Day 25: Reflection

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?
————-^feeling^ ^confirmation^
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.

Extra Resources:

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 –
Other Resources –


Day 24: Listen

How To Listen
Most of the time you think of listening as a passive act. You might nod your head or make facial expressions, but as a listener your main job is to pay attention and wait for the moment when you have something to offer. Then you speak and the roles reverse.

But this is not listening. This is waiting and speaking. And that’s all most of us know how to do.

Real listening requires something more. It requires attention, engagement, and most of all curiosity.

Think about all the classes you’ve taken. First think about a class that bored you to tears. You probably struggled to pay attention and did your best to take notes, but nothing about the class or the teacher made you curious, and it sucked.

Now think about a class where the subject matter fascinated you or the teacher taught in a way that made you want to learn. You were engaged, present, and really curious about what made history, science, or literature work. You wanted to understand the process and the details.

Now compare the two experiences. Do you see the difference curiosity makes?

Listening with Curiosity
When you listen with curiosity, you don’t just hear the words and wait for your turn to speak. Instead, you listen for what’s behind the words: the feelings, the needs, and the dreams. You don’t just absorb what they’re saying; you become absorbed in it. And you begin to feel what they feel. You begin to truly connect to the person you’re listening to.

How To Listen Deeply
Here are some things I do when I really want to listen deeply:

1. Don’t focus on the details.
Most of the time when you listen, you listen for the details. And that’s normal because that’s how you were taught to listen.

You first learned to listen for the details in school and then later at work. But listening to learn is totally different than listening to connect.

So whenever you’re talking to a friend or loved one, don’t listen to the details, because the details aren’t important. (Unless of course, they’re telling you how to defuse a bomb.)

People tell you details because of how they feel about them. I might tell you about my cute cat, because I feel proud of her beauty or because I love her. I might tell you about this thing I saw on TV, because it made me laugh. But in almost every case the reason I share details is to frame what I’m feeling and what I need.

2. Listen for feelings.
When I say listen for the feelings, I mean to listen for how the events a person describes makes them feel.

For example let’s say your friend comes to you and starts telling you about some crazy things their boss is doing. They tell you how she moved the shredder into a closet and took away the fridge in the break room.

Now though the details are tempting, don’t take the bait! Their boss might be crazy or she might not. Either way it doesn’t matter. What matters is how they feel about it. So listen to how they feel.

Do they feel frustrated, angry, betrayed, hurt, or sad? For now just listen and guess in your own mind. And remember you are just guessing!

It isn’t about trying to diagnose someone’s feelings. It’s about being curious about how they feel. So listen,be curious, and ask yourself “What are they feeling?”

3. Listen for needs.
Needs are the essential things that everyone requires to be happy and healthy. Joy, wholeness, peace, order, and predictability are all kinds of needs.

An attractive partner, a big family, quiet space, a well organized desk, and a schedule are ways or strategies for meeting these needs, but they are not needs. I know this is a subtle distinction so don’t get hung up on it. We’ll come back to it in another challenge.

For now all you have to know is that when you’re listening for needs, you’re listening for the essential thing the person is longing for.

In the example I mentioned above with the crazy boss you might get curious about why they feel that way. And you could ask yourself: What do they need? What would help them feel better? What essential universal thing are they longing for?

You might guess they have a need for collaboration with their boss, or a need for respect, or a need for acknowledgement.

This will be hard at first, because that’s not how most of us were taught to think. Just be curious, what is it that they really want? What would having the fridge back, or being consulted by their boss give them?

A Good Start
There is a lot more to the art of listening, but this is a good start. If you just do these two things your ability to listen in a connective way will increase ten fold.

In the next challenge we’re going to talk about what you do with this information and how you can use it to connect to the people in your life.

For now here’s today’s challenge:

Challenge #24 – Listening

1. Practice:
For this challenge you either need to have a conversation with a friend or mentally review a recent conversation you’ve had. As you do this, listen for the feelings and needs.

One way to make this easier is to get out a piece of paper and make two columns, one for feelings and one for needs. Then as you talk or review just write down your guesses for different feelings and needs you think the other person has arising. And remember the #1 Rule BE CURIOUS.

As you do this you may realize how limited your feelings and needs vocabulary is and that’s ok. For now just do your best to guess the feelings and needs using whatever words you can think of. Then once you’re done if you want to expand your vocabulary there’s some resources at the end of the post.

2. Reflect: Now that you’ve tried a new way of listening. Take some time to reflect on what you noticed.

  • What’s different when you listen with curiosity?
  • What ‘s different when you listen for feelings and needs, instead of details?
  • How easy or hard is it to notice the feelings and needs behind what the other person is saying?
  • Did you gain a better perspective or understanding of their world?
  • What was the hardest part about listening for feelings and needs?
  • What was the easiest part?

3. Share: Please share in one or all of the following ways.

  • Blog – Write a post about what it’s like to listen in a new way. Or write a post about what you learned through your reflection.
  • Post – Using #30dayhappy or posting to our Facebook group share one thing you learned or one thing you struggled with in this challenge.
  • Comment – In the comments below tell me what you think about this way of listening or ask a question about something you found challenging.

Extra Resources:
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 in this phase which is know as non-violent communication or NVC.

Feelings And Needs Lists –
Other Resources –