Reflective Listening

Reflective listening is paraphrasing what another person has said if you are unclear as to the meaning or intention of a comment.

In other words it is asking probing questions about any area of a conversation unclear to you.

By paraphrasing what a person said you send two positive signals.

First, you make sure that you understand the meaning of the statement.

And second, you signal to a person that you are engaged in the conversation.

It is best to use paraphrasing and not parroting . Parroting is repeating what someone said word for word.

This indicates a low level of engagement in the conversation. Paraphrasing indicates processing of the information; and this indicates engagement.

Probing and paraphrasing can be used together to find out important information.


An Example

On Wednesday Joe asks: “Marge could you have a complete financial report on the Peterson project by Tuesday of the following week to present to the customer?”

Marge knows that there are three parts to the financial report. It will take her only a day and a half to do the first two parts of the report. This will provide what the customer has usually required in the past. If she does the third part it will mean a lot of overtime on the weekend.

Marge paraphrases to clarify Joe’s needs. She asks, “Joe, do you want all three parts of the report or will the first two sections meet the customer needs?”

Joe then realized the extra work that he almost had Marge do that wasn’t required by the customer. He then told Marge to do only the first two parts of the report.

Using effective listening (critical listening) Marge reflected what she heard from Joe and was able to achieve the desired result.


Improving Listening Skills

The best way to improve your listening skill is to is to make a conscious effort to use reflective listening whenever you think about it.

Improving listening skills takes time, practice and patience. Improvements will come in spurts. And there will be mistakes along the way. That isn’t important. We are all human. What is important is to keep striving to improve listening and communication skills.

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