Reflective Listening | The Mood Mirror For Connecting With Anyone (fast)
Reflective listening is a way of hearing and comprehending another person in such a way that they are completely assured that their words have been understood. However, reflective listening is not just about hearing and understanding the spoken words of others. In fact, one could say that reflective listening is part of a communication strategy which interprets ‘the emotion’ of a person’s dialogue; the capacity to reflect the ideas and feelings of others.
It concerns building a rapport through the mirroring of body language, tone of voice and posture amongst other non-verbal cues – not just by standard responses to the spoken content. In other words, listening acutely and then reflecting back what has been heard in various forms of verbal AND non-verbal communicative skills allows the reflective listener to participate and engage in exactly the same emotional environment that the speaker has created through their dialogue.
Reflective listening facilitates empathy and is one of the main conduits that enable us to demonstrate an empathetic connection with another person which, subsequently, establishes the first foundations of trust in both social and professional interactions.
The three areas of reflecting that listeners should pay attention to are the speaker’s content; the speaker’s feelings; and the speaker’s meanings. The content consists of the information, actions, reactions, events and experiences that are relayed by the speaker. Reflecting content puts the situation in focus but it is also essential to reflect the feelings and emotions the speaker is exhibiting through their words in order to fully understand the message. Reflecting needs to combine content and feeling to truly comprehend the meaning of what the speaker has said.
It is important to note that we are also able to utilise reflective listening skills in a multitude of different ways because the speaker actually ‘feels heard’. We can help people clarify their own thoughts and achieve outcomes by being able to discuss matters at a deeper level. Reflection of emotional understanding can find solutions to problems; aid decision making; handle confrontational issues; deflect anger or resistance.
When employed in social settings, reflective listening can create a climate of warmth between two people by sincerely viewing the speaker’s perspective of a subject in a non-judgemental and empathetic manner. The reflective listener literally echoes the mood of the speaker and is able to harness the emotional atmosphere of the conversation. Consequently, the speaker is encouraged to open up and their true thoughts are free to flow.
Reflective listening has another fascinating purpose, especially in informal situations. Used in the right way and the right time listening reflectively can highlight not only intelligence but humour too.
By inviting more depth and emotion to the conversation, a skilled listener who has fully grasped the content, feeling and meaning behind the speaker’s words, can turn the conversation around into a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek – even a little mischievous – interaction. Instead of interpreting, as previously mentioned, the listener deliberately misinterprets the speaker’s words in a manner that generates an emotional response.
When the speaker’s thoughts, ideas and feelings are bounced back in an unexpectedly exaggerated, ironic or contrastive fashion, humour is elicited. For instance, if someone is conveying adventure in a conversation, we can contrast it with boredom; if someone is conveying intelligence, we can contrast it with ignorance; if someone is conveying success, we can contrast it with failure. The reflective technique of contrasting something or someone in an obviously overstated way is not to give an opposing or argumentative view, but simply to induce a smile – an emotional connection.
To summarise briefly, reflective listening is a supremely powerful tool. It mirrors moods. It echoes understanding. It communicates empathy. It makes friends. It confirms colleagues. And it hears love.
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