In the book, “Getting The Love You Want” by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., he describes learning how to become a skilled listener requires repeated practice and discipline. He talks about the ability to MIRROR our partners.
Here is a little exercise…try it with your partner!
In “mirroring”, one partner expresses a statement, while the other partner listens and then mirrors back what was just said. Here is an example: “Bob” states, “I feel very frustrated when I am reading and you interrupt me, I have a very hard time concentrating. You don’t seem to care at about me.” “Sally” would restate what partner “Bob” just said. “You don’t like it when I interrupt you while you’re reading, it breaks your concentration. And it seems that I do not care about you.” Is that how you are feeling?”
Please don’t think this small task between partners is easy to do. It is not! It IS very easy for “Sally” (the one who is listening and restating) to get annoyed, defensive, or make a joke about “this ridiculous exercise.” Striving to hear what our partner is saying and ASKING our partner if we understood CORRECTLY is vital. This allows Bob to feel heard and understood, It also allows Sally (who may, in fact, not be accurately ‘hearing’, to listen to her partner carefully, without building a wall of defense.)
When we are triggered or upset, it is a known fact that our brains shut down and our ability to manage information declines dramatically. The Brain needs to cool down and by using the “Mirroring” exercise it helps to restore order in the midst of discomfort. Mirroring takes practice, however, there is everything to gain and nothing to lose!