Marriage Monday: Reflective Listening

When Mark and I teach our marriage seminars we talk about “McDonald’s Drive-Thru” listening.  Today’s Marriage Monday is all about reflective listening.

Mark says…
When Jill and I were in our difficult season of marriage–between years 7 and 10–we learned about reflective listening in counseling.  They called it McDonald’s Drive-Thru listening because when you go to the drive thru you place your order and then they repeat the order back to you.  This gives you the opportunity to confirm the order or correct it.

Reflective listening is when we reflect back–or say back–to our spouse what they have just communicated to us.  What I found is this is challenging to do because what we want to do, especially in conflict, is to defend our position rather than confirm our spouse’s position.  But if you can refrain from defending and instead move to confirming what you heard, you’ll likely find that you’ll have far better communication in your marriage.

Here’s an example:

Jill: Mark, I’m frustrated because we agreed to not use the debit card and only use cash, but it feels like you have not kept up your end of the deal.


Mark: What I hear you saying is that you’re frustrated that I’ve been using the debit card.

Jill says…
Reflective listening has no other purpose than to let your spouse know they’ve been heard.  You’re not agreeing with their perspective.  You’re not initially responding to what they say.  You’re simply repeating back what you’ve heard.

From here the above conversation might go:

Jill: Yes, that’s what I said.


Mark: I understand why you feel that way.  I’m sorry that I haven’t kept up my part of the deal.  I always walk out of the house without cash.  Can you help me remember to get my cash for the week on Sunday night?

One of the reasons that arguments elevate to raised voices is because neither party feels heard.  Reflective listening helps keep disagreements at a conversational level instead of becoming a full-fledge argument.

Mark says…
Reflective listening is also a great tool to use with communicating to teenagers, co-workers, and others relationships that sometimes require hard conversations. 


What about you?  What communication strategies have you found helpful in disarming arguments and improving communication?

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One thought on “Marriage Monday: Reflective Listening

  1. Have you heard of the book "PLEASE LISTEN TO ME! A Christian's Guide to Reflective Listening" by Dick Fetzer? It is a handy how-to manual that teaches the reader the simple steps to reflective listening and gives ample reasons why this skill can improve your relationships and change your life! It's published by WinePress and is available at http://www.WinePressBooks.com

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