Listening isn’t passing the time until the speaker runs out of things to say. Or mentally finding fault with the speaker’s argument so you can shoot down their logic. Or waiting for the speaker to take a breath so you can interrupt. These kinds of listening patterns can create a small war!
Therapists use a technique called “reflective listening” that can be useful for everyone. Reflective listening is different from the communication styles you grew up with (unless you are the child of psychotherapists), and is built on four main principles:
For example: Imagine someone says to you, “I really hate it when you are late for everything!” Instead of going on the defensive, a reflective listener just volleys the meaning back to the speaker’s court. You might respond, “So, it’s really upsetting when I show up late for things,” or, “It sounds like it my lateness makes your life difficult.”
Reflective listening is a skill that therapists spend years perfecting—but anyone can benefit from practicing the technique. Here are 3 reasons to try reflective listening:
If, after trying reflective listening, you find you are still having difficulty communicating with a friend or family member, you may want to consult a therapist. Counselors can help you to develop this and other communication skills. Good communication—speaking and listening—makes all the difference in any relationship.
Joan Landes is a Psychotherapist at the Spanish Fork Center for Couples and Families.