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Reflective Reframing

Reflective Reframing

Psychotherapists Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell have developed Carl Rogers' Active Listening into something more subtle and more effective at moving people on. They call it 'active listening with a twist' or 'reflective reframing'. You basically reflect back to someone what he's said as in active listening. But you just introduce a deliberate difference where it needs it. This can loosen up the rigidity of their thinking or start a subtle process of change in an entrenched attitude or mood.

Jaffar: People like Hassan never step up and take responsibility, they never put their faith into practice!

Facilitator: So you feel that people sometimes don't put their faith into practice.

The Facilitator repeated part of Jaffar's phrase word-for-word: 'put their faith into practice'. But she also introduced a change: 'never' becomes 'sometimes don't'. 'Never' is unlikely to be true; it's too all-or-nothing. (It's that emotional brain speaking again.) 'Sometimes don't' is more likely to be true. And – isn't it true of everyone at some time or other that they don't put their beliefs into practice?

Also: the Facilitator said 'People' instead of 'Hassan'. She moved away from such personally offensive ground.

By doing this the Facilitator:

- Makes the idea less all-or-nothing – less of an 'emotional brain' speech and more like the 'thinking brain' representing reality more accurately
- Begins to break down the rigid 'us vs. them' thinking, where 'us' is totally good and 'them' is totally bad. This is also a characteristic of the emotional brain!

Now, for example, it's not hard to imagine another member of the group intervening constructively with something like this:

Ghazala: But actually that's true of everyone at some time or other. Who can constantly put their faith into practice and never slip sometimes? I know I don't, even if I want to.

And then some of the polarised atmosphere begins to dissipate, and the highly personal, inflammatory conflict between Jaffar and Hassan is neutralised a bit.

If you're doing this, it's important not to be heavy-handed! It mustn't sound sarcastic or challenging or it will have the opposite effect: wind-up, not calm-down. The change that quietly subverts their rigid thinking must go in almost under their radar.