Can You Hear Me Now? How Reflective Listening Can Help With Negotiating

A case can’t be resolved unless the parties listen to each other. They may not like what they’re hearing but the reality is that both parties need to understand each other’s needs in order to reach a resolution. That can’t be done without active listening.

One method to help you listen is called “reflective listening.” It’s a way of repeating back what was told to you, but not in a way that’s robotic or mimicking, according to Lifehacker. People like good listeners and showing that you’re listening is a valuable skill that should help you build rapport with your client and the opposing party.

When you use reflective listening the central question isn’t what can you do for this person but rather,  “How does this person see themselves and their situation?” This requires empathy, your desire to understand the person from his or her internal frame of reference rather than from some external point of view. The empathic listener tries to get inside the other’s thoughts and feelings. A person who sees that a listener is trying to understand him or her will be willing to explore his or her problems more deeply.

  • You shouldn’t just repeat what you’ve heard.
  • Use your own words to show that you’ve absorbed and understand the information.
  • Paraphrase and re-interpret what’s been said so it’s clear to the other party their words resonate with you.

Reflective listening can benefit parties in a negotiation,

  • Improve your understanding of the other person,
  • Help the other party clarify their thoughts, and
  • Reassure the other person that someone is willing to understand his or her point of view and wants to help.

Reflective listening is a counseling technique and is designed to show as full a sense as possible of understanding the speaker’s thoughts and feelings, according to the MIT Sloan Communication Program. It “reflects back” to the speaker what you believe was said to verify or clarify your understanding and to encourage the speaker to continue talking. With this technique, you’re responding to not leading, the conversation.

Though it may be difficult, you should also include what you think the person’s emotions are in the situation. Try to stay with the speaker’s frame of reference, don’t ask questions or make suggestions from your perspective. Responding to feelings, not words, may be more effective because feelings may be a better indication of meaning than content. “You were angry when you were yelled at by your boss in public…,” may be better than “How many times did your boss yell at you in public?”

You’re not a therapist and your job isn’t necessarily to make people feel better but if your goal is to do your best to try to resolve a dispute involving your client that goal may be easier to reach if you have a better understanding of your client and the other party. Many lawsuits are filed by people who feel disrespected, ignored and powerless and they believe legal action is a way to even the playing field. A plaintiff given an opportunity to “speak truth to power,” who feels someone is listening and respects them, may be more interested in resolving a dispute short of a trial.