Reflective Listening

Reflective listening is also known as parallel talk, parroting, and paraphrasing.

It can be used to:

Ideas for reflection come from listening, observing, and interpreting verbal and nonverbal cues as the listener tries to walk in the shoes of the speaker.

Ideas can be:

When you listen reflectively you express your:

A reflective response lets you communicate to a person what you perceive they are doing, feeling, and saying and why they are choosing their behaviors. It is impossible to be the other person and your best understanding is only a reasonable approximation. Be open-minded and cautious. Consider all ideas as tentative since our best understanding will always be limited because of the uniqueness of all people.

Use reflective listening is to open communication.

To restate what the student states is different than repeating student's answers in class. Dialogs of this nature will be in private, is done to check what is being communicated and for the purpose of understanding the student. Example:

Student: Why do you always pick on me. Others do stuff and you don't yell at them.

Educator: I pick on you and not on the other students. (Said as a statement not a question) or

Educator: I single you out when there is an interruption more than the other students.

Suggestions to use reflective statements to express what you believe students are saying:

Sample phrases for when you think your perceptions are accurate.

Phrases to use when you have difficulty understanding.

Thoughts and suggestions for the use of I And You messages

You may have noticed the use of I and you in many of the examples.

There are two kinds of you messages that can be communicated with I and You.

A you message to blame is used to hurt and humiliate. Will often increase, rather than decrease unacceptable behavior. It can cause resentment, escalate conflict and is a roadblock to communication.

Ginott (1972) asserted you statements can be worded and used effectively to respond to a child's situation, complaint, or request. To help them deal with their feelings and gain strength to cope with life. This kind of you message opens dialogue. The format:

Use you (understand) messages to keep the focus on student feelings and student selected solutions. Use I (understand) messages when students own a problem. Together they create the foundations for what Ginott (1972) referred to as congruent communication.

There is another type of I message. Remember from above...

Support and More Statements


Support and more statements are used to support something the person has done or believes in to motivate them to to set a goal(s), create a plan, and implement it to achieve their goal (the more).


You did good yesterday and today until now. Lets talk about what caused you to get upset and see what other strategy you could use next time.

Look at all you have done. All you need to do is a bit more. Avoid the use of: but and however.

You want to get your driver's license, buy a camper and travel. That will take money. People make money by working. Will having a high school diploma help you achieve your goals quicker?

You do good solving problems in mathematics. Look at this as just another problem to solve. You can solve it any way you want as long as it doesn't create a problem for anyone else in the world.

Response that are not reflective and are detrimental to communication

All of the following responses are detrimental to communication.

Responses that question, reassure, support, praise, criticize, blame, disagree, agree, warn, order, give advise, are humorous, name-call, shame, moralize, and sympathize.

All of these responses have one or more of the following effects that shut down communication:


Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes