REFLECTIVE AND ACTIVE LISTENING
Reflective listening means that you are listening to understand. Learning will occur for both the speaker and the listener. You discern body language as well as spoken words. Positive feedback that would be evidence that you are reflectively listening seeks clarification, gives encouragement or simply repeats what the speaker has said.
- "I can hear your sadness from that experience."
- "Keep going, what else stood out to you?"
- "Thanks for sharing that, I can really relate."
When you are actively listening, your full presence and attention to the speaker are vital and necessary. In a dialogue that contains active listening problems are being solved, questions are being asked, the leader is making new associations, and new ideas are being explored. Resist the temptation to stare down at your questions or plan what you are going to say next.
Your response to your group members’ sharing is of utmost importance. People will either shut down or be encouraged. Giving feedback to an answer is simply acknowledging and encouraging your group member’s effort to contribute to the conversation.
Some have insecurity about being “right” or “out in left field” with their thoughts, so feedback from the leader is always necessary when a member has spoken. Affirming your group members with simple feedback tells them that you appreciate their sharing.
Simple and quick affirmations are...
- "You got a lot out of that"
- "Thanks for sharing"
- "Thanks for the insight"
- "That is such an interesting point"
- "That sounds very meaningful to you"
Getting more people to participate can be accomplished by adding a few words to the above affirmations:
- "Thanks for that insight." (pause) "How about another thought?"
- “Interesting.” (pause) “How about someone over here?"
- “Uh huh.” (pause) “I’d like to hear from a few more people."
“I like how you said that.” (pause) “What did someone else see?
Your job is to keep the conversation going in a fluid, non-rushed pace while hearing from as many members as possible. Meaningful conversations require encouragement and focus on the leader’s part as your group interacts with one another. It is your feedback that connects the dialogue and moves the conversation along.
Stay clear of feedback that stops the conversation in its tracks. Usually it is negative or judgmental, but even feedback that comments on the “rightness” or “correctness” of a statement can shut conversation down. Right answers tend to act as natural conversation enders.
Here are some unacceptable responses that shut down conversation:
- "Good", "Right", "I like that"
- "I agree/disagree"
- "The problem with that idea is..."
- "You haven't even considered..."
- "I'm not sure you really get it..."
It’s hard not to default to overly positive phrases like “good”, “I agree”, or “great point!” An easy trick is to take the appropriate phrases from above and write them on a notecard, or on your questions page, so that you have a quick list to reference until they become more natural!