Reflective Listening

(adopted from writer Alison Carter from

How to Practice Reflective Listening



Situation: Your partner expresses frustration about a recent issue.

Reflective Response: “I understand this situation is causing frustration for you. Let me make sure I’ve got all the details correctly. You’re saying that…”

Situation: Your friend or partner shares their struggles with work-life balance.

Reflective Response: “It sounds like finding a balance between work and personal life has been challenging lately. What aspects are making it hard to maintain that balance? What is this like for you?”

Situation: A partner expresses disappointment about the offer not getting a promotion.

Reflective Response: “I hear that you’re feeling disappointed about not getting the job. It’s tough not getting something you’ve worked hard for. How can I support you at this time?"

Situation: Your partner expresses concerns about feeling overwhelmed with household responsibilities.

Reflective Response: “It seems like you’re feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work at home. You're saying this is causing you stress. How can we work together to tackle this stress? What tasks are the most challenging for you right now?”

Common Pitfalls to Avoid


Patience and Active Listening: Interrupting the speaker disrupts the flow of conversation and can make them feel unheard or undervalued. Practice patience by allowing the speaker to express themselves fully before responding. Engage in active listening, and refrain from interjecting with your thoughts or opinions prematurely.


Non-Judgmental Attitude: Avoid passing judgment on the speaker’s thoughts, feelings, or experiences. Reflective listening requires maintaining a non-judgmental stance, where you listen objectively without imposing your personal opinions or biases. Refrain from criticizing or evaluating the speaker’s perspective.


Focused Attention: Minimize distractions to show respect and attentiveness to the speaker. Put away electronic devices, close unnecessary tabs on your computer, and create an environment conducive to active listening. By eliminating distractions, you signal that the speaker has your undivided attention, fostering a more meaningful exchange.

Only Focused on Details

Finding the Balance: Reflective listening should strike a balance; you don’t need to reflect on every single detail or statement. Instead, focus on capturing the essence of what the speaker is conveying. Focus on the feelings. Selectively reflect on the most critical points or emotions to maintain the conversation’s flow and authenticity.

Disagreeing Right Away

While you will of course disagree at times, wait until it is your turn to speak. You do not have to agree with the speaker to actively listen and provide reflective listening. When you have reflectively listened, you can still validate your partners feelings when providing your perspective. For example, you could say, "I hear that you feel hurt when I (BLANK). I am sorry that hurt you, that was not my intent. Can I share my experience with you? I felt BLANK..."

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