Reflective listening is an art that needs practice. Some of us are natural listeners, but most of us are not.
Exercise listening reflectively with your spouse when you have some time to devote to each other. Do not do it when you are tired, hungry, or angry. Take turns being the listener, for at least 10 minutes, no more than 45. Wait at least an hour before changing roles. Once you feel comfortable with these new listening skills, you will be prepared to handle any conflicts that arise.
Here are some “Do’s and Don’t’s” for reflective listening. (from The Highly Sensitive Person, by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D.)
1. Bear yourself physically as one who is really listening. Sit up, arms and legs uncrossed. Lean forward, perhaps. Look at the other person. Do not check your watch or clock.
2. In words or tone, reflect back the actual feelings that were expressed. The factual contents are secondary and will come out as you talk - be patient. If you suspect that other feelings are present, wait until they show themselves in words or are utterly obvious from the tone of voice.
1. Don’t ask questions.
2. Don’t give advice.
3. Don’t bring up your own similar experiences.
4. Don’t analyze or interpret.
5. Don’t do anything else that is distracting or not reflecting the person’s feeling experience.
6. Don’t lapse into a very long silence, letting the other do a monologue. Your silence is the “listening” half of reflective listening. When timed right, silence gives the other the space to go deeper. But also keep reflecting what has been said. Use your intuition in the timing of these two.
7. And no matter what the other says, don’t defend yourself or give your view of the matter. If you think it’s necessary, you can emphasize afterward that your listening did not mean you agreed. While the assumptions behind feelings can be wrong (and we can do something wrong because of what we feel), feelings in themselves are not right or wrong and usually lead to less trouble, not more, if respectfully heard.
To learn more about reflective listening I suggest you read:
“Please Listen to Me!” - A Christian’s Guide to Reflective Listening.
By Dick Fetzer - WinePress Publishing
Available at www.peopletopeopleministries.org
and other online bookstores.