Reflective Listening

Reflective listening is an important part of communication, especially when spouses are discussing emotions or conflict. If you are craving positive changes in your communication, start the journey by putting effort into becoming a better listener. This type of listening requires two levels of skill: intentional listening combined with intentional responding.

First, genuinely hear what the other person is saying through verbal and nonverbal exchange. A person’s words, tones, and volumes can say a lot, but that same person is simultaneously sending messages through body language, eye contact, and gestures. Remember, a good listener does not interrupt the speaker.

Second, choose to respond in ways which communicate that you have respectfully listened to the speaker. Those responses start as soon as the speaker begins; you show that you are listening by looking at the speaker and positioning your body so that the speaker has your full attention. You can also respond with words to show that you have heard the speaker.

Try using paraphrasing statements. You’ll be acting as a mirror, reflecting back what you have heard by using statements like:

  • I hear you saying that…
  • It sounds like you are feeling…
  • I get the impression that…

Try to learn more by using clarifying statements/questions such as:

  • Can you clarify what you meant about…
  • I’d like to hear more about your view on…
  • Would you please share an example of…
  • What was that experience like for you?
  • What are you feeling about that?

The key is this: wait to share your own thoughts, feelings, and experiences until it is your turn. Once the first speaker feels heard and understood, that person will be more likely to hear what you are about to say. Couples counseling is a great place to practice reflective listening with your spouse because you’ve got someone who can objectively walk you through the process.

At home, start by practicing these skills during less intense moments (such as when your spouse is telling you about a trip to the grocery store), then practice during moderately emotional moments (when your spouse is telling you about a stressful experience. Ultimately, reflective listening is one important part of healthy conflict resolution with your spouse. Here are some extra things to keep in mind:

Gottman Skills


Published by Jessica Gage, MA, LPC, NCC

I am a Licensed Professional Counselor in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (license #PC007550) and a National Certified Counselor.

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