reflective listening

Use reflective listening to solve problems and communicate effectively


a new way to think about COMMUNICATION


Effective communication is more about listening than talking!

In fact, listening should be about 60% of most conversations because reflective listening empowers you to understand the other person and the idea they are conveying to you.

Without a doubt, this is the most important thing you can do to quickly become a more effective communicator!


Balance between talking and listening

What is effective communication?

Effective communication is “the accurate transmission of an idea from one person to another”.

You can know if communication has been effective by whether the person who receives the message has the idea that the person who sent it intended.

Effective communication is about transmitting and understanding ideas – the words are just a method of conveying the idea and reflective listening is a way to verify that you’ve received the message as intended.


only about 50% of communication is successful

One of the reasons that listening fails is that the listeners brain can process information four times faster than the talker can talk so their attention wanders.

The solution is to use reflective listening.

Reflective listening takes some energy because you need to expend energy to suppress the extra brain cycles and force yourself to pay attention instead of thinking of other things. Almost everyone is naturally internally focused and starts to think about what they think about what the person is saying rather than continuing to listen.

With reflective listening you force yourself to suppress this natural tendency and reflect back on what they meant by what they said – not necessarily what they said.

Reflective listening is not paraphrasing or parroting – it’s what they meant by what they said – not the words that they used.

It’s about understanding the idea, not remembering the words.

Fortunately, it’s not necessary to expend the energy to listen reflectively all of the time (or even most of the time).

Reflective listening prevents conflict

how to Know When To Use Reflective Listening

You Don't Need To Listen Reflectively All The Time

Here’s the key: the more important the conversation, the more important it is to listen reflectively.

This is because the consequences of a misunderstanding in an important conversation are greater than in other conversations, so it justifies your investment in the energy it requires to focus.

Here's when to use reflective listening:

The consequences of misunderstanding are high
The speaker is emotional and using highly charged language
You are not sure you have understood the speaker


The Difference Between Paraphrasing and Reflection


“I’m having a hard time communicating with Bill and I don’t know what’s going on.”


“What you’re saying is that you are having a hard time communicating with Bill and you don’t know what’s going on.”


“It sounds like you’re frustrated that you and Bill aren’t getting along these days.”

There is no value in the paraphrasing (parroting) because it doesn’t verify your understanding – it simply repeats the words back.

An Example of Reflection


“I thought I did a good job on that report I turned in, but I got it back from my boss today with corrections all over it.”


“If I’m hearing you correctly, seeing those corrections was a big surprise.”

Note: this is what they think the speaker meant by what they said, not what they actually said.


“Yes, and I don’t know what to do next.”

Once you reflect back the speaker's idea successfully and they verify what you thin they meant by what they said, there is a high likelihood that they will tell you more.

When both people are using reflective listening at the same time you will have a very deep and meaningful conversation. It may not be a long conversation, but it will be of high value to both parties.

Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite of most conversations.


How to listen

Listen to the speaker's message

How often do we think we are listening to the speaker but are really thinking about what we think about what they are saying?

This happens quite naturally because our brains can think faster than they can talk.

So… force yourself to focus for as long as the they are speaking.

Determine the meaning of the message

Then ask yourself whey they meant by what they said.

Not what they said – what they meant by what they said.

Once you decide this it’s time for step 3.

Reflect back the meaning in your own words

You can either preference your interpretation with a phrase like: “So what you are saying is…” or you can simply state what you think they meant by what they said and use a questioning voice tone.

Remember… reflective listening is using your words to tell what you think they mean – not repeating their words back.

Seek Confirmation

All you have to do is wait and see how they respond. They will either indicate that you have it right, or they will correct you and explain further. Either way, your speaker will appreciate the effort you are making to understand them.

Body Language Is Key To Reflective Listening

Use one of the two listening physiologies.
Use appropriate head nods when they make a point
Control your facial expressions. This is particularly important for certain communication styles.

You’re going to find that reflective listening will supercharge your communication.

Not only will you get your ideas across, but more importantly you will get valuable ideas from other people – and prevent communication mistakes and conflict.

How do you listen?

Use Our FREE Listening Assessment To Rate Your Listening Now

Listening Assessment

By now you know that listening is more important than talking.

So... how do you listen?

Our free 13 question survey will give you a quick rating and some insights into your listening tendencies.

It's a great way to get started toward becoming a better listener. Find out now!

Because effective communication is the foundational skill that underlies all other skills, our mission is to create frameworks and strategies that any person or team can use to communicate more effectively regardless of their background or current skill level.

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