Below are some guidelines for offering respectful reflections to other members of a group or community.
- Listen carefully to the group member’s story, in particular how it relates to your own experience. Ask yourself: How does this person’s story resonate with my story?
- Notice images, feelings, sensations, memories which are triggered for you by the group member’s story. Ask yourself: How do my experiences related back to this person’s story? Remember you are really reflecting on your own experience.
- Be ready to acknowledge appreciation for what the other person is experiencing.
- Be curious.
- The emphasis is on presenting ideas instead of “correct” interpretations. Use phrases that leave openings for uncertainty, like “I was wondering . . .” or “I’m not sure about this but . . .” or “Does that fit for you . . .?”
- Keep your comments brief.
- Please refrain from blaming, pathologizing, fixing, interpreting or giving advice.
- Please refrain from assuming you know the meaning of what you have heard, even when the storyteller uses commonly used words, images, and concepts. For example, resist the temptation to assume that your understanding of or experience of grief is the same as the storyteller’s.
- Mirroring is one of the most powerful forms of reflection. . Listen deeply to the other person from a place of open attention, and non-judgmental awareness, then reflect back to the storyteller, a phrase or image that s/he spoke, that touched you in some way. There is no interpretation in mirroring.
Copyright 2005, Patricia A. Burke, MSW
Adapted from: Linking lives around shared themes: Narrative group therapy with gay men by Chris Behan. Used with the author’s permission.