Continuing on our recent theme of listening: here’s another strategy that is easy to implement and can make a big difference. You have probably heard the term “Active Listening”—repeating key pieces of a talker’s message to confirm you are listening and understand. Reflective Listening is similar but adds a dose of curiosity and mindfulness. This higher-quality listening can save time, prevent future misunderstandings or mistakes, and create stronger team loyalty.

So what is reflective listening?

When you’re reflectively listening, you’re seeking to understand a speaker’s thought or idea, then offering their idea back in your own words to confirm you’ve understood correctly. You also try to imagine and reflect back what’s beneath their words—to reflect what the speaker is feeling as well as thinking.

How to reflectively listen:

• After listening, use your own words to repeat key points you think the person was attempting to make.
• Check with them to be certain you’ve heard them correctly.
• If they explain that you don’t quite have it, repeat back your corrected understanding.
• Share your impressions of what seems to feel emotionally important to them.

Examples:

• “I hear that you are concerned about my suggestion that we shut our doors to reduce distractions. It’s clear this is very important to you.”
• “It sounds to me like you are frustrated about my response this past week.”
• “Let me reflect what I heard. You think we could generate revenue by adding a service to our estimate process. You have an idea how this could be simple and not take much time. You haven’t nailed down the details yet, but you’d like my initial thoughts to help guide your next steps.”

 “I also hear that you are worried your idea will be rejected because you don’t have the details spelled out.”

Caveat: Too busy?

The time you spend listening and reflecting will avoid wasting time sorting out misunderstandings and missteps after the fact.

It’s this easy:
• Take a breath and pay attention to quickly confirm any main points or ideas.
• Deliberately scan and confirm each key concept.
• Keep your review and reflections short and efficient. Avoid long monologues, open-ended questions, and new topics.

Recall Practice
Initially, you can try recall sessions to practice reflecting. (adapted from a book-in-progress that Jay and I are working on)

If you can’t find time to practice in real-time during your work day, sitting at your desk, or on your drive home, take time to think through a conversation you had during the day. Then reflect out loud what you didn’t feel like you had time to say on the spot.

With a bit of practice, you will be able to reflectively listen without appreciably slowing down conversations—you’ll save misstep-time with a minimal investment in reflecting-time.

• “Let me be sure I understand. You are planning to call the client and set up a meeting to talk about the problem, but you are worried that we don’t really have a good path to correct the issue.”
• “Am I hearing concern that you will be blamed?”

If no examples come to mind, you might ask yourself one of these questions to stimulate reflections:

• What did I slide over that might be worth thinking about or revisiting?
• What did she say that I might not be positive I heard fully?
• What was the emotional tone of the conversation?
• Did I really understand what was important to them?

Your awareness will be enhanced by just considering questions—eventually you will tend to notice those things you have asked yourself questions about.

When you are trying to strengthen a relationship, reflecting deeper messages or emotions can communicate that you respect the speaker and value their ideas. Email or call 978-446-9600 if you want to save time avoiding missteps, create a stronger connection with your team, build a more fun and interesting place to work, learn how to enhance your relationships at work (and as a natural byproduct with family and friends).