My last blog post was about reflective listening. This blog post describes a practice called “looping,” which is a part of reflective listening. Looping can be a very effective way to assure people that they have been heard. Looping lessens anxiety and is a helpful conflict transformation practice.
When you “loop,” you repeat back what the speaker has said. You ask if you got the content right. If you got the content right, then you ask, “Is there more?” If you did not get the content right, you give the speaker the opportunity to clarify or correct. You repeat that content and ask again, “Did I get it right?” You keep going until the speaker says you have gotten it right.
Looping can be very challenging at first because you have to listen intently to what the speaker is saying. You can ask the speaker to pause so that you can reflect back a smaller chunk of content. As you get better at looping, you will probably find that you can reflect back larger chunks of content. You can also take notes so that you have an outline of what was said. Those notes are confidential and you shred them after use.
A short example of looping:
Speaker: I am really hopeful for the UNC football program this year. I was surprised and delighted to hear that we had hired Mack Brown. He was one of our most successful coaches in the past. He had a good run at Texas and then he was fired. In Chapel Hill, there seems to be excitement in the air. Season tickets sold out in July. Maybe the Tarheels will have a winning season.
Me: You sound like a football fan. Is there more you are excited about?
Speaker: I just hope that we beat Duke. Duke is having a really good run with Coach Cutcliffe.
Me: You are wanting an important conference win for the Tarheels, too.
Speaker: That’s right. The Carolina football program needs some wins to boost morale.
Me: Winning helps, doesn’t it? Do you have more hopes for the Carolina football team?
Speaker: Well, we lost at Wake Forest, but, Wake has a good team, so I am not too worried.
My example above may seem a little silly and looping is not necessary in all situations. In highly conflicted situations, looping effectively lessens intense emotions. When we can reduce anxiety, we can reduce conflict to a more tolerable level (on and off the playing field!).