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Reflective Listening


Reflective listening is a communication strategy involving two key steps: seeking to understand a speaker's idea, then offering the idea back, to confirm the idea has been understood correctly. The purpose of reflective listening is to listen fully, clarify understand what another person saying, build trust and rapport with other people, improve communication, and increase personal empathy and relatedness. Reflections are offered in the spirit of “I’m listening to understand (not to judge, persuade or correct)”. It communicates respect and builds relationships.

When to use reflective listening

  • The consequences of misunderstanding are high

  • The speaker is emotional and using highly charged language

  • You're not sure you have understood the speaker

Four steps to reflective listening

Step 1: Listen to the speaker’s message

Genuinely embracing their perspective without necessarily agreeing with it. By engaging in a non-judgmental and empathetic approach, you encourage the speaker to speak freely.

Step 2: Determine the meaning of the message

Ask yourself what the speaker meant by what they said. Not what they said – what they meant

by what they said.

Step 3: Reflect the message back in your own words

Summarize what the speaker said by using your own words.

Responding to the speaker's specific point, without digressing to other subjects.

Step 4: Seek confirmation

Wait and see how they respond. The speaker will either indicate that you have it right or will correct you and explain further. Either way, your speaker will appreciate the effort you are making to understand them.

Example of Reflective Listening

  • “It sounds like …”

  • “It seems as if …”

  • “What I hear you saying is…”

  • “I get a sense that …”

  • “It feels as though …”

  • “Help me to understand. On the one hand you … and on the other hand …”

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