Updated: Aug 10, 2021
This my final tip (for the moment), on this important topic and is probably the absolute key for good communication in relationships. If you practice and master this skill, it just might set you up for success in all your relationships so that you will never be short of good friends and great interactions.
What is it? Well as a former educator in communication skills, ongoing psychology student and working with people as a pastor and life coach, I believe this skill is needed but lacking in today’s world. It doesn’t necessarily come naturally but can be learned and is known as reflective listening. I’m going to call it mirror-listening, because that’s how we do it. We show our empathic understanding by repeating back in our own words what the other person is trying to get across. Unfortunately, what we usually do instead, is listen and formulate our own answer and to let loose with our opinion.
In mirror-listening, you are reflecting as in a mirror what has been said to you without any judgements or opinions of your own. The listening part is to really hear what’s being said and then to check understanding every so often with a sentence that might go like this, ‘so just to check I’ve got this right, you’re saying…’ This attitude of listening relieves the pressure because there aren’t any counter arguments and the person feels heard and everyone needs that.
At the risk of stereotyping, I would say that women find it easier to mirror-listen than men but when you guys pick this up your lady will think all her Christmases have come at once. We women really need to feel we have been heard and understood by our guys.
One of my male clients is working on his marriage and I applaud him for being vulnerable with another woman (me), in order to help him improve and see a difference in his relationship. As I listened to his story, I realised that his wife may not be feeling heard so we did some role-plays to improve his mirror-listening skills. He learnt sentences like: ‘Okay, so you’re saying … , am I getting you right?’ Things began to change from that point on.
The Bible tells us about the importance of listening:
‘…be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger..’ James 1:19 NIV
‘A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.’
Proverbs 18:2 ESV
‘Turn your ear toward wisdom and stretch your mind toward understanding.’
Proverbs 2:2 CEB
Several years ago, when this information was in one of my study units and I realised I needed to up the ante, it happened to be my daughter’s engagement party. I practised on many of the young people as I mixed that evening. It was amazing for me as I noticed how special they seemed to feel when expressing themselves to a listening ear. My daughter reported later that her friends commented on how great it is for her to have such an understanding and compassionate mum. LOL! I’m very happy that I was able to bless these young people, but little did they know it was a bit of an experiment.
Allow me to challenge you:
1. Try practising mirror-listening when next with family, friends (zoom works too) or even with those socially-distant masked strangers in the checkout queue.
2. Once you’ve practised and feel pretty comfortable with the technique, you can use it during more critical times with loved ones or when conflict occurs. It may surprise you because it can help to reduce conflict by quickly diffusing someone’s anger or hurt. You can wait a little until a more opportune time presents itself to have your say.
Mirror-listening. Have a go at it. And let me know how you get on, I’d love your feedback.
Love Peta XO
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