Communication Tips

Apr 1, 2013 by

When we think about communication, we usually think about speaking, but being a good listener is as important as being a good speaker.  When couples come to me for counseling, they often say their biggest issue is communication problems.  When we are not communicating well, it is easy to feel disconnected from another person.  We are likely to open up more to someone who is being a mindful listener.  In addition, good listeners are perceived much more positively by the speaker than are bad listeners.  Here is a technique that can help you become a better listener:

Reflective Listening


1.  Paraphrase what the speaker is saying, repeating the statement in question form. For example if the speaker said “My husband never listens to me!” you might say “You feel like John doesn’t listen very well?”

2.  Listen for the underlying emotion. For example if the speaker said “My boyfriend acts like such a jerk!” you might say “You sound mad” or “You sound frustrated.”

3.  Ask clarifying questions in order to make sure you understand what the speaker is saying. For example if the speaker said “That kid just made me feel so stupid!” you might say “It sounds like you’re pretty upset. Did something happen?”

4.  Encourage the speaker to keep talking by letting them know you are listening. Make direct eye contact. Use open, receptive body language. Nod your head, and make comments that encourage further communication such as “Ok, go on.”

5.  Approach the conversation with the belief that the speaker has the ability to solve the problem for themselves. Resist the temptation to offer advice, or give opinions about what the speaker is saying. Instead ask questions such as “So how will you deal with that?” and “What do you think can/should be done about this situation?”

6.  Actively engaging in the conversation, by reducing or eliminating distractions of any kind to allow for paying full attention to the conversation at hand.

7.  Genuinely empathizing with the speaker’s point of view. This doesn’t mean agreeing with the speaker, just viewing things from his/her perspective. The listener encourages the person to speak freely, by being non judgmental and empathetic.

8.  Mirroring the mood of the speaker, reflecting the emotional state with words and nonverbal communication. This calls for the listener to quiet his mind and fully focus on the mood of the speaker. The mood will be apparent not just in the words used but in the tone of voice, in the posture and other nonverbal cues given by the speaker.The listener will look for congruence between words and mood.

9.  Summarizing what the speaker said, using the listener’s own words. This is different than paraphrasing, where words and phrases are moved around and replaced to mirror what the speaker said. The reflective listener recaps the message using his own words.


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