The power of reflective listening

This last weekend was a rare treat: five days of solo time with G-, my 8yo son, and it was a delight. Five days of “dude time” with lots of bonding. We both really had a great weekend, and a busy one too, including hanging out with friends watching the final match of the Euro 2008 soccer competition.
Most of the time, of course, A-, my 11yo, and K-, my 4yo, are in the mix too, and while they all get along pretty well in the big picture, there are unquestionably moments when they aren’t communicating clearly or their individual needs are, um, blinding them to the more harmonious path. (Did I phrase that elegantly enough?)

Having a weekend without siblings in the picture was therefore a great break for G- and he really dug it. For once in a blue moon, we just did what he wanted to do (mostly!) and it went very smoothly.
What I noticed during the weekend too was the power and value of reflective listening. A few times we started down the path of a disagreement and each time I was able to sidestep it by repeating to him what I heard him saying, as a way of clarifying that not only did I really hear what he was saying but that I respected his viewpoint too.
And so, a tip to those of you reading this: a little reflective listening can do wonders to help your children feel like they are honored members of the family unit.
If you’re not sure what reflective listening is, it’s when you repeat back to someone what you heard them say. You don’t respond to their comment, you say “Okay, I hear you saying that you really want X because of Y and Z, right?”
It’s a very good listening technique and great helps communication with anyone, of course, it’s hardly limited to children, but after this weekend, I am even more convinced that it can really help children feel empowered and valued in a way that’s not just good for their souls but great for your overall level of peace and happiness in your family.
Now, repeat after me, “What I just read that you wrote is….”

3 comments on “The power of reflective listening

  1. Couldn’t agree with you more. In fact, there is a well known component of a methodology (IMAGO) under a different name, called mirroring that is very similar. It was, orignially, developed by Harville Hendricks for couples therapy……mirror (repeat), validate and empathize (reflect in his/her shoes). We use it all the time in our home. It works wonders! And, as an adult, having it at the ready whether in a work setting negociating a contract or trying to get through a disagreement with the mechanic….everyone wants to know they are heard and that their feelings matter. This gives that experience a chance to happen. Thanks!

  2. Yes! Reflective listening goes such a long way with kids since they can often feel like victims of circumstances. If they can at least be understood it makes them much more willing to cooperate with adult agendas. (I really have to remember this when dealing with my pre-teen who constantly feels like he’s misunderstood.)
    I’ve also seen so much value in getting each of my children alone. Their personalities really blossom when they aren’t having to compete for my attention and I’m not in damage control mode.

  3. I also like the reflective listening and just used it w/ my 11 yr old yesterday. I learned it in an Imago class and have been looking for a class/counselor who does Imago work with children. It would be a big help to my 11 yr old and me. Does anyone know of someone doing this?

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