Active Listening Skill: Mirroring

“My friends just won’t get off my case. I wish people would stop bringing it up.”

“Yeah that sucks. I had that happen to me once with family, so now I ignore them.” A bad listener prematurely redirects the conversation toward herself or attempts to problem-solve the issue away.

“Your friends won’t get off your case. You wish people would stop bringing it up.”

“You’re really frustrated.”

“People are being too nosy. They’re bossing you around.”

A good listener opens emotional breathing room. She demonstrates real attention and care by keeping the dialogue focused on the other person. She reaches into her toolchest and decides to “mirror” the same language, “reflect” emotion, or “paraphrase” for clarity. The original speaker then has permission to share more.

These techniques help us whenever we want to grok something. As I wrote in a previous post on college advice, it’s crucial that students “Take time to digest…engage. Discern…When someone shares something with you, repeat it back. Come up with an example.”

We often forget to click the technology of language into place. And it’s really too bad, because that’s where the magic of learning happens.

This is my first post explicitly sharing a skill. Thanks to countless friends and mentors for passing along your wisdom and knowledge. And a special thanks to Libby, who is empathy incarnate.


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