Lawrence E. Kincade, Ph.D., LCSW > Reflective Listening


  • The person who has the concern is responsible for bringing it up as soon as possible.  Before you bring the problem up, think it through in your own mind.
  • State the problem to your partner as clearly and concretely as possible.  Consider the following format:  "I am feeling (e.g., hurt and confused) because of (e.g., the comments you said about my issues with my boss, when we visited your parents last night)."
  • It is important that you both understand the problem being brought up.  The partner who is on the receiving end should then reflect back what was said considering the following format:  "I hear you saying you feel ____________ because of ___________________."  After reflecting back what was said, ask clarifying questions so you know exactly what your partner meant.  For example, "What is it that upsets you?"
  • When both partners agree on what is being said, the first partner may proceed.
  • The partner who brings up the problem or concern should take responsibility for offering a possible solution (e.g., "I can make sure you know what my preferences are about ____________.  I would like to suggest that in the future you _________________").
  • This solution can be discussed and then your partner may offer a counterproposal.  The solution should involve changes both of you can make.
  • Discuss several options until you agree on a proposal that is workable or effective (not right or wrong).
  • Once you have agreed on an idea, proceed to talk about how you will operationalize it, or put it into action.  This means being able to clearly answer the questions:  Who will do what, when and how.
  • Once everything has been worked out, think about what could happen to undermine it, or sabotage the agreement.
  • Agree to come back to this issue after some specific period of time to assess how the agreement is working.  You can always adjust it later.