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To Deflect or Reflect… That is the Question

June 1st, 2020 by mjp-admin

Thank you to Dr. Tony Victor for providing this excellent article about how to make sure that your loved ones feelings are acknowledged during this difficult time. This is so important to utilize as COVD-19 is straining so many relationships. Practice Dr. Victor’s 4 step plan to help generate fruitful conversations.

“In these difficult and challenging times of uncertainty, your loved ones need to know you are With them.

The moment something new and unexpected unfolds in life our predictable routines are disrupted and thrown into chaos. When that happens, we are thrown out of the predictable routine of our lives to the unpredictable and uncertain.  During this pandemic, each new day brings on a new set of uncertainties.  Each new uncertainty magnifies the already difficult circumstances.  So, we are not able to quickly recover and move back into our normal routines.

We can be mentally flooded with a thousand, “What ifs” running through our minds.  Or we may find ourselves mentally shutting down.  Unconsciously we try to push the chaos away.  These unconscious reactions can get expressed in very challenging ways.

When we are with someone who is reacting in negative ways out of the chaos of the unknown and uncertain future, our natural unconscious reaction is to deflect.  This is especially true in our most intimate relationships.  We might react by saying something like, “What am I supposed to do about it.” Or, “you shouldn’t feel that way.” Or, by just shutting them out.  Deflecting is a way of protecting ourselves and attempting to push the chaos away.  Unfortunately, deflecting pushes our loved ones away as well.  When we deflect, we add another layer of pain and stress to those we love most.

Another way of responding is to reflect rather than deflect.  Reflecting communicates just the opposite of what deflecting communicates.  Reflecting normalizes what the other person is experiencing and gives them a felt sense that you are with them and they are not alone in this chaos.  This is very powerful.  Reflecting sends the message that you see them, and hear them, and you are with them.  This calms and empowers the ones’ you love and gives them the courage to face another day. 

How do we reflect? By holding the Intention of being With the other.  Holding that intention, try following these steps when your loved one is having a difficult reaction. 

  1. Make eye contact, what I call the gaze of acceptance.
  2. Softly summarize what the other person has said. Begin with the little phrase, “So if I get what you’re saying…” Then try to accurately summarize.  Whether you agree with the other person or not, summarize from your heart with compassion rather than your analytical mind.
  3. Validate the other.  I like to use a little sentence, “You make sense.”  
  4. If you have a different opinion or perspective ask the other person, “Would you like to hear my thoughts about that. If they would, then feel free to share. If they say no then simply let it go.  You have already given them what they need. 

Reflect or Deflect that is the question.  In choosing to reflect you are giving the most valuable gift you can give.  Yourself, and your empowering presence.”


Tony Victor, D.Min., LCPC is the Co-founder and co-owner of the Midwest Relationship Center, LLC.  A family man, he is married to the love of his life Becky the co-owner and office manager of MRC.  Together they are the proud grandparents of 7 amazing grandchildren.  Dr. Tony is the past dean and a clinical faculty member of the Imago International Training Institute.  He has provided advanced clinical training globally, and has been in private practice for nearly 30 years specializing in couples therapy.  His articles have been published in journals, newspapers and popular magazines including First for Women Magazine and several of the Illinois Counseling Association journals.  Dr. Victor is the Relationship Expert Contributor to the St. Claire Connector a monthly publication.  Dr. Victor is available for public speaking engagements.  www.TheMidwestRelationshipCenter.com or www.DrTonyVictor.com.