Image by Elsie esq.
This is a rule of thumb for counselors – “if all else fails; reflect”. That is if you are getting nowhere trying to help the other person, just let them know that you here what they are saying: reflect back to them what they are saying. The idea is, instead of making suggestions or giving advice to say something like, “So, you’re saying that . . . ” or “If I’m hearing you you’re feeling . . . right now”.
This can be very useful to those of us who aren’t counselors. There was an incident the other day that reminded me about how useful this rule of thumb can be, so I’ll re-tell it for you.
My friend, who we’ll call Ms. A, rang her sister-in-law who is separated from her husband and has the care of their two children, who we’ll call Jack (age 5) and Jill (age 8). The husband is not real supportive and only has the children part of each weekend. After talking to her sister-in-law Ms. A also spoke to the kids. The children had just spent part of the day at their father’s. Jack told Ms A that he didn’t like Daddy and that Daddy was mean. Jack had wanted a ham sandwich for lunch and Daddy had made him have a honey sandwich instead; even though there was ham in the fridge.
Ms A found herself in a difficult position. She didn’t want to buy into an argument. She didn’t want to criticise the father to the children – it wasn’t going to help her sister-in-law. And it wouldn’t help the children’s relationship with their father for Jack to perhaps say to his father, “Well Aunty A says you’re mean too!”.
What Ms A was very clever. She used reflection. She said something like, “Daddy didn’t give you what you wanted and now your sad and upset”. Jack said, “Yes, and . . .”, and talked about how he was feeling. This helped the relationship between Jack and Ms A and avoided her getting caught up in any relationship dramas with Jack’s father.
Reflection is a very useful option to remember in those times where we feel put on the spot. It can not only get us out of feeling cornered, it can do this in a way that moves the relationship deeper.
Are there times when you have used reflection? Are there times when you think it would be useful to use it? Let me know in the comments.
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