Listening Skill #3: Reflecting
What I mean by saying that “reflecting” is a listening skill is. The parent acts like a mirror verbally stating the emotion that she (the parent) thinks the child is experiencing, or the meaning she thinks the child is expressing. Example: “So, you are feeling angry.” Or, “I think you are saying you don’t want to go, is that right?” Or, “Gee, that must have been embarrassing.”. More examples are given below.
This technique is eferred to as “Active Listening” by Thomas Gordon, who really emphasizes it in his writings and training classes. I prefer the term “reflecting” because my two other listening skills (acknowledging and asking questions) require the parent to actively communicate with the child.
This “reflecting” technique or skill is the most unusual and therefore perhaps the most difficult of the three listening skills. At first, it seems like a very unnatural way to respond to somebody, but the effect it often has is to encourage the child to say more about what they just said. This is what you want–that the child gets the idea that you are “tuned in” and want to hear more of his ideas on the topic being discussed.
Reflecting statements always mirror back to the child what they said or seem to be communicating non-verbally. They are always statements. They are not to be delivered as questions. If you choose, you might follow the statement with a question to verify accuracy of what you said.
Reflecting statements are not opinions of your own. They are you, simply mirroring what the other is communicating, verbally or non-verbally. They do not mean you agree with what the child said! They only mirror back what the child communicated.