In Part I of this article, we discussed the importance of active listening, and how it is important for smooth and effective meetings. In the process, we touched on the topic of reflective listening. Reflective listening is a valuable means of ensuring that we have properly understood the speaker’s thoughts and feelings. Perhaps more importantly, it is also a great way to make that person feel that he has been listened to and appreciated.
How does reflective listening work? It’s really quite simple. Reflective listening means listening carefully to what the speaker has to say, and then echoing that person’s ideas back to him, rephrased in your own words. For example, if a colleague presents a marketing idea at a meeting, you can reflect this idea back to him by saying, “Let me see if I’ve understood you correctly. You’re proposing that we do the following…” and then attempt to summarize his plan. Or, if a coworker expresses some reservations about a proposal, you could respond by asking, “So, if I understand your concerns, you’re saying that…” and then restate his ideas as best you can.
So what does this accomplish? First and foremost, it helps you verify that you’ve properly understood what the other speaker said. Unfortunately, many people don’t understand how important this is. “But of course I understood!” they would say. “I’m a good listener!” What they fail to grasp is that good listeners don’t simply assume that their understanding is accurate and complete. Quite the contrary; an effective listener will seek to verify this whenever possible.
Second, it gives the speaker an opportunity to clarify points that he may have stated clumsily or inaccurately. Whether we like it or not, some people simply aren’t very good at communicating their ideas the first time around. Some people tend to ramble, for example. Others may neglect to mention some crucial points, especially when they’re speaking in an off-the-cuff manner. Still others may state all the necessary information, but without giving proper emphasis to all their nuances of meaning. By reflecting what we’ve understood back to them, we can give them opportunities to restate their ideas more accurately.
Third – and perhaps most importantly – it helps build morale by affirming the other person’s worth. By reflecting the speaker’s words back to him, we demonstrate that we care about what that person has to say. This allows the other person to voice his grievances or ideas, and to feel appreciated in the process. Even if we reject that person’s ideas completely, he can at least feel appreciated in the process.
Of course, you don’t want to reflect someone’s words back every time that person speaks. That would be overkill, and it can sound tremendously insincere. It is enough to simply summarize that person’s ideas now and then, preferably when we think we have a reasonably clear overview of what he has to say.
Reflective listening techniques take very little effort to master, especially if you’re the type of person who genuinely does care about others. They are an easy yet powerful way to enhance communication, and they can build stronger work relationships in the process.
About the author:
V. Berba Velasco Jr. is proud to work as a senior electrical and software engineer at Cellular Technology Ltd, a Cleveland-based ELISPOT biotech company with offices in Europe , China and Japan .