What Is Reflective Listening?

Reflective listening, or active listening, is a communication technique. In this technique, listeners are entirely focused on the speakers and what they’re saying. They provide reassurance to the listener that they are listening and understand what they’re saying. The goal of reflective listening is for speakers to be encouraged more than in typical conversation to fully express their beliefs and thoughts since speakers know that those listening to them understand and empathize with what they’re saying. In this way, speakers come up with their own resolutions or solutions to their difficulties.

When Can It Be Used?

There are several situations when this type of communication is useful and fulfills its intended purpose of validating the speaker as a person as well as showing acceptance of their feelings and thoughts. It can be helpful in professional settings between peers and between supervisors and employees. This type of listening can also be used for counselors and therapists to use as their clients explore their problems and feelings and desire solutions. Spouses, significant others, and friends can also find reflective listening helpful to enrich their relationships by improving communication.

How Is It Be Used?

To use reflective listening, listeners must use open body language and direct eye contact when listening to speakers’ verbal and nonverbal cues. The idea behind reflective listening is that the listener tunes in and listens wholly to the speaker without interruption, giving his thoughts, criticization, or advice. He just listens, rephrases what the speaker says, and asks for clarification if they’re not sure of what they heard.

An example of rephrasing is, “It sounds like you’re saying that you want to grow your business exponentially, but your husband doesn’t understand that you must spend money to make money.”

Reflective listeners may also ask questions to help speakers toward a conclusion. Speakers have the answer inside of them, and the listener merely draws it out.

How Do I Know If I’m Effectively Using Reflective Listening?

There are a few things you can look at to know if you used reflective listening effectively. First, ask yourself if you allowed the speaker to state their thought completely without interrupting. This is vital.

Second, did you actively try not only to remember but recall and restate the important points the speaker made? If you’re in a meeting, you might try taking notes on what’s said so you will remember it.

Thirdly, did you keep an open mind? This is important even if you didn’t agree with the points.

Next, did you avoid expressing your opinions toward what the speaker was saying? If you were asked to give your opinion, did you do it without being hostile toward their views?

Lastly, did you express genuine interest in their conversation?

If you can say yes to each of these, you were effectively using reflective listening.


Many listeners have the habit of making blunders in their conversation that merely frustrates speakers and makes them feel misunderstood. Their words make them feel judged or ignored or like their feelings are being minimized. When listeners interrupt, give their thoughts, criticize, or give their advice, they can do more damage than good.

On the other hand, if listeners listen reflectively, the speaker feels validated. They feel as though they have been heard from the heart.

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