, or was beyond our immediate understanding. This third phase is where humour is important. As an Active Listener, you will realize your mistake, which allows you to laugh at yourself and your confusion. At this moment, your self-awareness is an essential part of Active Listening and Creative Conflict Management.  These three things (Self-awareness, Active Listening, and Creative Conflict Management) are essential qualities for good intercultural communication and they are interconnected and related to one another.

When Active Listeners think about a situation, they are keeping the entire context in mind. They try to think of how things are related and interdependent, and they are always examining themselves and trying to be self-aware. With these strategies, they are able to communicate well in environments with many contexts, or “frames.”

From all this information, we can understand that the most effective way to communicate is to be conscious of the context you are in, be self-aware, and be an Active Listener. These three qualities are the ingredients for effective intercultural communication.