This Facilitator Tip looks at expanding the conversation beyond the skill of pure reflection and the power of mirroring someone’s words back to them. You’ll learn how to build on pure reflection by weaving in questions, summaries, and guesses about feelings and needs. Keep in mind that these are communication skills to use in addition to pure reflection. It can be tempting to toss pure reflection aside and just use questions and summarization as they are more familiar to us in the conversations we have outside of the realm of grief support groups. Try to resist the urge! Asking questions and guessing at participants’ needs and feelings are distinct skills and best used in conjunction with pure reflection. Together they create an environment where people feel heard, understood, and safe.
Let’s look at some examples of pure reflection, including additional responses that would be appropriate in each scenario.
Child: I wonder if my dad misses me and my mom now that he’s dead.
Facilitator: You’re wondering if your dad misses you and your mom.
Other possible responses: Start with pure reflection — You’ve been wondering if your dad misses you... What’s your take? When you think about him missing you, does that make you sad or happy or? What do you think he would miss the most about you and your mom?
Teen: Yesterday I got so mad at my mom because she took my dad’s favorite shirt away from me. She said she was worried I was going to ruin it.
Facilitator: You got mad because she took your dad’s shirt away.
Other possible responses: Start with pure reflection — You got mad... What happened after that? Is there a plan for you to have it again? What do you usually do with his shirt? What were you most mad about? Was it a “She doesn’t trust me and she should,” or a “It’s mine and I should be able to have it” kind of thing, or a combination?
Adult: It’s so frustrating, no matter how many times I talk with my child’s teacher, he still doesn’t get how hard it is for her to do the same amount of homework.
Facilitator: So frustrating to talk with the teacher many times and he still doesn’t get it.
Other possible responses: Start with pure reflection — She still doesn’t get it... You’re really wanting your child to have support and understanding and it’s so frustrating when that doesn’t happen with her teacher. Where else have you had to advocate for your child? How did that go? What are you thinking about doing next?
In each of these examples there is a combination of reflection, questions, and guessing at needs and feelings. Unfortunately, there’s no secret formula for choosing which one to use when, but trust that all of them holds the door open for a participant to continue talking. Do you find yourself drawn to one more than the others? If so, try out the ones you might be less comfortable with, knowing you can always fall back on pure reflection if you become unsure of what else to say. Be sure to share your experiences with practicing these communication skills with your fellow volunteers.