Reflective Listening Argumentative Essay

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Reflective listening is a communication strategy that is often used in everyday work and life situations. It stems from the work done by the psychologist, Carl Rogers, who developed a school of client-centered therapy based on attentive listening and empathy. The first section of this paper starts by providing a detailed overview of the technique of reflective listening, including its definition, technical aspect, application and usefulness. In the second section of this paper, examples of different situations where reflective listening is employed are provided, including one example that highlights an experience of my personal life.

Reflective Listening: What is It?


Reflective listening can be defined as a communication strategy constructed in two key steps:

  1. The first step seeks at understanding the speaker’s idea, feelings, and perspective.
  2. The second step seeks at relaying this understanding back to the speaker.

Reflective listening therefore requires the ability to actively respond to another person while keeping all of our attention focused on the speaker’s thought. It also requires the ability to actively reflect on what the other person is saying to confirm that his speech is being heard and understood. For this strategy to be effective, one must not only be able to understand the content of what the other person is saying, but must also understands his feeling.


Reflective listening can be useful in many ways. First of all, it allows us to understand what the speaker is saying, and similarly, it allows the speaker to make sure that he is being heard. Reflecting listening on another person also helps the speaker to promptly clarify his intensions and elaborate his thoughts, and sometimes deciding on taking a new course of action if needed. In addition, the strategy of reflective listening helps create a climate of comfort and security between individuals so as to avoid potential conflict or dispute. For these reasons, this strategy is often used in the fields of counseling and psychotherapy to help someone experiencing a difficulty, and also by organizations and companies for effective client meetings.

Reflective Listening: How is It Made?

Several guidelines and principles have been developed to conduct an effective reflective listening.

First step of reflective listening:

During the first step of reflective listening (which seeks at understanding the speaker), listening to the speaker with attention is essential.

Example: This could be achieved by maintaining eye contact, using body languages such as the occasional gestures and smiles, asking appropriate questions to encourage the speaker in his thoughts (e.g. ‘How come you decided to quit this project?’).

Second step of reflective listening:

The second step of reflective listening (which seeks at relaying back our understanding to the speaker) could be achieved by effectively summarizing both the content (i.e., thoughts, ideas, beliefs and fact) of the speech and the feeling of the speaker (i.e., emotional state).

Example: Summarizing the content of the speech could be done by asking a question (e.g. ‘So you want to study abroad?’). Reflecting on the speaker’s feeling, however, may be achieved by showing empathy. Examples include using sentences beginning by ‘You feel…’, ‘You sound…’ or ‘You look…’. This may help better get in touch with the feeling of the other person.

Existing model of reflective listening:

A well-known model of reflective listening is the model established by Dalmar Fisher, an associate professor at Boston college and an expert in the field of communication and organization studies, the following elements are needed for an effective reflective listening:

  1. Focusing on the conversation by reducing any possible distractions (e.g. by maintaining eye contact)
  2. Embracing the speaker’s perspective and point of view (e.g. by showing empathy)
  3. Mirroring the mood and emotional state of the speaker (Using verbal or non verbal communication. e.g. “You sound frustrated of what happened”)
  4. Summarizing the content of what the speaker said (Using the speaker’s own word e.g. “So you’re telling me that you want to quit this project”)
  5. Responding to the speaker (e.g. when he asks a question)
  6. Repeating the procedure and switching the roles of speaker and listener when needed
  7. Embracing the technique of thoughtful silence (can help create a climate of comfort)

These guidelines, when adequately employed, can be effective for a building a successful relationship with someone else.

Reflective Listening: How is It Applied?

Reflective listening can be applied into different environments and settings. One obvious application of reflective listening is during a therapeutic setting, when an individual needs to disclose his feelings or problems to a specialized therapist. In this scenario it is primordial that the therapist fully understands the problems and feeling of the individuals so as to provide effective therapy in return.

Similarly, reflective listening could be applied in a classroom environment where the teacher often needs to engage into class discussions. In this setting, it is essential that the teacher adopts active and reflective listening to understand the questions of the students and to provide a satisfying response. Reflective listening could also be implemented in social settings to resolve potential dispute among two individuals, and among households and family members to resolve any opposing arguments. Detailed examples that incorporate the use of reflective listening are provided in the second section of this paper.

Reflective Listening: Advantages and Disadvantages

As mentioned earlier, reflective listening could be useful in many ways, both to the speaker and to the listener. Through reflective listening, the listener will be able to gain valuable information that could aid him in developing a climate of trust with the speaker. In addition, reflective listening encourages the speaker to provide more details about his idea or concern than he would normally do in another type of conversation. Also, reflective listening provides the benefits of giving confidence to the listener, who will be more likely to give appropriate feedback or thoughts to what the speaker has said.

However, it is important to mention that reflective listening is not without some limitations. One disadvantage of this communication approach is that the speaker may feel uncomfortable or distracted by a listener who keeps on interrupting him for clarifications in an inadequate manner. Such interruption may waste a lot of times for both the speaker and the listener, and the communication may eventually fail to serve its initial purpose. Nonetheless, despite the presence of this limitation, reflective listening remains a very effective and powerful communication tool for building and maintaining a solid relationship with someone else, whether it is in a social or professional setting.

Examples of Reflective Listening

The following 4 examples illustrate conversations between two individuals where reflective listening is used: the first example is a conversation from a personal life experience, the second example is a conversation between members of a couple, the third example illustrates a conversation between a kid and his mom, and the fourth example is a conversation between a student and his teacher.

Example # 1: (Real-life experience)

The following is a conversation between me and a friend (Sasha):

  • Me (the speaker): ‘Sasha I really want to stop talking to Leila. Every time I tell her a secret she goes and tells it to everybody. I don’t trust her anymore’.
  • Sasha (the listener): She listens carefully while maintaining eye contact, then says: ‘So you’re telling me you want to end up your relationship with Leila because she’s not trustful?’
  • Me: “Yes, I don’t have the choice. I can’t stand being around people who lie to my face”.
  • Sasha: “Oh, I understand”.
  • Me: “Honesty means everything to me. A person who is not honest to me loses my trust.”

This is an example where Sasha (the listener) uses the technique of reflective listening through body languages (e.g. maintaining eye contact and listening carefully; this is the first step of reflective listening) and by confirming to the speaker that she understood what she is saying (e.g. by asking a question or saying “I understand”; this is the second step of reflective listening). This strategy of communication reassures the speaker that she is being actively listened to, and encourages her to further talk about her problems and concerns.

Example # 2:

In a couple, the woman says to his husband that she is frustrated because he didn’t do anything for her birthday. The following is the conversation between the wife and her husband:

  • Wife (the speaker): ‘I am frustrated because you didn’t do anything for my birthday’
  • The husband (the listener). He listens carefully. He shows some facial expression (he puts his hand over his mouth) but doesn’t say anything.
  • Wife: ‘You only care about your job’
  • Husband: ‘Is that so?’
  • Wife: ‘Yes! The last time you did something good for me was months ago!’
  • Husband: ‘I understand. I promise to take you out soon’

This is an example where the man uses reflective listening to handle the situation with his wife. After the first comment of his wife, the man uses body language to show to her that he unintentionally forgot about her birthday (he puts his hand over his mouth). This indicates that the husband understands the feeling of his wife (first step of reflective listening). Likewise, after the second comment of his wife, he replies saying: ‘Is that so?’ to better understand the speaker’s idea. Finally, after her last comment, the husband replies to the wife saying that he understands her (second step of reflective listening).

Example # 3:

A kid complains to his mom about a situation that he finds unfair.

  • Kid (the speaker): ‘Mom, all my friends are going to the concert. It’s unfair that I’m not going’

The following are 2 different replies of the mom to her kid.

Reply #1:

  • Mom: ‘You’re upset’
  • Mom: ‘You’re annoyed’
  • Mom: ‘You’re feeling sad’

In these scenarios, the mom gives statements (instead of asking questions) to show to her kid that she understands his feeling. Sometimes, statements are better than questions because the speaker does not feel interrogated. There are again elements of reflective listening (2nde step of reflective listening; relaying back our understanding to the speaker).

Reply #2:

  • Mom: ‘I understand you. You don’t want to stay home while your friends go out to this concert’

In this reply, the mom embraces the speaker’s perspective and point of view (an element of Dalmar fisher’s model).

Example # 4:

The following example is a communication between a student and his teacher during which the student talks about an assignment that he has to return soon.

  • Student (the speaker): ‘I am worried about this assignment due next week. I would like to talk to you about it now if possible’
  • Teacher (the listener). He smiles and nods at the student, and then says: ‘Yes of course’
  • Student: ‘I’m worried. I think the content of my paper does not fall within any of the assigned topics’
  • Teacher. He listens carefully while maintaining eye contact with the student.
  • Student: ‘Can you give me your opinion?’
  • Teacher. Pauses for a few seconds then says: ‘You want me to look at your paper now?’

This is an example where the teacher uses reflective listening to understand the content of what the student is saying, and to relay back this understanding to the student. After the first and second comments of the student, the teacher uses signs body language (e.g. smiles, nods and eye contact) to confirm to the student that he is being carefully listened to. This is the first step of reflective listening, which seeks at understanding the speaker’s idea and feeling.

At some point, the student asks a questions to the teacher This is the element # 6 of Dalmar Fisher model of reflective listening (switching the role between speaker and listener when needed). After the question of the student, the teacher pauses for a few seconds. This is the element # 7 of Dalmar Fisher model of reflective listening (embracing the technique of thoughtful silence). The teacher finally asks a question that summarizes the content of the speech (‘You want me to…now?’) (4th step of Fisher’s model). Using this type of question, the listener seeks at relaying back his understanding to the speaker.


In summary, reflective listening is a communication strategy that could be used for better understanding the speaker’s idea and feeling, and for relaying back this understanding to the speaker. Originating from the work of the psychologist Carl Rogers, this communication strategy has proved to be very effective in creating a successful relationship between two individuals by developing a climate of trust and comfort. It can also be effectively used to allow the speaker to get where he wants to go in his idea and to further discuss his problems and concerns.

Reflective listening could be applied to everyday work and life situations, including in a therapeutic setting when the patient needs to disclose his problem to the therapist, or in social settings among members of a family to resolve a dispute or a disagreement. This type of communication strategy provides far more benefits than disadvantages, and as such, is frequently used by organizations and companies for maintaining a trustful relationship with their clients.


Cite this paper

Reflective Listening Argumentative Essay. (2021, Apr 27). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/reflective-listening/



How do you show reflective listening?
Reflective listening can be shown by repeating or paraphrasing what the speaker has said, and by using non-verbal cues such as nodding and maintaining eye contact to show that you are fully engaged in the conversation.
What are the three stages of reflective listening?
The three stages of reflective listening are: 1) attending to the speaker, 2) reflecting back the speaker's words and 3) responding to the speaker.
What is an example of reflective listening?
An example of reflective listening would be when someone is sharing a problem with you and you mirror back what they are saying to show that you are hearing and understanding them.
What is reflective listening vs active listening?
Reflective listening allows the person who is being asked a question the opportunity to extract their thoughts to say what they really mean. Active listening requires you to not only listen but respond effectively to what they are saying.
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