Reflective Listening – Don’t Do It!

I’m sure if you’ve worked with a challenging client group you may well have used Reflective Listening.

For those of you who are not familiar with Reflective Listening:

Reflective listening is a communication strategy involving two key steps: seeking to understand a speaker’s idea, then offering the idea back to the speaker using the Listener’s own words (without paraphrasing), to confirm the idea has been understood correctly.

Reflective listening has been found to be effective in a therapeutic setting. Subjects receiving reflective listening from a counselor have reported better therapeutic relationship and more disclosure of feelings.

This technique is used by a variety of organisations and individual in various settings.  I saw an example last week on a documentary showing police officers at work.

In this example an individual who had been taken into custody said to an officer “You’re treating me like shit”, the officer replied, “I’m not treating you like shit”.

At JM’s tribunal WCHP’s solicitor asked her about using “foul” language with clients, and she explained that she had when using reflective listening.  The solicitor went to use this as example of JM’s degrading and insulting clients, and furthermore suggested that JM was therefore teaching her staff to swear at clients.

Another example of why JM was not fully exonerated at tribunal, because of the ignorance of her employer and their legal representative.  JM is a former counselor trained in client-centered therapy, punished for using a well known and widely used technique.

JM was the former Housing Manager at WCHP who was dismissed for gross misconduct. At tribunal it was decided that the dismissal was unfair.

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