Reflecting with others
Much of the reflection literature highlights the value of reflecting in conversation with other people - this can be in a formal relationship, with friends, or groups. This page highlights the benefits and provides guidance.
Others may ask us the questions we cannot think of ourselves
Reflecting with others provides many benefits to the reflective process. One thing that others might be better at than we are, is asking challenging questions. You might reflect really well by yourself and ask yourself lots of questions, to help identify your assumptions. However, you are likely to ask yourself the same type of questions again and again. Getting someone else to ask you questions might make you challenge yourself in a different way that you would never have thought of yourself.
Others can help us with perspective taking
Many reflective models and reflective theories highlight the importance of perspective taking (for example Brookfield, 1995). This is because imagining others’ thoughts and perspectives can help us understand an experience better and help us plan better actions in the future, for example asking yourself ‘what would someone who excelled at this do?’
Reflecting with others gives you the opportunity to gain their perspective on a situation. They may know things you don’t and that can help you to gain a deeper understanding.
Conversations with others can switch in and out of reflection
It is important to note that there are many types of conversations with other people that are productive, valuable, and important, but not necessarily reflective. For example, being given feedback is both productive, valuable, and important but if it is not paired with asking yourself how you can use the feedback, what it means for your practice, and how and why you do things, it is not a reflective conversation.
Outlined below are some of the different types of conversations and relationships where reflection might happen. It is very likely that all of these will fluidly switch back and forth between reflective and non-reflective elements.
Choose appropriate boundaries and be authentic within them
Common for all reflective conversations is that you should never share more than you feel comfortable with, and you should also be considerate of sharing information that the person you are reflecting with might not be comfortable knowing.
Put simply, while you can reflect with both a friend and a manager, there are things that we only talk about with friends. Both the questions asked in conversation and your answers should mirror this.
Some people may feel that you are only authentic if you are 100 % honest, but it is important to remember than authenticity does not come from disclosure, but from being genuine in the information we do share and staying true to ourselves and our boundaries.
Types of reflecting with others
Highlighted below are just a few ways of reflecting with other people; they are split into three types:
- With someone more experienced
- With a peer
- With a group
With someone more experienced
Throughout life you are likely to end up having many senior individuals who facilitate reflection as a part of your development. You can also help shape those relationships by suggesting reflection, if they do not support you in that way naturally.
With a peer
There is a lot of value reflecting with someone more experienced than you, but there can be equal value in reflecting with a peer. Compared to the more formal relationships outlined above, the types of reflection below might involve less formality.
What they do
Characteristics of a critical friend
|Just in conversation with a friend||
|Structured reflection in pairs||
Sometimes you might find that you want to develop a possible critical friendship or need help with a reflective assignment – it can then be helpful to do structured reflection in pairs. In this situation it may very likely be a course friend.
How it might look:
Reflection in groups
There are multiple ways you might find yourself reflecting in groups. The immediate benefit of reflecting in groups is the added value of multiple perspectives. Therefore it is possible to create a group of critical friends as well as using the method of ‘Structured reflections in pairs’ with more people (see the section above).
|Reflecting on a shared experience||
|Reflecting on group work||
|Reflecting on theory||