Whenever I hang up the phone after talking to my friend Lisa, I always feel better than I did before the call.

It’s not because she makes me laugh, although she often does; it’s not because she asks good questions or because she affirms and encourages me, although she does both of those things very well; it’s not even because she is one of my closest friends.

The reason I always feel better when I talk to Lisa is that she is an excellent listener. Lisa regularly practices the art of reflective listening.

Reflective listening is the practice of repeating the heard message back to the listener to correct any inaccuracies or misunderstandings (Nelson and Quick, 2008).

The practice of reflective listening requires you to:

  • Put aside distractions.
  • Focus intently on what the other person is saying.
  • Listen for the meaning behind the message, so that you can pick up the emotion behind the person’s words.

Once you have listened well, you have the opportunity to:

  • Ask questions to make sure you understood the message.
  • Paraphrase the person’s thoughts, including any subtle emotional cues you may have heard.
  • Listen again, as the speaker clarifies their thinking.

Leaders who practice reflective listening affirm their followers in a way that resonates past the conversation. Leaders who listen thoughtfully and thoroughly communicate respect to others. They show that they value others and provide a framework for a positive working relationship.

Although reflective listening works best face to face or over the phone, it also works via email or in online social media relationships. When someone sends you an email, you can begin your reply by paraphrasing the request before responding. Or if you are communicating via Twitter or Facebook, you begin your response by summarizing some part of what the person shared.

When you do, the other person will come away from the interaction with a positive feeling, the same one I have whenever I talk to my friend Lisa.

Join the conversation!

What experiences have you had with reflective listening?

If you practice reflective listening, what benefits have you experienced in your work or personal relationships?

This was originally posted at Mountain State University LeaderTalk and is reposted with permission.