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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.