Reflective listening is a communication strategy involving two key steps: seeking to understand a speaker’s idea, then offering the idea back to the speaker, to confirm the idea has been understood correctly. It attempts to “reconstruct what the client is thinking and feeling and to relay this understanding back to the client” It arose from Carl Rogers’ school of client-centered therapy.
Several ways to do this is as follows:
– Actively engaging in the conversation with your massage therapy client, by reducing or eliminating distractions of any kind to allow for paying full attention to the conversation at hand.
– Genuinely empathizing with the massage client’s point of view. This doesn’t mean agreeing with the speaker, just viewing things from his/her perspective. The massage therapist encourages the person to speak freely, by being non judgmental and empathetic.
– (not during the session, but perhaps after the massage session), Mirror the mood of the massage client, reflecting the emotional state with words and nonverbal communication. This calls for the listener to quiet his mind and fully focus on the mood of the speaker. The mood will be apparent not just in the words used but in the tone of voice, in the posture and other nonverbal cues given by the speaker.. The listener will look for congruence between words and mood.
– Summarizing what the massage client said, using your own words. This is different than paraphrasing, where words and phrases are moved around and replaced to mirror what the speaker said. The reflective listener recaps the message using his own words.
Reflective listening is a simple technique that anyone can use to help another person work through a difficult situation. In order to learn the basic skills involved in reflective listening, read and practice these simple steps.
Paraphrase what the speaker is saying, repeating the statement in question form. For example if the speaker said “My husband never listens to me!” you might say “You feel like John doesn’t listen very well?”
Listen for the underlying emotion. For example if the speaker said “My boyfriend acts like such a jerk!” you might say “You sound mad” or “You sound frustrated.”
Ask clarifying questions in order to make sure you understand what the speaker is saying. For example if the speaker said “That kid just made me feel so stupid!” you might say “It sounds like you’re pretty upset. Did something happen?”
Encourage the speaker to keep talking by letting them know you are listening. Make direct eye contact. Use open, receptive body posture Nod your head, and make comments that encourage further communication such as “Ok, go on.”
Approach the conversation with the belief that the speaker has the ability to solve the problem for him or her self. Resist the temptation to offer advice, or give opinions about what the speaker is saying. Instead ask questions such as “So how will you deal with that?” and “What do you think can/should be done about this situation?”
A reflective response lets you communicate to a person what you perceive they are doing, feeling, and saying and why they are choosing their behaviors. It is impossible to be the other person and your best understanding is only a reasonable approximation. Be open-minded and cautious. Consider all ideas as tentative since our best understanding will always be limited because of the uniquiness of all people. In Massage Therapy we may sometimes use this technique to assist a client to become more clear with what they are saying, or why they may be holding their body a particular way.
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