Most of the time when you talk to people they offer some advice or relate a story about something similar they’ve gone through. But not my friend Michael.
The first several times I talked to him, rather than offer advice or share a story, he asked me questions, but not the usual kind. Instead of asking about the details, he asked me about how that made me feel and he guessed why it was important for me. And he did this with so much curiosity that I was amazed.
Instead of feeling like I was in a ping pong conversation, I felt like someone was really listening to me. And that felt great!
Back and Forth
You’re probably used to the back and forth of everyday conversation. One person talks and then the other person responds with some advice or a story of their own. The attention bounces from one person to the next and then back again.
While there isn’t anything wrong with this way of talking, it’s not a great way to create a deep connection. If you want to be able to create a connection with almost anyone you meet, you’ve got to learn how to listen and reflect.
What is reflection?
Reflection is the process of expressing curiosity, through the practice of guessing and receiving confirmation.
Reflection is not:
- Psychoanalysis – Don’t play Dr. Phil
- A Control Technique – there is no right or wrong way someone should feel
- An absolute process – it isn’t about getting it 100% right
- A way to put people into boxes – our feelings and needs are dynamic and changing.
At it’s best reflection increases engagement, gives you a way to focus your curiosity, improves your ability to listen, and helps you create deeper connections.
Here is how it works:
Step 1: Listen
The details aren’t important. Instead, listen for the person’s feelings and needs.
As you do, make a guess internally about what their feelings and needs might be.
For example, a friend might start tell you about how her boyfriend doesn’t love her enough and then lay out the evidence. As she does, you can listen for the feelings and needs she’s expressing.
Inside your mind it might sound like this: “Oh wow he skipped their date night to go out with his friends. Hmm I’m guessing she feels frustrated, because she wants to know he loves her.”
Once you get a sense of what they’re talking about, it’s time to make to guess.
Step 2. Guess
The key word here is guess, not accuse, analyze, or declare. You may be 1000% sure you know what they’re feeling, what their problem is, and how to solve it. And that’s great!
But you’re not a plumber, you’re not getting paid by the hour, and they didn’t ask you to fix anything. Your #1 job is the be curious. Your #2 job is to guess from that curiosity
Good guessing has 1 to 4 parts depending on your level of sophistication:
Part 1: Observation: This is where you describe the event or details they’ve shared with you to create a context for your guess.
Part 2: Guessing the feeling: This is where you guess what they feel when the event happened.
Part 3: Guess the need: This is where you guess what need came up around the same event.
Part 4: Get Confirmation: Because it’s a guess and not a declaration it’s important to ask if your guess is right. Which you can do by simply saying: Is that right?
Here is a Video of How this might sound:
Here’s an example of how It might sound:
Your Friend: Yeah I can’t believe he just cancelled our date night to go out with his friends. It’s like he doesn’t even love me any more.
You: Oh so when he went out with his friends it really hurt you because you want to know that he loves you. Is that right?
In the example above I used all four of the parts but you can also just use one or two. Here are some more examples:
Just Parts 1, 2, and 4
You: Oh so when he didn’t meet you for date night you felt hurt, is that right?
——————^ observation ^————————–^feeling^ ^confirmation^
Parts 2 and 4
You: Oh you felt hurt, is that right?
That’s the basic idea. You observe, you guess, and you confirm.
Now it’s your turn to try. But please keep in mind this will feel awkward to you! Because this isn’t how you normally talk. It takes time but of all the communication techniques I’ve tried, this by far is the best one I’ve ever used.
Challenge #25 – Reflection
1.Practice: Call up a friend you can practice with. You can tell them you’re trying to learn a new communication skill or you can just do it on the sly. It’s up to you.
Ask them about their day. Then as they talk, start listening for their feelings and needs. Once you have an idea of what their going through try reflecting it back to them.
Do your best to follow the formula:
Observation, guess the Feeling and/or need, get confirmation.
2. Reflect: Ok once you get off the call or your friend hangs up (because they can’t figure out what the hell you’re doing) it’s time to reflect on your experience.
- What was it like to practice reflective listening?
- How did they respond when you guessed their feelings and needs?
- Did it reveal any information about them you didn’t already know?
- Did you feel more engaged in the conversation?
- Did you feel awkward?
- Can you see how this way of communicating can be so powerful?
- What was hard about it? What was easy about it?
3. Share: Finally please share your experience by doing one or all of the three following things
- Blog – Write a post about your conversation and how it went, or on something you noticed during your reflection.
- Post – Using #30dayhappy or posting to our Facebook group, share one feeling or need guess you tried and how the other person reacted.
- Comment – Let me know what you enjoyed or struggled with in this challenge in the comments below.
Bonus Skill! Skillfully Interrupt –
Sometimes people are so desperate to be heard that they’ll express a whole series of feelings and needs in rapid order. But this makes reflection hard especially when you’re just trying to learn.
So if you’ve given someone some space and you have a guess for what they’re feeling but they just keep talking or they start to move onto a new subject, you can try the practice of skillful interruption.
But interrupting is rude right? Well it is if you’re interrupting so you can tell someone they’re stupid. But when it comes to reflection it’s can be an essential skill.
While there are many ways to interupt skillfully here are two phrases I use often:
Hold on, I just want to make sure I’m getting what you’re saying. . .
Hm I’m curious about what you’re saying, I wonder. . .
Here’s a video example:
Here’s an example of how this might work in a conversation.
Your Friend: Yeah I can’t believe he just cancelled our date night to go out with his friends. It’s like he doesn’t even love me any more. And another thing his dog is always . . .
You: Hold on a sec because I want to just make sure I’m getting what you’re saying.
Your Friend: Um Ok
You: So what you’re saying is that when he went out with his friends instead of you, you felt hurt, is that right?
Your Friend: Yeah I couldn’t believe he did that to me. It really hurt a lot.
You: And it hurt so much because you really want to know he loves you. Is that right?
Your Friend: Yeah I mean I sorta know he loves me, but it’s hard. When he does stuff like this I start to wonder if he really does care about me or not
You: Wow I imagine that wondering if he cares about you must be really hard.
Your Friend: Yeah it is. (Silence)
(Note: when you hit silence in a conversation like this, it’s usually a sign you’ve done good reflecting)
As you can see there is a way that you can use interruption skillfully. So if you have a hard time getting the space to reflect, try this out, but be gentle and keep practicing. Remember this is a level 2 listening skill so it take a little more time to master.
Feelings and Needs Vocabulary
One of the things many of you will discover as you do this practice is how limited your feelings and needs vocabulary is. Here are some excellent handouts that offer lists of different and subtle words for feelings and needs. They were created by the woman who taught me this communication technique were using, which is know as non-violent communication or NVC.
Feelings And Needs Lists – http://www.wiseheartpdx.org/resources/15.pdf
Other Resources – http://www.wiseheartpdx.org/resources.html