Reflective listening is the most important verbal skill you will learn in your life. Effective facilitators, group leaders, counsellors, consultants, sales people, leaders, health professionals, teachers and parents use this skill more than any other.
Reflective listening is also referred to as:
• The empathic ear
• Active listening
• The understanding response
• Verbal pacing
So what exactly is reflective listening?
Reflective listening involves listening intently to a speaker then verbally restating, in your own words, the feelings and information that you heard the speaker say to you.
Examples of ways that you can reflect back to a speaker include:
• So you feel…
• You’re wondering if…
• It sounds like you…
Reflective listening has a number of benefits. It:
• Ensures the listener is actively engaged in the conversation
• Helps the listener and the speaker clarify their understanding of each other
• Creates empathy
• Builds positive rapport and a deepening relationship
• Helps the speaker to clarify their own thoughts and feelings
• Can be used in any conversational situation
• Is a skill that can be developed
To use reflective listening well, you need to be free from your own problems to enable you to focus on the speaker.
You also need to trust the speaker to find their own solutions rather than trying to convince them of your own.
Reflective listening also requires the speaker to be willing to talk; you can’t force them to open up.
When you use reflective listening, you express to the speaker your:
• Desire to understand and accept how the other person is thinking and feeling.
• Belief in the person’s ability to understand the situation, identify solutions, select an appropriate solution, and implement it responsibly.
• Belief the person is worthwhile.
• Desire to help.
• Willingness not to judge the person.
• Desire to share how others perceive what they say or do.
• Desire to explore a problem and help them understand the dimensions of the problem, possible choices and their consequences.