Reflective Listening

Ideas and Issues

New Orleans    What in the world is “reflective listening?” I stumbled onto the concept looking up a word while reading an article about how volunteers were trained to handle a crisis text line used largely by younger people from teens through their twenties. The purpose was to defuse depression, prevent suicide, and in many cases just to give someone a chance to talk, I mean text, to someone who was actually listening and paying attention.

What had first gotten my attention was the word, “tentafier.” What the heck was a tentafier? The very existence of the word as I typed it outraged the Microsoft Word program as it seemed to underline this strange jumble of letters in deeper and deeper red every time I moved the keys in its direction. Looking at it harder, it seems clear. A tentafier is a curious way of trying to turn some variety of the word “tentative” into a hybrid noun of some kind. Tentafiers are meant to absorb emotion in a conversation or texting rant a bit like a sponge picks up a counter spill. Wordlessly. Quietly. Passively.

Trying to track down that word led me to a whole branch of communication called “reflective listening.” Given how critical listening is to the art and skill of organizing, I figured that I had better dive in and at least see how far it might be to hit bottom.

I found a website called “Pennsylvania Echoes.” Echoing might be a shorthand way of understanding this kind of “listening,” which might in many ways be a good thing, but also highlights what is most annoying about it if it ever comes back at you in a conversation. Here’s their cut at defining this practice:

The purpose of “Reflective Listening” is to :

·         listen fully, clarify understand what another person saying.

·         build trust and a repore (sic: rapport) with other people.

·         Improve communication

·         Increase personal empathy and relatedness

Active Reflective listening:

  • Use Good Listening Skills.
  • Withhold judgment while listening
  • Listen Closely To What is being said, and How something is said.
  • Pay attention to nonverbal cues: gestures, voice inflections.
  • Respond to What you hear, and Nothing else.
  • Reflect and Listen
  • Affirm Feeling and Values when express
  • Explore and Encourage a speaker to share
  • Avoid listening “Road blocks “
  • Summarize
  • Continue to listen.

Reflecting and Listening

Reflecting tells the person who you are listening to that you understand them, and allows you to passively challenge statements for clarity.

I hear you saying………..

Sounds like……………….

You believe………………….

you are confident that….

Could it be that……

You think that…….

Correct me if I’m wrong , but i hear……….

From your perspective…………

I’m picking up………..

The part I understand is…..

It Seems as though…………

By that you mean…..

Statements, that start like this are known as “Tentafiers” and they avoid introducing any opinion, advice, or talk of your experience. Remember: this is about better listening and listening objectively.


Speaker: It’s my brother. He borrowed the car again without asking. He never shows up on time. Never helps me when I ask for his help and now he is asking to borrow money again.

Listener: “It sounds to me, that you believe your brother is taking advantage of you”..

Affirming Feeling and Values

Sometimes people talk to get things “off their chest,” or just need someone to talk to. They may not notice how they are feeling as they talk. Pointing out feelings and values when you here (sic: hear) them, challenges the speaker to experience them, more directly as they communicate.

It also tells the speaker “Hey! I know how you Feel” and “I want to know how you are feeling”.

·         You are Feeling……..

·         You Feel……..

·         I hear you saying that,   part of you feels….. and part of you feels….

·         It Sounds like you really value……

Some of this I find creepy and manipulative, but I think I hear myself saying what I’m saying, so I’ll reserve judgment until I reflect on it more.


Check out Ambush from Marti Brom’s Rancho Notorious, Thanks to KABF.