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 attempts to "reconstruct what the client is thinking and feeling and to relay this understanding back to the client". Reflective listening is a more specific strategy than the more general methods of active listening. It arose from Carl Rogers' school of client-centered therapy in counselling theory.
Dalmar Fisher, an Associate Professor at Boston college, developed a model for Reflective Listening that includes the following elements:
- Actively engaging in the conversation, by reducing or eliminating distractions of any kind to allow for paying full attention to the conversation at hand.
- Genuinely empathizing with the speaker’s point of view. This doesn’t mean agreeing with the speaker, just viewing things from his/her perspective. The listener encourages the person to speak freely, by being non judgmental and empathetic.
- Mirroring the mood of the speaker, reflecting the emotional state with words and nonverbal communication. This calls for the listener to quiet his mind and fully focus on the mood of the speaker. The mood will be apparent not just in the words used but in the tone of voice, in the posture and other nonverbal cues given by the speaker.The listener will look for congruence between words and mood.
- Summarizing what the speaker said, using the listener’s own words. This is different than paraphrasing, where words and phrases are moved around and replaced to mirror what the speaker said. The reflective listener recaps the message using his own words.
Notes and references
- Lane (2001)
- Baker, Ann C. and others (1997). "In conversation: transforming experience into learning". Simulation and Gaming 28/1: 6–12.
- Fisher, Dalmar (1981). Communication in organizations. St. Paul, Minnesota: West Publishing Company.
- Gerwood, Joseph B (1993). "Nondirective counseling interventions with schizophrenics". Psychological Reports 73: 1147–51.
- Katz, Neil H. and John W. Lawyer (1985). Communication and conflict resolution skills. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall Hunt.
- Kotzman, Anne (1984). Reflective listening. Kew, Victoria: Institute of Early Childhood Development.
- Lane, Lara Lynn (2005). "Reflective listening". Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology.
- Rogers, Carl (1951). Client-Centered Therapy: its current practice, implications, and theory. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
- Sahakian, William S (1975). History and systems of psychology. NY and London: Schenkman Publishing. Review
- Reflective Listening — A4 page summary used by National Health Care for the Homeless Council