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Talk & Listen Sessions

Reflective Feedback


When engaged with someone who is sharing with you some personal issues that they may be experiencing, there are many different ways of responding. This applies whether the communication is in counselling, psychotherapy, peer support, or just with a friend or acquaintance in the pub. The dynamics of the communication and how you respond will determine the level of depth and meaning of the connection. 

Formal settings such as in psychotherapy each work to establish a therapeutic relationship within the theoretical framework of the particular modality. In peer support, the feedback can range from layman's common sense to something more prescriptive. In Talk & Listen I aim to encorporate a range of tools for everyone who comes along to have at their disposal. I will outline the key reflective feedback options.


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 Reflective Feedback

  •  Non Violent Communication (abbreviated to NVC)

There are four components of NVC and these are observations, feelings, needs and requests. This method relies on active listening from which to pick out some of the most prevalent feelings of the speaker. These feelings are picked up and, together with the story, are used to identify unmet needs. It is these that are at the root of the issue. If we can imagine how the speaker might be feeling, based on similar feelings that we have experienced, we can develop empathic understanding of the speaker's situation. We can then reflect back the feelings and unmet needs with empathy. This has the effect of making the speaker feel heard and understood. It's always a huge relief when we can see that somebody gets what we're really going through and this is the essence of this feedback method.

There's lots of information online. One example with more detailed information on NVC is here.

  •  Core Counselling Skills

These are skills used in counselling and are useful in any situation where we wish to offer some support to someone who is telling us how they feel. I have seen some variations to the list but the nine that I will list are those generally accepted. These are unconditional positive regard (not judging), genuineness (sometimes listed as congruence or authenticity), empathic understanding, active listening, mirroring, questioning, paraphrasing, summarising, challenging. As with NVC, we are actively listening, without judgement, and can ask questions to either clarify what is being said or help identify feelings more accurately. Through empathic understanding we can then feedback what we have heard through mirroring (repeating back what we have heard), paraphrasing and summarising.

There's plenty of information online, including a list which is a minor variation of the above which can be found here.

  • Talk for Health (which I will abbreviate to T4H)

This method draws upon many of the core counselling skills but replaces a couple with some others. There is an emphasis on developing empathy, much the same as with the NVC method, above. T4H uses seven specific techniques under the acronym OMNYSPA, which are open questions, mirroring, noticing (body language), your own feelings, speaker's feelings, perspectives, appreciations. In much the same way as with NVC the aim of feedback given is for the speaker to feel that they have been listened to and understood which is where the therapeutic benefit is derived from. 

For more information on T4H you can visit their website here. They also offer a four week course on their method that you may be able to do for free, depending on where you live or work.

  • Therapeutic Insight

This is an element of working derived from psychotherapy. It's predominantly psychodynamic and the objective is to make non-judgemental suggestions and ask open questions that have the potential to facilitate insight for the speaker. If this can be achieved then the speaker is more likely to develop better self-awareness of their situation, perhaps seeing their situation with more clarity. This can lead to feeling better and being able to adapt their thoughts and behaviours through making decisions that lead to more favourable outcomes for themselves. At Talk & Listen nobody is expected to have this particular expertise but I do sometimes ask questions to challenge values and beliefs which, I've seen from experience, has led to greater insight for the speaker.

  • Common Sense

If you can't quite yet get any of the above to work for you then common sense should prevail! I've come to realise that, as human beings, we all experience the same feelings whatever our experiences might be. You can show empathy just by listening without judgement; just avoid trying to give advice as that is not usually what anyone wants to hear and in fact that can actually make someone feel that they are not being heard. As Brene Brown put it, just saying something like "I'm really not sure what to say right now but I'm so glad you told me" can be enough for someone to feel empathy in that moment.


All the methods above have a lot of common ground. They require that we don't judge but instead allow our full attention on the speaker, actively listening and observing what they say and how they say it. We employ empathy and mirror back what we've picked up, identifying their feelings (as in NVC/ Counselling/ T4H), expanding on these ("it sounds like you felt abc when xyz happened"), trying to uncover unmet needs (as in NVC), asking questions to elicit clarity or to facilitate insight, and paraphrasing to demonstrate active listening and understanding. 

Over the months that I've been running Talk & Listen I've come to realise just how difficult it is to get this right; it needs a lot of ongoing practice. If you come to one of my peer support group meetings you will be able to have a go at any of the above that you choose within a large group. Alternatively, you can also try some of these techniques next time a friend wants to talk to you about an emotional crisis they might be experiencing. If so, please let me know how it goes!

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