Reflective Listening

Reflective Listening

08/13/18 Laura Gibbons

Reflective listening is a communication strategy involving two key steps: seeking to understand a speaker’s idea, then offering the idea back to the speaker, to confirm the idea has been understood correctly. It requires responding actively to another while keeping your attention focused completely on the speaker. In reflective listening, you do not offer your perspective by carefully keeping the focus on the other’s need or problem. Thus reflective listening consists of a step beyond what is normally thought of as listening:

• Hearing and understanding what the other person is communicating through words and “body language” to the best of your ability.
• Responding to the other person by reflecting the thoughts and feelings you heard in his or her
words, tone of voice, body posture, and gestures.

Reflective listening has more than one purpose. You can use reflective listening to help you understand what the speaker is saying. It also allows the speaker to feel heard. Reflective listening can help the speaker achieve his or her outcomes. Listening can help the speaker clarify his or her thoughts on some matter, decide on a course of action, or explore his or her feelings to some new depth. It is useful for both speaker and listener.

Reflective listening is useful in a variety of situations. You can use listening to help when another person is experiencing a difficulty or problem. Also, the communication skills of problem solving, assertion, conflict management, and negotiation all require extensive listening. In social situations listening can create a climate of warmth between people. Listening is also important for handling resistance or anger in others. It is needed to settle disputes. Leading group discussions/conversations require effective listening as well. Directions can be clarified by listening. In general, reflective listening is useful in conducting any difficult conversations with another.

Source: “Reflective Listening,” by Neil Katz and Kevin McNulty. EA Report Brown Bagger, Employee Assistance Report, Vol. 21 No. 8, August 2018.


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