A client speaking to his Rogerian therapist says: “I’m so depressed, I just don’t feel like is worth living.”
The therapist replies: “I hear you saying that you’re in pain and that you’re not sure how you will ever feel better.”
The client replies by saying: “I really feel I would be better off dead.”
To which the therapist comments: “You really are at your wits’ end about what to do.”
The client stands and moves to the window of the office and opening it up, the therapist observes, “You’re showing me how much pain you are in, how desperate you are.”
The client then jumps out the window
The therapist says, “Splat” (Rosenbaum, 2009).
The point of the above story is that reflective listening serves no purpose. It is parroting what someone has said, and simply repeating back to someone what they have said is pointless.
Deep listening takes a different perspective on listening. It adds empathy to the equation. Empathetic, deep listening happens when the listener silences their own internal chatter and own opinions, and completely stills their mind so that they can absorb everything that the person in front of them is saying.
The principle behind deep listening is that the person listening listens absolutely. They are completely present in the moment, they take in everything about the person in front of them in terms of their body language, facial expressions, voice intonation and use of language. They integrate everything that they witness to build a sincere trust with the communicator, so that the person speaking feels no judgment, and that the speaker feels like they have the listener’s undivided attention.
Deep listening is a practiced skill that takes years to perfect. Once it is perfected, it is an art, and a skilled practitioner can slip into deep listening easily.
“We think we listen, but very rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy. Yet listening, of this very special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change that I know.”