Tips to Develop Reflective Listening Skills

Quick Tip
Do not introduce your ideas or questions into the speaker’s thoughts and feelings. Avoid over-mirroring, stereotyped reactions, feigning to understand, going beyond or missing the speaker’s ideas, and giving long responses. Pay careful attention to non-verbal cues and negative body language.
The term reflective listening refers to a type of listening where great attention is paid to the thoughts and feelings of the speaker. It is a communication technique where the listener understands and reflects the idea back to the speaker. Reflective listening can help develop mutual understanding and build trust, thus proving to be effective in solving relationship issues and improving relations. Speakers are encouraged to be open and frank, and to express their thoughts and beliefs freely. They are also needed to think about solutions to their issues. This turns out be motivational for the speaker and adds clarity to the communication.

Reflective listening can be used by therapists and counselors as they require to be patient and empathetic listeners. With their help, people get to better understand their feelings and problems. Reflective listening can also be employed between supervisors and their subordinates, spouses, and friends, to improve communication.
How to Develop Reflective Listening Skills
The listener should actively participate in the conversation to concentrate on the speaker’s specific idea and understand his intentions.
Any kind of distractions should be avoided or eliminated. Also, the conversations should not be diverted to other topics.
It is important to show acceptance of the speaker’s thoughts and feelings. This involves eye gestures and body language indicating the same. The listener should let the speaker know that they have a mutual understanding.
Another tip is to let the speaker say what he or she wants to without interrupting, and then asking him valid questions to confirm that his words have been understood. The listener can ask probing questions that motivate the speaker to find solutions. Questions can help the speaker in exploring aspects he may have ignored. Unnecessary questions should be avoided.
Listeners should avoid criticizing, offering advice, or explaining from their perspective. Instead, they should use techniques like using their own words to explain what they have heard and understood from the speaker.
The listener should take an empathetic approach. He or she should encourage the speaker to think out loud and speak freely by agreeing with his or her point of view, by hearing the speaker deeply and accurately, and by being non-judgmental. In this way, the listener gets to better understand the speaker and establish trust.
Listeners need to understand the mood of the speaker and then reflect his or her emotions and feelings with words and nonverbal communication. For this, the listener has to concentrate hard on the speaker’s mood, which can be determined by the words, facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, gestures and other nonverbal aspects given by the speaker.
Listeners should show a calm, comfortable and relaxing disposition. These aspects on the listener’s part will tend to evoke similar feelings in the speaker, thus making him feel comfortable.
The listener needs to focus on specific things rather than the vague ones. Often, the speaker will avoid painful feelings by being abstract or unclear in expressing them. The listener should encourage the speaker by asking him or her to be more specific so that things gets clearer.
While relaying the speaker’s thoughts back to him, the listener has to be frank, genuine and undiplomatic. He needs to use the right words and body language so that whatever was understood is conveyed to the speaker.
No matter how good your listening skills are, it is the speaker who can tell you if you have understood correctly or not. Listening actively to reflect the speaker’s emotions back to him can help him bring clarity to his thoughts. This can further help him find solutions to unresolved issues. Above all, successful reflective listening requires one to be positive, encouraging, patient, sincere, have a genuine desire to help, and possess excellent listening skills.