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Techniques > Conversation techniques > Reflecting

Testing understanding | Building | Creating rapport | Non-verbal reflecting | And... | See also


The term 'reflecting' can be interpreted in two ways: sitting back and thinking or bouncing back to the other person what they have communicated to you. This section is about the latter.

When you reflect back to the other person what they have said, it not only makes sure that you have understood, it also shows your interest in the other person and helps to build a relationship with them.

In psychoanalysis, identity is first formed in the mirror phase, where we first see an image of ourselves. This can be the beginning of a life-long process of fascination with our own selves and is at the root of narcissism. Reflecting back to the other person something of themselves is thus a powerful process.

Testing understanding

You can use reflection to test your understanding of what the other person has said. This also will act to build rapport with the other person.


A constructive way of reflecting what a person has said back to them is do add to what they have said in some way. This helps both testing understanding and also building rapport. If you build something between you, you will both feel a sense of ownership of it and hence will be more ready to share more.

Creating rapport

Reflecting what a person says to you back to them also builds rapport, creating a bond between you both. Reflecting can be used primarily for this purpose. It should always be kept in mind in any case, as poor reflection (or no reflection) can have the opposite effect.

Non-verbal reflecting

You can also reflect non-verbal 'body language' back to the other person, repeating what they do, rather than what they say.


Reflecting does not always work as intended and you need to be vigilant to ensure you do not fall into any of the traps.

And here's some other thinking about feedback...

See also

Psychoanalysis, Identity

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