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Reflective Listening: Relationship and Communication Skills #9

Reflective listening is the ability to
bounce back at them what they’re saying This is a skill that doesn’t come
naturally to us. When involved in a conversation we tend to talk about
ourselves or give advice, we try to make them feel better or agree or disagree or
tell stories. In order to be a good reflective listener we need to set aside
our own wants briefly and work to make sure that your person gets your
attention, your empathy, and that you show them that you understand what they’re
saying. Reflective listening helps people know
if you’re understanding them and at its best it can help them clarify their
thinking. It helps them understand what’s underneath those thoughts and emotions
and helps them find solutions on their own. So it’s basically a magical magical
thing! I spent a year learning this skill in grad school and I’ve spent the next
seven years reminding myself to use it. It is my most powerful therapeutic tool
but it’s so simple that most people can learn the basics and begin to practice
it on their own. The simplest level of reflective listening is to simply show
them that you understand them by summarizing what they say and asking
them if you got it right. If you try to do this without a relationship then this
can sound really patronizing and condescending so make sure to be sincere. Basically you take what they said and you put it into your own words
with a question mark at the end. So let’s use an example of a teen who really
wants to go to a concert with his friends he might say “Mom all my friends
are going to this concert Ariana Grande is the best singer ever! and the opening
band is awesome and I’ve saved up all the money and I just have to go you are
so unfair!” So staying on the content level you
might say something like “You really want to go to the concert tonight.”
This may seem so basic, so obvious that we often just skip over it but remember
good listening isn’t just about understanding it’s about showing them
that you understand. And making little reflective statements like this can go a
long way to help the other person feel understood.
It doesn’t do you or them any good if you understand them but they don’t know it. Hearing it back can be a good part of the
healing process for some people. You can also use this if you’re unsure exactly
what they mean for example you could say “Let me see if I’m getting this straight
you’re angry with your sister because she borrowed your astronomy books
without asking?” it’s also important to ask if you got it right for example I
was recently in a session with a couple and the woman was explaining how it made
her feel shut down and upset when her husband always tried to solve her
emotions instead of listening to her while talking with the husband about
empathic listening and he seemed frustrated about her not accepting his
quick advice I threw out a guess “So when she doesn’t accept your advice you feel
rejected?” he took a moment paused and then clarified “no it’s not that he said
I can handle my solutions being rejected or even me personally being rejected
it’s that I just love fixing things it’s part of who I am” so I try it again “so
you feel a little lost, like unsure of what to do if you can’t
be a fixer?” he replied “Exactly! like what is my role I want to be doing some good
and if I can’t fix anything I feel like there’s no point?” after I understood him
and he knew I understood him I was able to address his real concern by
explaining that just listening to and validating emotions can actually be more
helpful and it genuinely does some good and because he knew that I understood
him he accepted me and my advice. This is basically staying on the content level
the next level is to use reflecting to help them clarify their thoughts and
make it more concrete so when people understand why they’re feeling or
thinking that way then there’s a greater potential to find solutions or
acceptance when this is done from a I will fix you attitude this will feel
like judgment so don’t try to diagnose them or be their therapist be sincere be
humble be curious and ask questions to clarify but not to guide the
conversation so this is the emotion level helping them understand
their emotions so back to the concert example you could say something like
you’re upset that I don’t trust you or you probably feel annoyed that I don’t
get you or you’re feeling sad and angry that you can’t do something really
important to you now at this point you may be wondering why am I making these
statements instead of just asking the question are you feeling angry well
here’s why with good listening statements are often better than
questions because number one questions are about your agenda and not theirs
questions make it so that you are now directing the conversation in the
direction you want it to go instead of being the listener who is trying to
understand you become the person deciding where the conversation should
go you may hear what you want to hear but they may not be able to say what
they’re trying to say this discourages the other from speaking their mind
number two questions often make the other person feel interrogated or on the
defensive and this leads them to being less open now I’m not saying you should
never ask questions but in general people ask too many questions under the
guise of listening try to catch yourself let go of your agenda and use more
reflective statements pay close attention and you’ll see that it will
invite more openness at its very best reflective listening it helps the
speaker express and understand concepts that are at the leading edge of their
comprehension meaning they don’t really understand them yet but by talking about
them and expressing them they’ll learn things about themselves and their
emotions that they didn’t know before the conversation so this is the meaning
level helping them express what all this means to them so when we bounce back
something at the meaning level we might be saying something like you’re afraid
that I’m saying that you’re a bad person or you’re not good enough to go to that
concert you really want to be trustworthy but it
hurts to think that I don’t believe in your abilities you’re frustrated that
you don’t have complete freedom in your life yet and I bet it’s really annoying
to you to have rules that you don’t agree with
maybe this makes you feel like you don’t have power over your own life or here’s
another example I’m pretty sure Marco loves me but he doesn’t put effort into
big celebrations like my birthday or our anniversary so you’re feeling
unappreciated and you wish for Marco to be more thoughtful and chivalrous
exactly for example for my birthday last month
dot-dot-dot and Amelia continues expressing herself we don’t need to go
to the deepest level every time when we use reflective listening we can address
content feelings meanings and sum things up
here’s some examples of how that would sound so from your point of view it’s it
sounds like you’re feeling you believe it seems like what I guess you’re
feeling is it might be that you some measure of guessing like making these
tentative statements can be helpful you’re not trying to be a therapist but
rather to help yourself and them better understand also don’t diagnose solve
judge or argue don’t tell the other person their motives or analyze them
your goal is not to figure them out but to get on the same page with them show
them that you understand by summarizing asking to clarify and looking for deeper
meaning this video is an excerpt from my intensive course on how to help when
someone you care about is depressed this course has over 40 videos with specific
skills that you can develop to be more helpful for the person you love it
includes how to help them open up and ways to help if they won’t talk what to
do if they’re suicidal and specific strategies for managing your role it
includes helpful things you can say or do if you’re interested in watching the
whole course I’m giving it away for Half Price with this code therapy nut check
it out on udemy calm

4 Replies to “Reflective Listening: Relationship and Communication Skills #9”

  • This really reminds me of the concept of "Nonviolent Communication", that was brought closer to me by a Therapist!
    I, for myself, can highly recommend such a concept – may it be Reflective Listening or Nonviolent Communication that focusses on the desires spoken through words!

    Btw. Great and very informative video you made! Big like for that!

  • I want my thinking clarified….
    I want to understand my emotions and I want to find solutions!
    I love having healthy relationships with my family and friends.


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