Do you feel like the communication in your relationship could be better?

A woman pretending to take headphones off while saying,

Reflective listening may be just what you are looking for!

What is Reflective Listening?

A dog moving his head back and forth as he listens to someone speak.

Reflective listening is a form of communication in which...

  1. The listener listens for understanding, not to respond

  2. The listener repeats back what they heard

  3. The speaker either confirms or corrects what the listener shared

What Does Reflective Listening Look Like?

It should be back-and-forth communication between the speaker and the listener, as shown in the image below.

A graphic showing the steps of practicing reflective listening. (created by Sandi McKinney using Canva) To hear an audio description of the above image, click play on the audio player below:

What Are The Benefits?

A man eating bread in a cave saying,

Reflective, active listening helps to build relationships through:


  • the speaker feels heard

  • builds rapport and mutual respect between the speaker and the listener

Correcting Misunderstandings

  • leads to fewer arguments

  • allows the speaker to clarify thoughts

Bringing Feelings Into the Conversation

  • builds empathy and acceptance

  • helps to build emotional bonds

What To Do While Reflective Listening

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When reflective listening, make sure to...

  • Keep eye contact

  • Pay full attention to the speaker

  • Avoid distractions

  • Limit how much you talk

  • Show you're listening with your body (smile, nod, say "mm-hmm")

  • Ask the speaker questions for clarity

  • Confirm that you understand the speaker's message by summarizing their points


Johnny had a rough day at work and wanted to share his thoughts and feelings with his partner, Ann. What can Ann do while Johnny speaks to show that she is reflective listening? Select all that apply.

What Not To Do While Reflective Listening

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When practicing reflective listening, avoid...

  • Thinking about how you want to respond

  • Interrupting the speaker

  • Disagreeing with the speaker

  • Acting impatiently

  • Jumping to conclusions about the speaker's arguments

  • Attempting to finish the speaker's sentences

  • Multi-tasking during the conversation

Let's Practice!

Two people making a heart with their hands Photo by Kristina Litvjak on Unsplash

Meet Sam and Kelly. They're life partners who have recently been struggling to communicate with each other. Sam would love to have a conversation with Kelly about how these communication troubles are impacting their relationship.

Sam: I've been really upset. I feel like I can't talk to you about anything lately without...

Kelly: (interrupts) What are you talking about?!

Sam: What I'm trying to say is that I feel like you get angry and defensive when I try to share my feelings with you.

Kelly: (red-faced while looking off to the side) Are you KIDDING ME? You share your feelings all the time. What about MY feelings?

Sam: Forget it!

How could Kelly have responded using reflective listening?

Option A

Kelly could have...

  • sat and listened without responding while Sam shared

  • made eye contact with Sam and nodded while Sam spoke

  • responded with, "So what I hear you saying is...." after Sam finished speaking

Option B

Kelly could have...

  • avoided interrupting Sam

  • cried to show emotion

  • left when Sam said things they didn't agree with

  • made sure to share all of the things that Sam is doing that they don't like


Which option should Kelly follow to practice reflective listening with Sam?

Take Action

A group fo 4 people with their arms around each other as they watch the sunset. Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Are you ready to build stronger communication skills and relationships with the people you care about? If so:


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