Boost your communication skills with this simple and effective approach!

Good communication is the foundation of any working relationship. Whether you're having a catch-up with your manager or a quick head-to-head with a coworker, it's vital that you understand one another. That's where the art of reflective listening comes in handy. 

Much of the time, when you are speaking to another person, you're solely focused on getting your point across. You might have a lot to say about a certain subject and want to make sure that the other person catches your drift. That's a noble goal… but what about what they have to say? If you're uber busy checking that they understand your point, you may miss their point entirely. Changing your conversational approach could be the answer.

In the following guide, we'll take a look at what reflective listening is, the benefits it can bring, and how you can try it for yourself. As if that weren't enough to whet your appetite, we're also going to dive into some of the best reflective listening examples.

What is reflective listening?

First up, let's take a look at a reflective listening definition. This communication approach means listening to what a person has to say and then repeating it to them to ensure that you have understood them completely. The general idea is that you comprehend whatever it is the other person is telling you and then double-check that you're on the same page. 

While that may sound simple enough, the main challenge comes when you want to respond to what the person has said. For example, if a coworker is telling you a process isn't working - and you think that it is - you might rush to set them straight. Before you do that, though, you should make sure that you've understood them. By communicating their message back to them, you can be certain that you have understood it.

The benefits of reflective listening 

Now that you understand what reflective listening is, let's chat about the benefits of this approach. If you're hoping to work more smoothly with your colleagues, you should adopt this key strategy. Don't believe us? Take a look at the benefits of reflective listening: 

It ensures you're on the same page

You might think you're a great listener, but few of us are. According to research by Harvard Business Review, after listening to a talk, people tend to remember just 25% of what was said. Chances are, when you're speaking to a coworker, you miss vital information. Using reflective listening increases your chance of remembering the details of a conversation. 

It makes the speaker feel heard

No one likes to be ignored. When a colleague is speaking to you, they want you to understand their point - regardless of whether you agree with it or not. By paraphrasing the message back to them and checking that you understand, you make them feel heard. That's a positive move, as it allows you to build strong and robust workplace relationships. 

It prevents crossed wires

Misunderstandings happen. When you're speaking with someone else, you won't always understand exactly what they mean. Some people are poor communicators and you may think they're saying one thing, when they're saying quite the opposite. When you use reflective listening, you give the other person the chance to clear up any possible confusion. 

It gives the speaker a chance to reflect 

All too many of us speak before we have thought ideas through. Call it “thinking out loud.” If the person you are speaking to is doing that, you might find that their proposals aren't fully formed. When you repeat them back, they might have a change of heart about them.

How to practise reflective listening 

Yes, you already know how reflective listening can upgrade your working relationships. Now let's get down to the nuts and bolts of it. So, how can you get started with this conversational approach? We've got you covered. Here are some steps to take: 

Step 1: Listen to the other person 

First up, when someone else is speaking to you, don't jump to respond or interrupt them. Let them hog the limelight for a moment. Listen to everything that they have to say. This approach may take some time to perfect, since we are used to talking over one another. 

Step 2: Pause and consider their point 

You might be eager to respond to whatever the other person has said. Don't make that mistake. In the seconds after the speaking has finished, take a moment to really think about what they have said. What do you suppose they mean? What is their core message? What outcome are they hoping for here? Think about all of the above now. 

Step 3: Paraphrase their message 

When you think that you've understood their message, the next step is to repeat it to them. Of course, you're not a parrot and you shouldn't repeat it word for word. Instead, take a moment to paraphrase their point, i.e. say it back to them in different words. 

Step 4: Allow for any clarifications 

You've had your say - now you need to let the speaker respond. You could say “If I understand correctly…” or “Have I got that right?” That gives them the opportunity to clarify anything that you've misinterpreted, build upon what they say, or agree with you. Put simply, this step gives you both a chance to ensure that you understand one another.

Step 5: Respond! 

By this point, you're well-versed on what the other person has to say. Now it's your turn. You can say whatever it is that you need to. For example, you might want to disagree with what the other person has to say or ask them for more information. Whatever you have to add to the conversation, it's your time to shine. Go ahead and speak up (and hope they listen!).

Simple reflective listening examples 

What are reflective responses? If you're still scratching your head, it may be helpful to look at some reflective listening examples. Here are five to give you some inspiration: 

Example 1

Speaker: “The department isn't meeting its targets as it is and we're about to get a big influx of new cases this month. I wanted to pick your brain about what to do.”

You: “It sounds like you're concerned that the team won't be able to handle the new case load as they already have too much work. Is that right?”

Example 2

Speaker: “Could you help me with this customer email? I typically handle corporate communications and I want to make sure I get the tone right.”

You: “So, you need to know how to change the language in the message to be more approachable - am I understanding you?”

Example 3

Speaker: “Did you hear about Laura's promotion? It's the third one she's got since starting and I've not even had one. I don't understand why I never get those opportunities.”

You: “It sounds like you're disappointed that you haven't had a promotion and you want to know how you can improve your chances. Is that what you mean?” 

Example 4

Speaker: “I love sitting next to Mary but I'm honestly struggling to get my work done around her. She's always making me laugh and telling me stories!”

You: “So you feel like you'd be more productive if you sat elsewhere - is that correct? It's not that you don't like Mary. It's that you like her too much and she distracts you.”

Example 5

Speaker: “I'm struggling to keep up with all these productivity logs. I have three sheets to fill out for different managers and it takes up so much time!”

You: “It sounds like you think you'd be more productive if you only had one log to fill out. Is that something you want me to look into?”

Communication skills boost your CV

Reflective listening allows you to get more out of workplace conversations. If you have perfected this art, don't be afraid to shout about it on your CV. Employers are looking for well-rounded candidates who not only fit the job criteria but can also work well with others.

The takeaway 

Reflective listening can help you to get ahead in the workplace. If you're looking for a way to strengthen your intrapersonal skills and get ahead, you might just have found it. Learning this approach will make it easier to communicate well with your co-workers. Once you've mastered the skill, you can put it on your CV along with some other choice soft skills. 

Ready to take the next step on the career ladder? Boosting your skill-set is one way to go, but you need a winning CV to prove it. Make sure yours hits the mark by submitting it for a free CV reivew to help you along the way. When you have a keyword-optimised application, you may find that you land more interviews and even get hired faster. 

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