Reflecting – skillful listening for happy parents

Reflective listening for parents
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Why doesn’t my wife understand me?

Reflective listening – Happy relationships for a happy home and happy children

Rob Charteris RMN, BSc Hons, CBT Practitioner

This is an article to help my fellow men. Do you ever wonder why you’re wife is mad with you and the argument seems to be going around in circles? As soon as you deal with one problem your beautiful other half has started another subject, you can’t keep up, and your head is spinning!

None of us really like arguing and nearly every time there is an argument it’s because someone feels hurt or angry. You may not believe this but quite often your wife doesn’t really want a solution. Instead, she just wants you to acknowledge the way she feels and to treat that feeling with respect.

Sometimes it’s too late to do anything about the problem you are arguing about or you have already solved the problem and want to move on, but your wife is still not happy. For you it’s a complete mystery and you are left thinking “but what can I do?”. However to her it’s something she feels strongly about and she wants to hear that you understand that.

So then men, I’m going to help you become what your wife and children need. Your wife will have a man who understands how she feels and your kids will have a happy home free from stress to grow up in.

Sounds good?


Reflecting – the sign of understanding

This communication technique is commonly used by counsellors, psychologists and lots of other professionals who need their clients to feel understood.

What is Reflective listening?

Reflecting is the process of paraphrasing and restating both the feelings and words of the speaker. The purposes of reflecting are:

  • To allow the speaker to ‘hear’ their own thoughts and to focus on what they say and feel.
  • To show the speaker that you are trying to perceive the world as they see it and that you are doing your best to understand their messages.
  •  To encourage them to continue talking.

Reflecting does not involve you asking questions, introducing a new topic or leading the conversation in another direction. Speakers are helped through reflecting as it not only allows them to feel understood, but it also gives them the opportunity to focus their ideas. This in turn helps them to direct their thoughts and further encourages them to continue speaking.

Two Main Techniques of Reflecting:

Mirroring is a simple form of reflecting and involves repeating almost exactly what the speaker says.
Mirroring shows you are trying to understand the speakers terms of reference. Mirroring should be short and simple. Try to use the keywords and phrases that the speaker used. This acts as a prompt for him or her to continue.
Paraphrasing involves using other words to reflect what the speaker has said.  Paraphrasing shows not only that you are listening, but that you are attempting to understand what the speaker is saying.
It is often the case that people ‘hear what they expect to hear’ due to assumptions, stereotyping or prejudices. When paraphrasing, it is of utmost importance that you do not introduce your own ideas or question the speakers thoughts, feelings or actions. Your responses should be non-directive and non-judgemental.

Reflecting Content, Feeling and Meaning

By reflecting in these ways you give the speaker concrete proof that you have listened. How could you repeat what they have said or paraphrase them without listening.
This proof gives the speaker confidence that you are taking them seriously and trying to understand their poingt of view. It shows you value the words being spoken.
The most immediate part of a speaker’s message is the content, in other words those aspects dealing with information, actions, events and experience, as verbalized by them.
Reflecting content helps to give focus to the situation but, at the same time, it is also essential to reflect the feelings and emotions expressed in order to more fully understand the message.

Putting reflection into practice

So having taken a crash course in reflection lets see how we can use this to solve arguments and misunderstandings.
The most important thing is that your wife will hear her own words. This will give her confidence that you take her thoughts and feelings seriously.

Example of parents using reflection

Lets pretend you have argued about your kids as you have let them stay up late.
She may say – “I asked you to put them to bed before I got home, but you never listen to me and I feel like I am wasting my time talking to you.”

When you reflect her words you should stress your understanding of her feelings.
You reflect – “Yes you did ask me to put them to bed early. I guess it seems like I didn’t listen and that must seem like I don’t take you seriously.”

You can then go on to explain why you let the kids stay up late or just plain apologize. The most important thing is that you have let her know that you know how she feels.

Practice Reflection

You wont become an expert reflective listener over-night and it’s hard to learn something new in the middle of an argument. I suggest you try to be a better listener at work and when talking to friends and family all the time. You will be surprised at how much better you get on with people and how much more they will listen to you.

Everyone loves a good listener!

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