How to Use Reflective Listening Scripts:
The Top Ten Dos, Don’ts, and Power Phrases to Promote Understanding
Seek First to Understand
Seek first to understand and then to be understood. Stephen Covey popularized this phrase, and for good reason. Understanding is the foundation of effective communication. Reflective listening (or active listening) is a powerful tool to create understanding.
A reflective listener listens for meaning and checks with the speaker to see that a statement has been correctly heard and understood. The goal is to improve mutual understanding. The listener suspends judgment and personal reactions and stays completely focused on the speaker.
It sounds simple enough, but the times it’s most important to listen are the times when it’s hardest to listen. That’s why it’s important to know how to use reflexive listening scripts to seek to understand. Here are the dos, don’ts and Power Phrases which are useful word phrases in active listening.
1. When someone becomes defensive, offer to listen reflectively
DON’T: keep pushing your point against their resistance.
Why not?: It doesn’t work. Resisting resistance intensifies it. Switching into reflective listening breaks the pattern.
DO: recognize defensiveness as an indication it’s time to back off and be present to the needs of the other person.
POWER PHRASE / What to say: “It seems to me we’re misunderstanding each other. I’d like to practice reflective listening and focus on understanding you completely. Are you open to that?”
POISON PHRASE / What not to say: “You’re not hearing me.”
2. If you prefer, slip into reflective listening without telling the speaker what you’re doing.
DON’T: stick robotically to the script to the point of being obvious or unnatural.
Why not?: It will come across as patronizing.
DO: be prepared with phrases to keep you focused and adapt those phrases to be natural in the situation.
POWER PHRASE / What to say: “I’d like to focus on what you’re saying until I’m sure I get it.”
POISON PHRASE / What not to say: N/A.
3. Avoid temptation to switch the focus to you
DON’T: respond by relating what they say to your own stories and experience.
Why not?: It takes the attention off them and puts it back on you, which interrupts the flow.
DO: speak with the intent of mirroring or reflecting what they are saying.
POWER PHRASE / What to say: “It sounds like you…
POISON PHRASE / What not to say: “That reminds me of when I…”