By far the most helpful conflict resolution tool, reflective listening can help all parties say what they want to say and feel heard in the heat of the moment. Plan to practice the following reflective listening exercise at least two times a week with your partner or teen. That way, you’ll be able to use these skills in the middle of an upset, when they are most effective.
- Agree on the session’s length and how long each person will have to speak. Ten minutes total is a good starting point for those who are new to the practice.
- Start the timer as one person speaks while the other party listens respectfully, without reacting.
- The speaker should pause after a sentence or two to allow the listener to repeat aloud what they’ve heard. When repeating what they heard, the listener should try to stay as close to the speaker’s words as possible. Listening, holding information, and repeating it back can be challenging, especially for those with ADHD, so listeners should gently raise their hands to indicate that they need the speaker to pause so they can digest what's been said.
- When repeating what they’ve heard, the listener should say, “What I heard you say is this:… Did I get it right? Is there anything else?” This allows the speaker to either say yes and continue, or to repeat their point if the listener missed a few things.
- The process continues until the timer goes off. Then the roles reverse.
- At the end of the session, the conversation is considered over. Do not unpack whatever was said during the session after it ends. Leave it for the next session. If you don’t, the unpacking will surely end in an argument.
The listener’s role is far more challenging when there's been an upset. Listeners have to put aside their own feelings while reflecting back words that might seem outrageous or unfair. But it's part of the process. All parties will have their turn to gather their thoughts and share them in the session. For this reason, it might help for each person to have five minutes to share before switching roles.
Reflective listening is useful for navigating tough situations, but it isn’t exclusively for sharing emotional pain or trouble. You can use it to talk about anything, even the seemingly mundane, like what happened in your day.
Reflective Listening: Next Steps