GeneralHr Library

This Surprisingly Simple Trick Can Make You A Better Listener

Source | FastCompany : By Dave Kerpen

“This is stupid and a total waste of my time!”

I didn’t say that, but was I thinking it. I had taken an entire day off work for this group of CEOs that I’d recently joined. We were supposed to meet on a monthly basis, but I had to be trained first. So here I was attending “Forum Training” with seven other entrepreneurs, where I’d just been taught about something called “mirroring.”

What It’s Like To Feel Heard

Mirroring, we were told, means repeating back exactly what someone else has said, word for word, preceded by “I hear you saying” or “I heard you say.” For example, if I heard a forum member say, “I’m feeling worried about losing our biggest client,” I would “mirror” that person by replying: “I hear you saying you’re feeling worried about losing your biggest client.”

In those few minutes after we were taught how to mirror and began practicing it, I was cynical. I’d just spent thousands of dollars to join this organization and had taken an entire precious day off from work to attend this training, and I felt like I was back in kindergarten. What good could saying the exact words back to someone possibly do? It seemed frivolous, fake—actually, it felt really stupid.

Then it was my turn to be mirrored, and everything changed.

I talked for several minutes about pretty deep personal stuff and feelings about those issues. Afterward, we went around the table, and each person mirrored me by repeating one thing he or she heard me say:

I heard you say you’ve struggled all of your life with weight and that it feels like a constant battle.

I heard you saying you’ve had to deal with your dad’s bipolar disorder for over 20 years and that sometimes it feels really lonely.

I heard you say you were in love with a married woman and that felt impossible at the time but that eventually you let her go, and then you ended up together, and that felt amazing.

“Wow,” I thought. I felt heard. I felt listened to. I felt that they really cared about me—or at least about what I had to say about myself. I’d just met these people that morning, and I felt surprisingly close to them, all thanks to an amazingly straightforward (you might even say superficial) speaking technique.

Why Mirroring Works (And When It Doesn’t)

But mirroring isn’t as superficial as I’d thought, even if it is really simple. As it turns out, it’s is a massively powerful shortcut for connecting deeply to people. It’s easier said than done, though. Simply repeating back what you’re hearing can help you forge a bond with other people and win their trust, but it also can be interpreted as insincere and inauthentic—patronizing, even.

There’s only one very simple solution to this: You have to actually care about whatever statement or idea you’re mirroring.

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