Listening Skills

by Steve Roche

The art of reflecting

Reflecting the content of what a person has said back to them is essential to good listening. Reflecting demonstrates ‘I heard what you said, and am checking to see if I got it right’. This has several benefits.

  • It reassures the speaker that you are paying attention.
  • It enables you to check that you have understood what they are saying.
  • It cuts down on repetition, because it shows you have heard what they are saying. We often repeat ourselves because we sense that a listener is not ‘getting it’. By doing the repeating, the listener can help move a conversation on.

There are three main ways in which you can reflect what the other speaker has said.

  1. Restating single words or short phrases the speaker has used, so that they hear them...

    The speaker can check that the words are still useful and appropriate, and that they conveyed the meaning that was intended. Reflecting also encourages further response and/or clarification.


‘So you believe that this is an urgent problem?’

  1. Paraphrasing what you understand to be the speaker’s core message, using their frame of reference and their own language...

    This communicates acceptance and understanding, and allows you to check your perception of what the speaker has said. It enables you to identify and respond to messages implied by an expression, a tone of voice, or a hesitation.


‘I’ve heard you say that there are several issues here and you are worried they are being confused. And I notice that you seem quite agitated at the moment.’

  1. Summarising, using longer paraphrases to bring together key aspects of the content in an overview of themes or clusters of concerns...

    This offers a review so the speaker can add to or reconsider what they have said.


‘So we’ve discussed this in some detail now, let me check that I’ve understood your main points. They are 1........ 2........ 3........ Is that correct?’