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Learning to Listen by Speaking

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Following is an excerpt from a column written by Olivia Mellan for the May 2002 issue of Investment Advisor in which she describes the technique of “mirroring.”

To become a better listener, consider a simple but powerful “mirroring” technique taught by psychotherapist and author Harville Hendrix. Step one is simply to mirror what the other person has just said. Don’t paraphrase it, just repeat it in a sympathetic, nonjudgmental tone of voice.

For example, if your client says, “I feel like I’ve been run over by a Mack truck,” you would just say something like “Since your husband died so unexpectedly, you feel like you’ve been run over by a Mack truck.” Then ask, “Is there more?” If playing back her comments this way feels too artificial, you might wait until she’s shared several thoughts and feelings and play back all of them, as closely as you remember them.

People tend to feel safe when they feel they are respectfully being heard. So I invite you to risk mirroring back what your clients are saying, and then ask them, “Did I get it?” and “Is there more?” and see what happens.

Mirroring is the first part of an empathetic listening process that can be a powerful tool for healing.

(To read the full column, visit the Web Extras section of the October 2008 magazine’s online table of contents.)


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