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Healthy Conflict: Mindful and Reflective Listening

Updated: Mar 24, 2021

Wanting to save your relationship is a natural, meaningful, and noble desire.

Maybe you’re thinking, “If only there was a way to decrease the arguing and the emotional distance, then maybe we could stay together.”

You’ve put in a lot of time, effort, and energy into trying to make it work and you’re at a loss.

When two people come together, they see the best in each other and focus on what the other person has to offer. As time goes on, sometimes we can lose sight of the very traits that attracted us in the first place. Perhaps we’ve changed over time after many arguments where you or your partner felt unheard, dismissed, and even unloved. Perhaps your needs are not being met and you have tried everything you know how to get back on track.

According to Relationship Expert John Gottman, 69% of arguments between couples never get resolved. Surely, that can’t be productive or healthy? But it can be.

How can we engage in healthy conflict about things that never get resolved in a way that encourages awareness, openness, and growth? Through mindful and reflective listening.

What is mindful listening? It is taking the time to quiet our thoughts as we hear what your partner is saying without personalizing, deflecting, catastrophizing, or minimizing what is being said. It is acknowledging the truth of their experience. Mindful listening is making the effort to put yourself in their shoes and following up with an empathetic and authentic response; because what they are experiencing is difficult for them and they need to know that you truly understand.

How do we let them know we understand? Reflective listening. Reflective listening is when we summarize, paraphrase, or even repeat verbatim what it is that we have heard our partner say. The exercise may sound redundant but it can give our partner a profound sense of being heard. Reflective listening can create the sense that we are truly on the same wavelength as our partner; when we repeat what we hear, it invites our partner to provide clarification or to expand on their initial statement while feeling seen, heard, and understood.

Mindful and reflective listening can deepen our sense of relational safety, intimacy, and closeness. I invite you to give it a try.

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